Introduction to Shanhaijing: China’s Oldest Classic of Mythology and Geography

The Shanhaijing, also known as the Classic of Mountains and Seas, is a collection of Chinese mythology and geography, and is one of the oldest known texts in Chinese literature. The Shanhaijing is composed of eighteen volumes, each describing a different region of China and the various mythical creatures that inhabit them.

The authorship and compilation of Shanhaijing are still debated by scholars. According to historical records, the book was compiled by different authors over a long period of time, starting from the Warring States period (475-221 BC) and continuing through the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and the Wei-Jin period (220-420 AD). It is believed that the content of Shanhaijing was based on oral traditions and regional myths that were passed down through generations.

The text of Shanhaijing is divided into two parts: the Classic of Mountains and the Classic of Seas. The Classic of Mountains includes descriptions of various mountains and the creatures that inhabit them, while the Classic of Seas describes the different seas and the creatures that live in them. The book also contains a number of illustrations, some of which are considered to be among the earliest surviving examples of Chinese art.

The text is a fascinating mix of geography, history, and mythology, and provides a glimpse into the ancient beliefs and customs of the Chinese people. It describes a vast array of creatures, including dragons, phoenixes, sea monsters, and other mythical beasts. It also describes various geographical features such as mountains, rivers, and lakes, and their associated myths and legends.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Shanhaijing is its influence on Chinese culture and art. The text has inspired countless works of literature, art, and music throughout Chinese history, and continues to be an important source of inspiration for artists and writers today. The creatures and landscapes described in the text have been depicted in paintings, sculptures, and other works of art, and have been used in traditional Chinese medicine and astrology.

Despite its age, the Shanhaijing remains a valuable resource for historians and scholars studying ancient Chinese culture and beliefs. The text provides a unique window into the world of ancient China and the beliefs and practices of its people, and is an important part of the country’s rich cultural heritage.

In conclusion, the Shanhaijing is a remarkable work of Chinese literature that has had a profound impact on Chinese culture and art. Its unique blend of mythology, geography, and history provides a fascinating insight into the beliefs and customs of ancient China, and its influence can still be seen in modern Chinese culture today.

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Xihe, the goddess of the sun in ancient Chinese mythology.

Xihe, the goddess of the sun in ancient Chinese mythology.

​Xihe (Chinese: 羲和; pinyin: Xīhé; Wade–Giles: Hsi-ho), was a solar deity in Chinese mythology. The earliest depiction of Xihe can be found in the “Classic of Mountains and Seas: South Classic of the Great Wilderness.” It states, “In the midst of the great wilderness, there is a mountain called Mount Tiantai, where seawater flows into.

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