China’s Creation and Origin Myths

Cross-cultural Explorations in Oral and Written Traditions


How did the world begin? How were the first people created and which specific roles were they supposed to play in the cosmos? Like other mythologies worldwide, China’s creation and origin myths explain how man created order out of chaos and imposed culture on nature. Cross-cultural approaches to myth make us aware of the limitations of our own familiar classifications. This book makes a provocative case for the comparative study of the hidden treasures of China’s oral and written myth traditions in different languages and cultures, a legacy generously left behind by singers, storytellers, poets, and writers. This book opens new doors to the study of Chinese mythologies, a surprising and so far almost unknown world outside China.
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Biographical Note

Mineke Schipper, Ph.D. (1973) in Comparative Literature, Free University Amsterdam, is Professor of Intercultural Literary Studies at Leiden University in The Netherlands. She is the author of numerous books including Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet (translated worldwide), and three novels.

Ye Shuxian, Ph.D. (2003) in Comparative Literature, Sichuan University, is Professor at the Institute of Literature, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. His main publications include: Philosophy of Chinese Mythology (1997), The Goddess of Gaotang and Venus: The Theme of Love and Beauty in Chinese and Western Culture (1997).

Yin Hubin Ph.D. in Folklore at Beijing Normal University, is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethnic Literature, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. His current specialization is oral tradition and Chinese folk religion and his main publications include: Gudai Jingdian yu Koutou Chuantong (2002), Gushi de Geshou(2004), and Shishi yu Yingxiong(co-editor 2004).

Review Quotes

"This is a book of ambitious breadth of scope, and clearly reflects the energy and enthusiasm of a discipline only now really re-establishing itself in the Chinese context...the book is attractively presented and is a significant addition to the Brill 'Religion in Chinese Societies' series."
Peter Harris, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 15.1 (June 2013)

Table of contents

I Comparative Perspectives
Mineke Schipper: Humanity’s Beginnings in Creation and Origin Myths from Around the World
Yang Lihui and An Deming: The World of Chinese Mythology: An Introduction
Ye Shuxian: From Frog to Nüwa and Back Again: the Religious Roots of Creation Myths
Namjila: Water-of-Immortality Myths in Altaic and Japanese Cultures
Jaeseo Jung: Myths of Giant Corpse Transformation
II Rediscovering the Beginning in Texts
Kao Lifeng: Sacred Order: Cosmogonic Myth in the Chu Silk Manuscript
Kristofer Schipper: The Wholeness of Chaos: Laozi on the Beginning
Chen Lianshan: Gun and Yu: Revisiting the Chinese “Earth-Diver” Hypothesis
Wu Xiaodong: Pangu and the Origin of the Universe
III Oral Tradition and Ethnic Diversity
Wu Bing'an: Chinese Creation Myths: a Great Discovery
Wang Xianzhao: Minority Creation Myths: An Approach to Classification
Liu Yahu: Humanism as a Paradigm for Creation Myths
Yang Lihui: Performing Myths Today: A Field Study of the Renzu Temple Festival
Mark Bender: Perspectives on the Environment in Miao and Yi Creation Narratives
IV Anthology of Creation and Origin Myths


All those interested in ancient Chinese literature, Chinese folklore traditions and mythology, popular beliefs in modern China, and China’s ethnic literatures. As well as those interested in comparative mythology, religious studies, comparative literature and the intercultural study of oral and written storytelling traditions.


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