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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Culture Vs. Civilization: Far East Mythology

Gregory James Smits in Topics in Pre-Modern Chinese History (Chapt 12 Myth, History, Cultural Values, Social Tensions):

Overall, what are these tales of the culture heroes and sage kings about? Also, what are they not about? Mythology often attempts to explain the origins of humans in general or a specific group of people in particular, but none of these Chinese tales do. This is not to say that there were no Chinese myths about these topics--there were--but the myths that made it into the major historical accounts were not concerned with the origins of human beings, Chinese in particular, the earth, or China in particular. These things seem to have been taken for granted. Instead, the myths rendered into history explain the origins of culture and civilization, both material and non-material. In their Han dynasty forms, the tales appear sanitized, with high doses of moral ideology and no mention of the explicit sex and violence common in the creation mythology of many other societies (e.g., Korea and Japan).

(A Life in Books)



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