View Full Version : Chinese mythology/folklore

04-30-2013, 01:13 PM
Could anyone point me to a good research source on Chinese mythology/folklore?


04-30-2013, 01:41 PM
It's an ancient culture wih centuries of mythology. Can you narrow it down a bit?

04-30-2013, 01:53 PM
:) Sorry. I'm looking for stuff on traditional beliefs in supernatural creatures, the equivalent of the UK's brownies, pixies, goblins, Jenny Greenteeth, etc. Fairy tales, if you like. Does that help at all? Since it's an area on which I'm profoundly ignorant, I'm looking for a good general source, to start with. (Also any creatures/folktales specific to the area around Shanghai, if there are any).

04-30-2013, 04:22 PM
So I take it that you're seeking out Chinese supernatural ghosts in general rather than Chinese mythological creatures? (Chinese legends make a distinction between both. Mythological creatures are more closely associated with the Chinese mythological gods, like Yu Di / The Jade Emperor or the God of Rain Yinlong, who is also a dragon. Chinese supernatural ghosts have nothing to do with the history of gods for the most part)

A big majority of online sites that deal with these are in Chinese, so if Google translate doesn't work you can't find too much. Here's a couple of things I can suggest, though:

Mythological Creatures

Journey to the West - it's a popular Chinese story (one of the 4 great novels of China) that's spawned numerous TV series, anime, what-have-yous in Asia. If you're familiar with Dragonball, the main character is based on Monkey, the lead character in the novel. I only mention this because in the course of the story, the characters meet a lot of mythological creatures. I'm not sure if there's an online translation available, but maybe a local bookstore would have one?

You can find a compilation of other creatures in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_mythology

Supernatural Creatures

I would suggest looking for this book called Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, which has a plethora of ghost stories and odd creatures. Any Asian bookstore should know what this is. Amazon might also be a good place to look.

My favorite Chinese ghost though, is the Jiangshi, also called the Hopping Corpse/Ghost (because rigor mortis has set in, and it can only hop about).

Chinese creatures don't really have an equivalent of fairies or brownies - the closest are often ancestral ghosts. The best I can think of are fox spirits, which tend to be mischievous rather than scary or malevolent. (Occasionally, they fall in love and turn into females and live with their beloved for awhile before they are eventually found out)

There are also the tennin (which tends to be more Japanese-flavored than Chinese, but originally stems from Chinese Buddhism), which are beautiful maidens with special celestial robes. There are stories where men steal their robes while they are bathing in the river and force them to become their wives (the maidens can't return to the heavens without their robes)

Hope these help! There aren't much detailed information of these online, so looking for the books themselves are usually the way to go.

04-30-2013, 04:48 PM
I agree with Nissie's recommendation of Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio; there are several scanned PDFs online of a public domain translation by Herbert Giles:

The translation is from 1880 with a 1916 revision, so some of the stories are a bit sanitized for Victorian morality (e.g. replacing "seduced" with "married," that sort of thing) but it should give you the basic idea, and then if you find the book helpful you could look for the more recent 1990s/2000s translations on Amazon.

05-01-2013, 11:28 AM
That's extremely helpful, guys, thank you. I'll have a look online, but an excuse to order books is always particularly welcome! (So I'm running out of room. But...books).

05-02-2013, 12:23 AM
I'm writing a story with Chinese mythology in it as well, but most of my resources are in Chinese.

This list of basic creatures is not a bad place to start if you're looking for creatures:

Encyclopedia mythica helps me sometimes too to narrow down specific creatures/gods: http://www.pantheon.org/areas/mythology/asia/chinese/

Can't help you with anything specific to Shanghai though.

Dave Hardy
05-02-2013, 02:37 AM
Have you looked at Taoist magic? Taoism is pretty closely associated with magic in Chinese culture. There are "grimoires" of sorts called registers, basically organizational/procedure manuals for calling on the specific bureaucrats that staff Chinese heaven. There are certain patterns of step that allows the practitioner to "walk" to the spiritual side (or something like that). A certain amount of what I know comes from watching Chinese Ghost Story, The Bride with White Hair, etc.

I can't find (or remember) the online source I used for an unpublished Sword & Sorcery novella I wrote a few years back. There are loads of websites on Taoism out there, but I couldn't really tell how to evaluate them.