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Approches critiques de la mythologie chinoise

 | 
Charles Le Blanc
, 
Rémi Mathieu

From Myth to Pseudohistory

Deconstructing a Text from the First History of Ancient China

Anne Birrell

Testo integrale

  • 1 For a comprehensive history of the period, see Li Xueqin, Eastern Zhou and Qin Civilizations, tran (...)
  • 2 See the entries entitled “Chou li”, “I Chou shu”, “I li”, and “Kuo yü”, by various authors, and “S (...)

1Great status is accorded to central texts in the Chinese cultural tradition which embody revered doctrine and are endowed with mythic potency. Emblematized as canonical scripture, they have transmitted the moral, political, and the credal verities of the Chinese people for over two millennia. They belong to the second phase of classical philosophy, later than the Shijing 詩經 (Classic of Poetry), Lunyu 論語 (Analects), Mencius 孟子, and Zhuang zi 莊子, and they were composed as a response to fundamental social change, when China was in the process of transformation from an aristocratic to an imperial socio-political system, culminating in the Qin-Han 秦漢 empire of the late third century B.C.1. Although such texts early on became fixed in their orthodox status, they were reinterpreted and revitalized through critical exegesis by medieval and late imperial scholars. More recently, they have been the subject of academic inquiry in modern China and now also in Western sinology. Modern scholars are applying the methodologies of historical linguistics, political science, political philosophy, and new theories of history to these texts. The texts include the Shangshu 尚書 (Historical Documents of Antiquity), also entitled Shujing 書經 (Classic of Historical Documents), Guoyu 國語 (Discourses of the States), and works narrating aspects of the Zhou 周 dynasty in the first millennium B.C.2. Although they purport to relate events and pronouncements of the earliest times, and have been accepted as an accurate account of ancient history, their authenticity has been disproved and they are now categorized as pseudohistorical texts. The subject of my present investigation is the Shangshu, and specifically its first two texts (sometimes read as one text), the “Yao dian 堯典” (Canon of Yao), and the “Shun dian 舜典” (Canon of Shun).

  • 3 Gu Jiegang et al. eds., Gushi bian, 7 vols. (1926-41); rpt. Shanghai: Shanghai Guji, 1982.
  • 4 Henri Maspero, “Légendes mythologiques dans le Chou King” [Shujing (Classic of Historical Document (...)
  • 5 B. Karlgren, “Glosses on the Book of Documents” [Shu ching], Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern (...)

2In any cultural tradition, credal works such as the Shangshu are resistant to critical analysis and scholarly investigation. Moreover, although modern research has produced valuable data in historical linguistics and textual criticism, it is the question of hermeneutics, or the science of interpretation that represents the problématique of these two texts. In fact, it has taken some considerable time for Chinese and twentieth-century Western sinologists to define the problématique of the two texts that have passed as the ancient history of China for so long. A major breakthrough in the hermeneutic analysis of the two texts occurred with the publication of the pioneering work of historical and mythological analysis edited by Gu Jiegang 顧頡剛 and others, Gushi bian 古史辨 (Critiques of Ancient History), published between 1926 to 19413. Somewhat earlier, Henri Maspero proposed a new interpretative approach which endeavored to “recover the mythological basis… beneath the pseudo-historical account”. Maspero’s methodology was developed by Derk Bodde, and more recently by William G. Boltz, who defined the writing process in the two canons as “reverse euhemerism, more sinico”4. This positive approach is an advance on the cautious comments made by Bernhard Karlgren in his “Glosses on the Book of Documents” in 1948, in which he classified the Shangshu as “a collection of exceedingly difficult and, largely, very obscure texts” which may never be definitively edited or interpreted5.

3The reader will find here a new methodology for deconstructing these two texts, which builds on earlier critical studies. Despite that pioneering research, the text remains resistant to attempts to define its authorial strategies and cultural significance. My methodology for reading the texts combines postmodern theories of Derridean deconstruction, comparative mythological analysis, theories of intertextuality, and gender criticism. I will argue that in writing his ancient history the anonymous author selectively manipulated older mythic material and created new myths of the origin of human or historical time, human government, the political process, and patriarchal authority. His historical method was such that mythic themes and figures selected from the classical mythological repertoire experienced a transformative shift, in which they became historicized and humanized.

A Summary of Research Data on the Ancient Documents

  • 6 The text of the Shangshu (Historical Documents of Antiquity) cited in this paper is the 1815 Shang (...)

4Given Karlgren’s categorization of the Shangshu, it will be useful to summarize first the data on the text which is currently accepted as verifiable, while allowing that by no means is there a consensus on all the data. I list them as follows6.

  1. The work is variously entitled the Shangshu, Shujing, or Shu 書. The earliest use of the title Shangshu occurs in Mo zi 墨子, ca. fourth century B.C.7.
  2. The term shu/Shu in early classical writings, such as Lunyu and Mencius, denotes ancient documents in general as well as a book (Historical Documents of Antiquity)8.
  3. Though early texts frequently cite the Shu, or Shangshu, as high a proportion as 60 percent, or about two-thirds of these citations, do not correspond with extant texts of the Shangshu9.
  4. The first named compiler of the Shu is Fu Sheng 伏勝 of Qi 棄 (fl. ca. 221 B.C., d. between 179-157). His text consists of 28 (or in some editions 29) chapters, and is known as the Fu Sheng version. He established a school of Shu studies, and this school produced the Shangshu dazhuan 尚書大傳 (Major Tradition of the Historical Documents of Antiquity). Fu Sheng was a Confucian scholar from Jinan, modern Shandong province10. In the medieval era the Shangshu was arranged and edited in its present version by Wu Cheng 吳澄 (1247-1331) as Shangshu zuanyan 尚書纂言 (Edited Speeches of the Shangshu).
  5. The Fu Sheng version of the Shangshu is known to have existed in the late second century B.C.
  6. Very little evidence exists in sources contemporary with Fu Sheng concerning the textual transmission of any version of the Shu, including that of Fu Sheng and his school. But the first reference to the Shangshu dazhuan occurs in Chunqiu fanlu 春秋繁露 (Heavy Dew of the Spring and Autumn Annals) attributed to Dong Zhongshu 董 仲 舒 (179?-104? B.C.).
  7. The Shangshu consists of a compilation of texts from different periods. Its dating remains a matter of scholarly debate. The latest texts may be datable to the Qin dynasty (221-207 B.C.), and some texts may date from the period 403-221 B.C., in the Warring States era11.
  8. If it is accepted that some texts in the Shangshu are datable to about two hundred years between 403 and 207 B.C., it is clear that the texts were composed by different authors12. These writers are anonymous.
  9. The first two chapters of the Fu Sheng version of the Shangshu are now known to relate mythological episodes, although they purport to record historical events. They are best designated as pseudohistorical texts. They are the “Yao dian” and the “Shun dian”. It is no longer academically viable to subscribe to the view that these mythological texts are datable to the era of Confucius (6th to 5th cent. B.C.). The law of reverse textual chronology may be said to operate in the compilation of the Shangshu: the earlier the events the texts purport to record, the later those texts date; the later the events the texts purport to record, the earlier the date of the text13.
  10. The transmission of the Fu Sheng version of the Shangshu mentioned from the early second century B. C. was complicated by the sudden appearance of a text in the fourth century A.D. claiming to be the authentic version of the classic. It was presented to the Jin throne by Mei Ze 梅賾 (fl. 317-322). This version purported to have been transmitted by a descendant of Confucius, Kong Anguo 孔安國 (d. ca. 100 B.C.), and to have been discovered in the home of Confucius. Entitled the Kong Anguo Shangshu 孔安國尚書 (Historical Documents of Antiquity of Kong Anguo), it consists of 58 chapters, with a preface and commentary, both of which are attributed to Kong Anguo. This Kong Anguo version contains 30 more chapters than the Fu Sheng version. Scholars from the Song 宋 to the Qing 清 period, however, showed the Kong version to be a forgery, among them Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200), Wu Cheng (1247-1331), Yan Ruoju 閻若 壉 (1636-1704), and Hui Dong 惠棟 (1697-1758). Nevertheless, it was the spurious Kong version which was adopted as the orthodox text in the Tang 唐, with an additional commentary by Kong Yingda (574-648). Most modern scholars do not consider the Kong version to be authentic, and now there is general acceptance of the Fu Sheng version as the orthodox text14.
  11. Like so many aspects of the textual history of the classic, the labels attached to the two versions are misleading. The oldest attestable version of Fu Sheng and his school became known as the Jinwen Shangshu 今文尚書 (Historical Documents of Antiquity in New [Han] Script), while the more recent version, the Kong forgery, which postdates the Fu Sheng version by half a millennium, became known as the Guwen Shangshu 古文尚書 (Historical Documents of Antiquity in Old Script). The Fu Sheng version only acquired the epithet “New Script” after the Kong forgery, and in around the fifth century A.D.15
  12. From the nineteenth century Chinese scholars engaged in a debate, known as the Jin wen/Gu wen controversy, concerning the authenticity and dating of classics in the Confucian canon, particularly the Shangshu. Participants in the debate purported to discover the origins of their New Script/Old Script controversy in Han scholasticism. Recent research has shown, however, that although Han sources indicate that Han scholars argued about textual variants or the canonization of a text, there is no evidence for a formal New Script/Old Script debate on the authenticity of a Confucian classic. The controversy appears to be a Qing invention to provide a conceptual framework for polemical debate16.
  13. The construction of the Fu Sheng version of the Shangshu is as follows. Its 28 (sometimes 29) chapters are arranged into four books: 1) Yu 虞, which denotes Shun 舜, in 2 chapters; 2) Xia 夏, which denotes Yu 禹 (the Great), in two chapters; 3) Shang 商, in five chapters; and 4) Zhou 周, in 19 (or 20) chapters. These titles follow traditional chronology. The Yu-Shun虞舜 and Xia-Yu 夏禹 books belong to mythology; the Shang book is anachronistic; and parts of the Zhou book are historical17.
  14. The texts in the Shangshu compilation are traditionally classified into five types of addresses by monarchs and ministers: mo 謨 (counsel), xun 訓 (instruction), gao 誥 (announcement), shi 誓 (royal speech), and ming 命 (royal command). In addition to chapter titles having these terms, there are numerous others, including the “Yao dian” and the “Shun dian”, and the aspirational title “Hongfan 洪範” (The Great Plan). But the content of these chapters is primarily the presentation of purported speeches by mythic and historical figures with some narrative sequences. This combination of speech, dramatic dialogue, and narrative characterizes the two canons.
  15. Recent research indicates that grammatical usage in the first texts of the Shangshu mixes early and late archaic, and that such texts were created to have an “old” look. It has further been proposed that one of the first texts in the Shangshu compilation, the “Hongfan”, is a pastiche, probably resulting from a lengthy process of fabrication18.

5This fifteen-point summary defines, insofar as possible, the parameters of the text in terms of transmission, authenticity, structure, and dating. While a consensus on textual transmission is beginning to emerge, however, there remains the problem of interpreting the major concerns of the texts.

The Texts in Translation

6Before proceeding to a critical discussion of the significance of the two canons, it is necessary to present a translation of pertinent passages, newly rendered in order to underscore crucial points. Three passages are excerpted from the “Yao dian”, and two from the “Shun dian”, in the Fu Sheng version (henceforth, the two canons).

The “Yao dian” Extract (i)

7[The anonymous author relates how it is recorded in antiquity that the wise and virtuous Emperor Yao (Di Yao 帝堯), named Fangxun 放勳, successfully ruled the world through benevolent government and by establishing a functional social system in which the people were organized into tribes and clans. The country became prosperous and the people were content. Yao 堯 then inaugurated the calendrical system, appointing four officers to calculate the heavenly bodies.]

  • 19 Shangshu jingu wen zhushu 尚書今古文注疏 (Commentaries on the Modern and Ancient Texts of the Shangshu; h (...)

8Then he commanded the Xi 羲 and the He 和 [clans] to pay due reverence to the divine sky (tian 天). They should calculate and make diagrams of the sun, moon, and stars, and inform the people of the seasons. He specifically commanded Xi Zhong 羲仲 to reside in Yuyi 嵎夷, at the place named Yanggu 暘 谷 (Valley of the Yang), where he should courteously welcome the rising sun and be attentive in bringing order to the affairs of the east. [He ordered Xi Shu 羲叔, He Zhong 和仲, and He Shu 和叔 to do likewise in the south, west, and north, respectively]19.

The “Yao dian”, Extract (ii)

9[Later, Yao is concerned with the selection of his successor, declaring his own son to be temperamentally unsuitable. He also rejects the candidate Gonggong 共工 (Common Work) on the grounds of his criminality and arrogant pride. The succession issue is interrupted by the disaster of a flood. He asks his counsellor Si Yue 四岳 (Four Peaks), whom he should delegate to the task of flood control.]

  • 20 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.A, p. 13a-14a; trans. Legge, Shoo, p. 24-25; Karlgren, Documents, p. 3; “Glosses” (...)

10The Emperor said, “Alas, Si Yue, the swollen, surging flood waters are causing great damage now. All around they encircle the mountains and overreach the hills. Vast amounts of water dash against the sky. Down on earth the people are groaning. Is there someone I could commission to reduce the flood waters?” They all said, “Oh, Gun 鯀 would be the one”. The Emperor said, “Alas, he is too perverse. He has been ignoring my commands, and he is destroying his tribe”. Si Yue said, “But he is different from [what you say], Why not try him, and if he proves capable, then all will be well”. The Emperor then said, “[Gun,] go forth and be diligent in your work”. But nine years passed and still the work of flood control had not been completed20.

The “Yao dian”, Extract (iii)

11[After seventy years of rule, Yao is nearing death. He wishes to abdicate, and asks his top adviser Si Yue to take his place, but he humbly declines. Yao then requests the name of another candidate.]

  • 21 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.A, p. 14b-16a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 26-27; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 4; “Gl (...)

12Yao said, “Let us bring greater fame to someone who is already renowned by elevating him from among the commoners”. They all offered these words to the Emperor: “Among the lower orders there is an unmarried man named Shun of Yu”. The Emperor said, “Yes, I have heard of him. What is he like?” Si Yue said, “He is the son of Gusou 瞽瞍 (the Blind Man). His father is evil, his mother is sly, and Xiang 象 [his half-brother] is arrogant. But Shun has been able to bring peace [to the home] by being a dutiful son. Shun has kept things under control and so they ended up by not being evil”. The Emperor said, “Very good! Let me put him to the test. I will give him my daughters in marriage and then I will observe how he behaves with my two daughters”. Yao gave orders for his two daughters to go down to the bend in the river Gui 媯 and serve as wives to [Shun of] Yu. The Emperor said to them, “Be respectful [toward Shun]”21.

The “Shun dian”, Extract (i)

13[After Yao had observed Shun’s conduct for three years, he decided to choose him as his successor. At first, Shun declined the honor, but then he acceded to Yao’s invitation to rule. Shun made a tour of his territory and performed the rituals of high office pertaining to the calendar, sacrifice, conferral of rank and honors, punishment, and boundary lines. After five years he had defeated all opposition to him and the land was at peace. Among the opposition were three former officers at Yao’s court and a southern tribe. Shun dealt with them in turn.]

  • 22 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 13a-14a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 39-40; Legge, p. 40, col. a, follows the (...)

14He exiled Gonggong to Yu 幽 Island. He banished Huan Dou 驩兜 to Mount Zong 崇. He cornered the San Miao 三苗 tribe like rats at Sanwei 三危 (Three Perils). He executed Gun on Yu 羽 (Feather) Mountain. When these four had been dealt with as criminals, all under heaven submitted to him22.

The “Shun dian”, Extract (ii)

15[Three decades later Yao died. Shun commanded the Pastors of the twelve provinces to rule the tribes within their borders. Then he consulted Si Yue about selecting people to govern the realm. Emperor Shun delegated major administrative functions to the following nine officers.]

  • 23 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 15b-17a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 42-43; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 5; “Gl (...)

16Shun said, “Oh Si Yue, is there someone who is capable of initiating endeavors and developing the emperor’s entreprise? I shall make him head of the hundred management duties, so that he will assist me and work in concord with the others”. They all said, “Lord Yu has served as Minister of Works”. The Emperor said, “That is true. Now Yu, you restored the rivers and the land to order. Be diligent on this occasion too!” Yu bowed, touching the ground with his head. He refused the invitation in favor of [Hou] Ji 后稷, Xie 偰, or Gaoyao 皋陶. But the Emperor said, “It is right that you should proceed in this”23.

  • 24 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 17a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 43-44; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 5, 7; “Glo (...)

17The Emperor said, “Qi 棄 (Abandoned), the black-haired people are on the brink of starvation. You are Hou Ji (Sovereign Millet). You will attend to the sowing of the hundred grains at the right seasons”24.

  • 25 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 17a; trans. Legge, Shoo, p. 44; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 7; “Glosses”, p. (...)

18The Emperor said, “Xie, the hundred surnames do not treat their relatives properly and the five social classes do not obey the rules. Now you will serve as the Director of Instruction. You will with due respect make known the lessons on the five social classes. Be considerate in performing this task”25.

  • 26 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 17b-19a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 44-45; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 7; “Gl (...)

19The Emperor said, “Gaoyao, the Man 蠻 and Yi 夷 [tribes] are harassing our Xia realm. They are bandits, marauders, rebels, and traitors. You will serve as High Judge. [Here follows a discursus on the penal code, which is omitted.] If you are astute in enacting this, you will impose order”26.

  • 27 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 19a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 45-46; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 7; “Glosse (...)

20The Emperor said, “Who will coordinate my works?” They all said, “Chui 垂/倕 is the one”. The Emperor said, “Yes indeed, Chui, you will be my Manager of Work”. Chui bowed low, touching the ground with his head, but he refused the invitation in favor of Shu 殳, Qiang 斨, and Bo Yu 伯與. The Emperor said, “It is right that you should be the one to proceed in this. You must make them work together in harmony”27.

  • 28 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 19a-b; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 46; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 7. There ar (...)

21The Emperor said, “Who will coordinate the business of my trees, plants, birds, and animals in the highlands and lowlands?” They all said, “Yi 羿 is the one”. The Emperor said, “Yes indeed, Yi, you will serve as my Forester”. Yi bowed low with his head touching the ground but he refused in favor of Zhu 朱, Hu 虎, Xiong 熊, and Pi 羆. The Emperor said, “It is right that you should proceed. You must coordinate all these matters”28.

  • 29 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 19b; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 47; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 7. The figure (...)

22The Emperor said, “Now Si Yue, is there anyone who can direct my three categories of rituals?” They all said, “Bo Yi 伯夷”. The Emperor said, “Good. Now my Lord, you will serve as officiator of the ancestral temple. Morning and night you must be reverent. You must be upright and pure”. The Lord bowed with his head touching the ground, but he refused the invitation in favor of Kui 夔 and Long 龍. The Emperor said, “It is right that you should proceed. Be respectful in this task”29.

  • 30 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 19b-21a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 47-49; Karlgren, Documents, p. 7; “Gloss (...)

23The Emperor said, “Kui, I command that you shall direct the music. Apply music to teach sons in their upbringing to be upright but mild, liberal but cautious, firm but not tyrannical, great but not overbearing. Poetry expresses what is in the heart. [Here follows a discursus on music, which is omitted.] When the eight kinds of instrumental music enhance each other and are in mutual accord and do not encroach on each other’s sequence, the gods and human beings will be brought together in communion”. Kui said, “Oh, I will strike the stone and I will bang the stone, and then the hundred beasts will follow in the dance”30.

  • 31 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 21a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 49; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 7; “Glosses”, (...)

24The Emperor said, “Long, I hate slanderous speech and subversive action, and those who destabilize and alarm my people. I command you to serve as my Director of Communication. Day and night go forth and convey my commands. Be sincere in your duty”31.

  • 32 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 21b; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 50; Karlgren, Documents, p. 7-8; “Glosses”, (...)

25The Emperor said, “Now you twenty-two men, be respectful. From now on you will guide the work of Heaven”32.

Deconstructing the Text: Mythology as a Category of Critical Analysis

  • 33 M. Nylan, “KU WEN Documents”, 1995, p. 34.
  • 34 Chu ci, “Tianwen” (Heavenly Questions), SBCK, III, p. 1b-4a; Huainan zi, “Yuandao xun” (Instructio (...)
  • 35 B. Karlgren, “Legends and Cults in Ancient China”, Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquiti (...)

26One of the ways of identifying and defining the authorial strategies of the anonymous author of the two canons is to analyse the material he incorporates into his texts and the way he utilizes this material. Since much of this has been drawn from the mythological repertoire of classical literature, I will apply the methodology of comparative mythology. By this I mean that I will compare the representation of mythical themes and figures in these two texts with the representation of these mythical themes and figures in the general classical tradition. Since the anonymous author’s approach is, broadly speaking, historical, I will consider his material from the perspective of his own chronology and of his selected personages. As early as the first century A.D. the independent author and critic Wang Chong 王充 (A.D. 27-ca. 100) drew attention, like other Han scholars, to the fact that, contrary to expectation, the Shangshu opened with the figure of Yao.33 This contrasts with major texts revered as sacred history, such as the fourth century B.C. “Tianwen” (Questions of Heaven), Chapter III of Chu ci 楚辭 (Songs of Chu), and Chapters I, III, VI and VII in the Huainan zi 淮南子 (late second century B. C.). Those texts narrated the beginning of time as a cosmogonic event, set in the age of the primeval deities.34 This striking innovation in the presentation of historical chronology is brought into sharper focus when we compare the major figures Yao, Shun, and Yu in the two canons with the chronologies of the pantheons in the general classical tradition. Bernhard Karlgren produced a valuable list of the chronologies of these and the primeval deities as they appear in six classical texts. Table 1 above is slightly adapted from his 1946 chart35.

Table 1—Chronologies of Mythical Figures in Six Major Texts

Table 1—Chronologies of Mythical Figures in Six Major Texts

27It should be noted that there was no fixed pantheon in classical texts that contain mythological material, but that several different pantheons occur. Karlgren’s list represents the most typical among them. The first seven names are the great gods of the sky, the elements, and nature. Most variation occurs among the first three figures, in terms of precedence. No variation occurs among the last three figures of Yao, Shun, and Yu. In addition to their fixed sequence, they always appear at the end of the divine pantheon. They never appear at the beginning of any long pantheon in classical texts. By contrast, when the author of the two canons places the last three figures at the beginning of his account of the history of the world, he not only made a cognitive decision to eliminate the narration of cosmogonic myths but he also deliberately foreshortened the classical pantheons, and opened in medias res. The effect of this was to project the new concept that historical time, human time, began with the figure of Yao.

  • 36 See D. C. Lau, Confucius, The Analects, Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1979, Book 20.1, p. 158, (...)
  • 37 D. C. Lau, Analects, “Glossary of Names and Places”, p. 236-249, and “Introduction”, p. 17-18, 28, (...)

28If we seek a model for the authorial strategy of the two canons it is to be found in the chronological construct of the Lunyu and the Mencius. Both of these texts imply a world chronology that begins with Yao, followed by Shun and Yu36. But whereas these two classical works only imply such a chronology, the author of the two canons explicitly presents it as a historical fact. Of the fifteen main figures appearing in the two canons, moreover, seven occur in the Lunyu and Mencius. Clearly, in terms of chronology and personages, the author of the two canons was drawing on those works for his source material and his conceptual framework. In addition, since in the Lunyu and the Mencius historical figures greatly outnumber the total number of figures presented, which includes mythical figures, and since the analogical construct of the two works is primarily historical, they may be said to belong to the historicizing wing of the Confucian school of moral philosophy37. It can be seen, therefore, that the author of the two canons, by utilizing these works as his template, adhered to the same intellectual and academic tradition. He was writing an account of ancient history which mirrored Confucian concepts of exemplary history.

29Let us now examine in more detail the fifteen figures that are represented in the two canons and compare their role and function with their representation in classical texts outside the Confucian tradition. They are listed in the order of their appearance in the two canons.

  • 38 For the Dan Zhu myth, see Zhuang zi, “Dao Zhi” (Robber Zhi), SBBY, IX, p. 22b, and see A. Birrell,(...)
  • 39 Chu ci, “Li sao” (Encountering Troubles), SBCK, 1, p. 27b-28a; Huainan zi, “Tianwen xun”, SBBY, 3, (...)
  • 40 For a discussion of this figure and the significance of his name, see A. Birrell, “The Four Flood (...)
  • 41 Huainan zi, SBBY, III, p. 1a-b; trans. A. Birrell, “Four Flood Myth Traditions”, p. 229-230. A sho (...)
  • 42 Huainan zi, “Benjing xun” (Instruction on the Order of Origins), SBBY, VIII, p. 6a; trans. A. Birr (...)
  • 43 Guoyu, “Zhou yu”, SBCK, III, p. 6b-7a; trans. A. Birrell, “Four Flood Myth Traditions”, p. 233-235
  • 44 For a perceptive analysis of the metonymic significance of the name and function of the mythical f (...)
  • 45 Chu ci, “Tianwen”, SBCK, III p. 5b-6b; III, p. 17a; Shanhai jing, SBBY, XVIII, p. 8b-9a (late chap (...)
  • 46 Mo zi, “Shangxian” (Honoring the Worthy), SBBY, II, p. 8a; trans. B. Watson, Mo Tzu: Basic Writing (...)
  • 47 Chu ci, “Tianwen”, SBCK, III, p. 20b; trans. A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 74-76. This myth re (...)
  • 48 For a summary of the myths of Shun in Shanhai jing, see A. Birrell, Classic of Mountains and Seas,(...)
  • 49 Meng zi, SBBY, IX, p. 3b-4b; trans. D. C. Lau, Mencius, p. 139-140. The Mencius relates how Shun’s (...)
  • 50 For a survey of myths of the figure of Yu, see Gu Jiegang, Gushi bian, vol. I, pt. 1, p. 106-134; (...)
  • 51 The major myths in this cycle are given in A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 146-159, and “Four Fl (...)
  • 52 Chu ci, “Tianwen”, SBCK, III, p. 6b-7b; also see A. Birrell, “Four Flood Myth”, p. 242, n. 82, and (...)
  • 53 For the two versions in Mencius, see Meng zi zhengyi 孟子正義, “Teng Wen gong” (Duke Wen of Teng), SBB (...)
  • 54 Mao shi zhushu 毛詩注疏, SBBY, XVII. 1, p. 1a-6b; XX, p. 2.1a-b; trans. B. Karlgren, Odes, same nos. F (...)
  • 55 Mao shi zhushu, SBBY, XXIII, p. 9a; trans. B. Karlgren, Odes, same no. For later versions of the X (...)
  • 56 Mao shi zhushu, SBBY, XX. 1, p. 10a; trans. B. Karlgren, Odes, same no. Xun zi, “Fei xiang” (Again (...)
  • 57 Wang Chong (A.D. 27-ca. 100) Lunheng (Weighing the Arguments), “Shiying” (Verifying Auguries), SBC (...)
  • 58 For a summary of the myth of Gaoyao and the ancient penal code, see Yuan Ke 袁珂, Zhongguo shenhua c (...)
  • 59 Meng zi zhengyi, Teng Wen gong, SBBY XI. 14b; trans. Lau, Mencius, Book 3.A.4, p. 102.
  • 60 SSJGWZS, Gaoyao mo 皋陶謨 (The Counsel of Gaoyao), SBBY, II. A, p. 1-7a; II. B, p. 1-10b; II. C, p. 1 (...)
  • 61 Shanhai jing, XVIII, p. 7b-8a; trans. A. Birrell, Classic of Mountains and Seas, p. 195.
  • 62 For the various figures named Bo Yi, with different and interchangeable graphs, see A. Birrell, Ch (...)
  • 63 Meng zi zhengyi, SBBY, XI, p. 6b; trans. D. C. Lau, Mencius, p. 102. This passage in Mencius needs (...)
  • 64 Shiji, “Qin benji” (Basic Records of the Qin), SBBY, V, p. 1a-b; trans. W. H. Nienhauser, ed., Gra (...)
  • 65 Guoyu, “Zheng yu”, SBCK, XVI, p. 4a.
  • 66 Shanhai jing, SBBY, XVIII, p. 6a; trans. A. Birrell, Classic of Mountains and Seas, p. 194.
  • 67 SSJGWZS, “Lü xing”, SBBY, XXVII. A, p. 1-6a; XXVII. B, p. 1-7b; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, vol. III, p (...)
  • 68 Zhuang zi, “Qiushui” (Autumn Floods), SBBY, VI, p. 11b-12a, and “Dasheng” (Mastering Life), SBBY, (...)
  • 69 Shanhai jing, SBBY, XVII, p. 7a-b, 14, p. 6a-b; trans. A. Birrell, Classic, p. 188, 162. Chu ci,(...)

1. Yao. Myths of Yao are sparse and details of him are few, but references to him are numerous in classical texts. The fourth century B. C. Zhuang zi represents Yao in a negative way, stating that he killed his son Dan Zhu 丹朱. Other texts relate that he exiled his son. Later legends attached marvels and miracles to Yao’s name, such as the Calendar Plant, Portent Plant, and Point-the-Flatterer plant, and relate that he was born with eight-color eyebrows38.
That group of classical texts which avoids mythology, such as Lunyu and Mencius, besides Guoyu, represents Yao in a rationalized, historicizing manner. It is this mode of representation that is to be found in the two canons. From Mencius, in particular, many features are appropriated, such as Yao’s name Fangxun, in addition to aspirational speeches. The main information about Yao is contained in the two canons, which integrates several themes of political and moral government: the ideal ruler, meritorious succession, abdication to a worthier and younger man, consensual rule, an ethical bureaucracy, and attention to the welfare of the people. Since most of the data in the two canons only occurs there and is not corroborated, it should be treated with caution and viewed as a late mythopoeic invention of the Confucian school.
2./3. Xi and He. Three major texts relate aspects of the myth of a divine female figure named Xi He 羲和 (Breath Blend). The earliest, “Li sao” in Chu ci, and the Huainan zi, Chapter III, refer to Xi He as a solar deity and the charioteer of the sun, while the Shanhai jing, Chapter XV (ca. 1st cent. A.D.) specifies the deity’s gender as female and identifies her function as the mother and regulator of the ten suns39. In these texts Xi He is one person, of female gender, and has the major cosmological role of controlling the solar motion.
In the “Yao dian” text her figure and functions are radically transformed. Her gender is masculinized. Her singularity becomes multiplied into four new figures, in the form of two sets of brothers. Her function is demythologized from sun goddess to calendrical and astronomical bureaucracy. The function and figure of the great primeval goddess have been rationalized and humanized as the four male bureaucrats named Xi Zhong, Xi Shu, He Zhong, and He Shu in the court of the ideal ruler Yao.
4. Gonggong. Several classical texts relate that the mighty god Gonggong (Common Work) plays the mythic role of the marplot, that is, one who seeks to destroy the cosmos40. Chapter III of Huainan zi, for example, narrates how the rebellious Gonggong fought with the sky god Zhuanxu for world domination and in his titanic fury Gonggong broke one of the supports that separated the sky from the earth41. Chapter VIII of the same text specifies that it was Gonggong who caused the world deluge42.
The narrative of Gonggong in the “Zhou yu” (Discourses of Zhou) section of Guoyu transfers the mythological context to a humanized one, relating that it was due to Gonggong’s excesses that the river courses changed direction and caused the world flood, so that Divine Heaven (Huang Tian 皇天) turned against him43. This humanizing mode of representation is also adopted in the “Yao dian”, where Gonggong’s role of the marplot is transformed into the figure of the political rebel who plots subversion. His role as the instigator of the flood is translated into a metonymic epithet denoting a personality defect: “he swells up to (yin 堙) Heaven”44. In the “Shun dian”. Gonggong is punished by Shun and is sent into exile as a traitor. The cosmic myth of the world flood and Gonggong’s battle with the sky god are metaphorically transposed to the political context of the court of Yao and Shun.
5. Gun. Numerous texts relate myths of Gun. The earliest account occurs in “Tianwen”, in the form of an interrogative discourse. Its implicit narrative is replete with mythic motifs. The myth is corroborated in the Shanhai jing, Chapter XVIII (ca. 2d cent. A.D.). Mythic motifs include god’s command to Gun to control the world deluge, the aid of supernatural creatures, theft of a divine substance from god, and god’s command that Gun be executed, and Gun’s metamorphosis into a bear45. The preeminence of Gun is further emphasized in a passage of Mo zi (4th cent. B.C.) which tells that he was “the first-born son of God”46. Gun’s roles and functions in classical texts include leader of the people in the deluge, the savior figure who risks the wrath of god by theft, a hero who falls from grace, and a victim who sacrifices his life for the good of human beings. The polyfunctionality of Gun reveals that he is a primary god with a privileged place in sacred narratives.
As with the figure of Gonggong, the story of Gun is transformed in the two canons. Gun is represented as a criminal who has acted against the state and his family by subversion and unfilial conduct. The mythic motifs are erased, so that Gun becomes a failed official who resorts to political intrigue and in the end is executed by Shun. His flood control work related in the mythic account is converted into the theme of human inadequacy. The role of the avenging deity is rationalized to that of the judicious ruler, Shun, who exacts the ultimate penalty.
6. Shun. Compared with the figure of Yao, myths of Shun are plentiful. The “Tianwen” relates one of the trials of Shun the hero, in the set of narratives in which his family tries to kill him47. In the Shanhai jing, Shun, whose name may be translated as Hibiscus, is represented as a great god and a major mythical figure48. The Mencius, which in most respects presents mythic themes in a rationalized and humanized way, relates two other episodes in this set of myths of attempts to murder Shun. Overarching these narratives in Mencius, however, is the more important theme of filial piety in dealing with his evil family. In the Lunyu references to Shun are brief, and he is linked there in a dyadic relationship with Yao or with Yu to represent the concept of ideal rulership. It is the Mencius which develops the character and episodes of the figure of Shun49.
In the two canons these mythic strands are severely curtailed. While some vestiges of mythic narrative are retained, the focus shifts to a new emphasis on political concepts of the family as the metaphorical microcosm of the state, of the ruler who tests the potential of a candidate for rulership, the qualities of the stern judge and the severe punisher, the ability to observe the rituals of state and to select meritorious men to administer the state, and, above all, the concept of the enlightened ruler.
7. Yu. The earliest mythic reference to Yu occurs in the Shijing (ca. 600 B.C.). Here he is depicted primarily as an agricultural deity and then as the queller of the flood50. In most classical texts it is the flood myth and Yu’s successful control of it that form the central core of the myths of Yu. The myth of Yu and the flood is told in several versions, in which different subplots emerge to form a cycle of narratives on the labors of Yu51. “Tianwen” relates the myth with details of his miraculous birth from the corpse of his father Gun, and the aid he receives from god in the form of supernatural creatures. Two later texts, the Huainan zi and the Shanhai jing, introduce the motif of divine aid in the form of god’s cosmic matter with which the flood-damaged cosmos may be repaired52.
As with the figure of Shun, the text of the Mencius relates the major myth of Yu and the flood, but the mythic motifs that are found in the three aforementioned texts, such as miraculous birth, supernatural creatures, and divine cosmic matter are all excised to give a more historicized and rationalized version. The Mencian narrative (in the second of two versions) presents, however, powerfully rendered new myths which express the major themes of a world catastrophe, a return to primeval chaos, the role of Yu as the mediator between the prediluvial and postdiluvial eras, the quest to restore order out of chaos, the labors of the hero, the second beginning and the re-creation of the cosmos, and the restoration of human society to its dominant prediluvial position53.
When the representation of Yu in classical mythology texts is compared with that in the two canons, several major differences emerge. The most striking is that the mythological datum that he is the son of Gun is eliminated. This contrasts sharply with the familial relationships of Shun presented in the “Yao dian”. The only clue to Yu’s relationship with his father is evident in the generational chronologies of the two canons, in which Gun belongs to Yao’s court and Yu belongs to that of Shun. The second difference is that Yu’s role in the world deluge is almost written out. The “Shun dian” text only refers briefly to his new appointment as manager of the waterways and the land in Shun’s government. A third point is that Yu, although appearing first among the newly selected ministers of Shun, is not a supreme figure, as his mythological prestige would suggest, but as primus inter pares among the other appointees. Furthermore, Yu’s submission to the authority of Shun runs counter to the mythic narratives, in which he is depicted as a deity or demigod independent of any being except god (di 帝). A last point of comparison is the symbolic act of Yu’s refusal of ministerial office, emblematized with a low bow to the ground, which is a mimesis of Shun’s refusal vis-à-vis Yao’s abdication. This mimetic act dramatizes the theme of the civilized courtesy of humility in the new political order.
8. Hou Ji. The figure of the grain deity Hou Ji, like that of Yu, occurs in the earliest textual tradition. The name Hou Ji, which translates as Sovereign Millet, is gender-ambiguous. Traditionally, the figure has been assumed to be male-gendered, but there is some justification in reading it as female-gendered. The polyfunctional myth of Hou Ji is told in two poems in the Shijing (245, 300), and they contain major mythemes: miraculous birth, divine paternity, a semi-divine mother, the three trials of the child-hero, divine aid in surviving attempted infanticide, the mythic name of Abandoned (Qi), divine knowledge of plants, the divine giftto humankind of millet and bean crops, and divine foundation of the dynastic line and royal house of the Zhou54. In the “Shun dian”, the figure of Hou Ji undergoes a radical transformation. He is demythologized and is transposed to a new historicized and politicized context as a minister in the government of Shun. The account owes a considerable debt to the seminal passage in Mencius which relates the story of the flood. In Mencius the figure of Hou Ji is masculinized. Hou Ji’s mythic roles and functions are eclipsed and rationalized from grain deity to a minister of agriculture. The formerly autonomous deity is depicted as subservient to Shun.
9. Xie. Mythic accounts of the figure of Xie are few and brief. The earliest text of the Shijing (no. 303) is traditionally believed to portray Xie as the divine ancestor of the Shang dynasty. The crucial passage in this text, however, does not name him, but only the myth of the divine origin of the Shang. It was only much later in the classical tradition, about half a millennium after the Shijing narrative and at least a century after the Fu Sheng version of the Shangshu, that the name of Xie was linked to the Shang as its divine ancestor55. In the “Shun dian”, Xie’s appointment to the ministry of education is based on the Mencian account of the flood, but it finds no corroborative support in other mythology texts. Whereas the appointments of Yu and Hou Ji evince a certain logic, from flood hero to director of waterways and from grain deity to minister of agriculture, in the case of Xie the correlation between mythic accounts and his depiction in the “Shun dian” remains ambiguous.
10. Gaoyao. The earliest reference to Gaoyao occurs in the Shijing (no. 299), in which he is commended for his treatment of prisoners of war at court. Early mythic accounts depict him with vegetal and animalian features: his complexion was portrayed as “like a bright green peeled melon” in the Xun zi 荀子 (mid-3d cent. B.C.), and his head was depicted as a “horse’s muzzle” in Huainan zi56. These mythic features were interpreted allegorically to mean that Gaoyao was able to read the most secret thoughts of human beings. His emblem is an omniscient ram which pointed out the guilty at court by butting them57. In other accounts Gaoyao is accredited with the formulation of the penal code in antiquity58.
The representation of Gaoyao in the “Shun dian” is shorn of mythic motifs, but his function as minister of justice is retained. Whereas poem 299 of the Shijing situates Gaoyao at the court of a prince of Lü, the “Shun dian” transfers him to the court of Shun, and in this, yet again, the model for the latter text is the long passage on the flood in Mencius59. The ideological importance attached to this figure in the Shangshu is evidenced by the separate chapter devoted to him there60.
11. Chui. The figure of Chui is also known in mythological texts as You Chui 有倕 and Qiao Chui 巧倕. He appears in the Shanhai jing, Chapter XVIII, where he is portrayed as a god descended from the most eminent deity in that classic, Di Jun 帝 君. His function is to bestow the arts and crafts on humankind and to teach humans how to benefit from this gift from the gods61.
In the “Shun dian” Chui is demythologized and transformed from an independent deity to the status of a subordinate official at Shun’s court. His official designation, Gonggong (manager of work) has the same graphs as for the name of the titan Gonggong, who is written out of the Shangshu in the two canons, through Yao’s rejection of him and Shun’s decree of exile.
12. Yi. The figure of Yi is also known as Bo Yi62 The earliest record of this figure occurs in Mencius, in the same seminal passage recounting the flood in which so many other borrowed figures appear. In Mencius he is linked with Yu in the task of quelling the flood. Yi’s specific function was to torch the hiding-places of rapacious birds and beasts which had driven human beings off the land63. As it has been shown above, the representation of figures other than historical personages is in the demythologizing mode. Bo Yi is also presented as the divine ancestor of the Qin dynasty, but this tradition is only attested in the later written record, in the post-Fu Sheng era64.
In accordance with the general style of rationalization in the “Shun dian”, the function of Yi is transposed from the primeval era of the flood to the chronology of the era of Shun, where he is appointed minister of forestry and domesticator of birds and beasts.
13. Bo Yi. The figure of Bo Yi (Yi is a different graph from that of no. 12 above) appears in a few mythic narratives of a late date. For example, in “Zheng yu” (Discourses of Zheng) of Guoyu, a passage relates that in the era of Yao, Bo Yi had the ability to perform the correct ritual toward the deities, and that he assisted Yao in this observance65. A text giving more mythological data, the Shanhai jing, Chapter XVIII, deifies Bo Yi as Bo Yi Fu 伯夷父 (the Father, or progenitor)66 Unusually, one of the last chapters of the Shangshu, “Lü xing” (The Punishments of the Prince of Lü), provides further mythic data for this figure. It relates how the Supreme Deity (Huang Di) sent Bo Yi down to earth to bestow a system of penal laws on humankind to restore order in society following the revolt of another mythical figure, Chi You 蚩尤 (represented in several texts as the war god and inventor of weapons).67 This account, however, conflicts with that of the “Shun dian”, which relates that it was Gaoyao the first wise judge who first formulated these laws. The discrepancy suggests that the “Shun dian” and “Lü xing” were by different authors in the Shangshu compilation.
The representation of Bo Yi in the “Shun dian” as director of ritual is seen to derive from the account in “Zheng yu”. In the demythologizing mode of the “Shun dian”, the figure of Bo Yi is transformed from a deity to a subservient minister in Shun’s court.
14. Kui. The earliest mythic narrative of the figure of Kui occurs in Zhuang zi, Chapter XIX, where he is identified as a one-legged mountain deity. In the Shanhai jing, Chapter XIV, Kui is represented as a blue ox living in the sea, which produces thunder and lighting when it surfaces. This thunder god was killed by the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) who used its hide as a cosmic drum to strike terror throughout the universe. This myth is partly supported by a passage in the “Lu yu” (Discourses of Lu) of Guoyu, which relates that Kui had a human face and could speak68.
In the “Shun dian”, Kui’s mythical function as a thunder god is transformed into the humanized, socialized function of a director of music. It will be recalled that the earliest musical instruments used for ritual ceremonies were the Chinese bell and the drum. A vestige of his mythic function is evident in the “Shun dian”. The passage relating Kui’s commissioning as a director of music includes his response that he will make all the beasts dance in time to his chiming stones. In the transference of the myths of Kui to the new representation of this figure in the “Shun dian” the same phenomenon of rationalization of figure and function occurs that was evident in the transformation of other figures in the classical mythological tradition.
15. Long 龍. There are several candidates for the mythical figure named Long in the “Shun dian”. It might be the shortened form of the names Zhu Long (Torch Dragon) or Ying Long (Responding Dragon), whose myths are related in the Shanhai jing, Chapter XVII (ca. 1st cent. A.D.), and Chapter XIV of the same date. Torch Dragon is a cosmological deity of light, and Responding Dragon is the avenging deity of the supreme god. Responding Dragon is also depicted in the narrative of Yu and the flood in “Tianwen”, where its function is to give divine aid to the hero.69

  • 70 This function of Long perhaps derives from the representation of this supernatural creature in the (...)

30It is perhaps the draconian representation of the myth of Responding Dragon, with its powers of executing criminals on behalf of god, and its knowledge of the design of the whole earth which forms the prototype for the figure of Long (Dragon) in the “Shun dian”. In this text Long is commissioned as the minister who suppresses acts of sedition among the people and transmits government policy, traveling around the state to collect local opinion and report traitors who will be punished70.

31The findings presented thus far are tabulated below to underscore the transformational process from myth to pseudohistorical text. It will be clear from my mythological analysis and critical comparison that the figures represented in the two canons have been demoted from his or her divine status in the familiar classical pantheons and have been relegated to an inferior position to Yao and Shun.

Table 2—Functions of the figures in the “Canon of Yao” and the “Canon of Shun” compared with their functions in other major classical texts

Order of appearance

Major Figure in “Yao dian”

Major Figure in “Shun dian”

Function in the Two Canons

Function in the Majority of Other Classical Texts

1

Yao

Yao

Emperor (Di)

Yao is an obscure figure, no function

2/3

Xi and He (= 4)

Board of Astronomy, male officials

Major primeval sun goddess, Sun Mother Xi He

4

Gonggong

Gonggong

Rebel

Marplot, instigator of world flood

5

Gun

Gun

Flood control

Son of god, failed flood hero, savior

6

Shun

Shun

Successor to Yao, Emperor

Ambiguous, benign yet avenger, hero of 3 trials

7

Yu

Director of Waterways and the Land (Works)

Polyfunctional, flood hero, dynastic founder

8

Hou Ji (Qi)

Minister of Agriculture

Grain god, founder of Zhou dynasty

9

Xie

Minister of Moral Education

Putative founder of Shang dynasty, divine figure

10

Gaoyao

Minister of Justice; penal code

Wise judge, with mythical features and emblem

11

Chui (Qiao Chui)

Manager of Work (Gonggong)

Divine origin, patronal god of arts and crafts, inventor

12

Yi

Forester, domesticator of birds

Aids Yu in world deluge

13

Bo Yi

Director of Ritual

Mediator between humans and gods, creator of penal code

14

Kui

Director of Music

Thunder god, storm deity of mountain and sea

15

Long

Director of Communication

Possibly the punitive Ying Long, rain-giver, drought-bringer, divine aid

13 figures in total in this text

29 figures in total in this text; 22 are ministers

32It is pertinent to make an analogy between the historical method of the anonymous author of the two canons and that of a hypothetical Roman author who seeks to manipulate familiar myths to write a new history of ancient Rome. It is as if the Roman author has created a government headed by Emperor Jupiter, with Triptolemus as minister of agriculture, Mercury as minister of communications, and Pan as director of music — and all this re-invention purporting to constitute the earliest history of the Roman people.

Deconstructing the Text: Intertextual Criticism

33Authors do not write in a textual vacuum. This is particularly true of authors writing within an ideological historicist tradition. They utilize the content and style of earlier works as a model or template for the composition of their own new work. The traditional term “model” or the more recent term “template” do not, in my view, go far enough in conveying the authorial strategies implicit in the texts which are the subject of my present investigation. The two terms seem limited to the idea of a technical form of borrowing of concept, material, or style. On the other hand, the modernist term “intertextuality” is particularly suited to the analysis of the complexities of the two canons and to the elucidation of their authorial strategies.

  • 71 Julia Kristeva, “Poésie et négativité”, Séméiotikè: Recherches pour une sémanalyse, Paris: Édition (...)

34Coined by the French theorist Julia Kristeva in 1969, the term intertextuality has two main connotations: quotations from or allusions to the works of other authors; and the rereading and rewriting of other authors to create a new text. In the second meaning of the term, the author appropriates other writings at a conceptual and symbolic level, yet he/she also reverses some concepts and symbols to provide entirely new meanings. This constitutes “writing as re-vision”, in Adrienne Rich’s evocative phrase. In the case of ideological authors, intertextuality denotes appropriating older works, especially sacred or canonical texts, in order to make a new statement in a modern idiom. A further refinement of the term intertextuality has been offered by Susan Rubin Suleiman (1990). The author may practise a positive or a negative intertextuality. That is, he/she appropriates positive material from another author, incorporating it into their own work; or, he/she may reverse negative aspects of another author, and endow them with a new positive value. These two practices denote a positive intertext and a negative intertext71. Both are seen to be present in the historical method of the author of the two canons.

35From my analysis of the mythological content of the two canons, it can be seen that a great deal of material has been appropriated from a variety of texts in the classical tradition. It has also been shown that the classical texts, in terms of source material for mythological themes, motifs, and figures, fall into two categories. One category is formed by those texts which relate mythological material in, broadly speaking, consistent and concordant narratives. The other category is formed by texts which tend to historicize, rationalize, and demythologize the material in the general mythological repertoire. To the first category belong texts such as the Shijing, “Tianwen”, Zhuang zi, Huainan zi, Shanhai jing, and others. To the second category belong such texts as the Lunyu, Mencius, Guoyu, and chapters within the Shangshu, including the two canons.

  • 72 Lunyu, SBBY, VII, p. 4b; trans. D. C. Lau, Analects, p. 88. The word for the “gods” used by Confuc (...)

36Let us evaluate the mythical themes, motifs, and figures that have been shown in the foregoing analysis to be derived from the second category, that is, texts which selectively borrow from the mythological repertoire and then transform through the process of demythologization, rationalization, and historicization that material which has been appropriated. From the Lunyu, and also from later Confucian works, the anonymous author of the two canons has borrowed a conceptual framework which desacralizes the ancient pantheons of the deities. This desacralizing approach is epitomized in a statement from the Lunyu: “The topics the Master did not speak of were prodigies, force, disorder, and gods”72. The author has also borrowed abstract principles enunciated in the Lunyu and given them a new emphasis: reform through moral education, social harmony through ritual, filial piety, compassionate government, respect of rulers toward the ruled, the pursuit of antiquity, personal moral conduct, the promotion of talent in government, the idealization of the role of political leader, and an aversion to militarism. The abstract principles are represented in a dramatic way through the personal qualities of Yao and Shun in the two canons, and through the individual wording of the commission Shun delivers to each of his ministerial appointees. It is noteworthy that whereas Confucius stressed the personal application of abstract moral principles to self-cultivation, in the two canons these principles are transposed to the public arena in the form of the proper functioning of the morally correct polity.

  • 73 For references to Yu and Hou Ji in the Lunyu, see D. C. Lau, Analects, 14.5, p. 124; to Yu and the (...)

37The figures appropriated from the Lunyu who are the vehicles for the expression of these abstract principles, or mythemes, are Yao, Shun, Yu, Gaoyao, and Hou Ji. The first three are linked to the mytheme of nonhereditary succession. Yu and Hou Ji are linked to the political program of cereal agriculture for the people, Yu to the mytheme of self-effacing heroism in the event of the deluge, and Shun and Yu to the concept of minimalist government intervention73.

38The Mencius, which has been shown to be a major source for the two canons, represents the same mythemes and figures, but with a significant differentiation. The figure of Yao is consciously positioned at the beginning of human time, or history, and at the apex of an idealized hierarchy of figures, the chronological sequence of Yao, Shun, and Yu. The figure of Shun, when compared with his representation in the Lunyu, acquires a greater emphasis as the embodiment of the mythemes of filial piety and political acumen. It is noteworthy that whereas Confucius avoided addressing mythological issues, Mencius consciously utilizes mythic material, judiciously edited of course, to give a greater emphasis to his arguments. We find, therefore, residual features of the myth of the trials of Shun and also the major myth, told in two versions, of the world flood.

39Intertextual references in the two canons to other works, such as the Guoyu, serve, in the main, to corroborate the Confucian source material appropriated from the Lunyu and the Mencius. This kind of intertextuality that is practised in the two canons is positive or affirmative. It reinforces and confirms the meaning and substance of the texts it appropriates, rather than radically altering them.

40Let us now consider the authorial practise of intertextuality in appropriating material from the general repertoire of mythological material in classical texts, outside the Confucian texts just mentioned. This usage is, to a great extent, the borrowing of mythological material in past texts and the rewriting of that material in such a way as to constitute a reversal or negation of its original content and meaning. These may be termed negative intertexts.

41It will be useful to summarize the ways in which the original source material is rewritten in the two canons, either as a positive intertext which develops and enhances the original, or as a negative intertext which reverses the original.

Positive Intertexts

421. A figure in the original source material is retained and developed. Some figures lend themselves to development in another text because the data in original sources is scant; they are shadowy mythical figures. The development of these figures in a new text progresses along the lines established in the original source. Examples of such figures are Yao, Gaoyao, and Bo Yi (Yi of the Mencian flood narrative).

432. In cases where a figure whose primary myth is generally positive appears in a negative myth, that negative feature is eliminated. Examples include the myth that Yao killed his own son and heir, and myths that Shun exiled his father and killed his step-brother.

Negative Intertexts

443. A figure in an original mythological source is demythologized. There are six ways this occurs.

  1. Mythic motifs in the appearance of a figure are eliminated. For example, Shun loses his mythical “rot-black” look, his double pupils, and hairlessness; Gaoyao loses his green melon skin and horse’s muzzle; and Kui loses his animalian body and single leg to become a two-legged human.
  2. The mythic motif of bestiovestism is eliminated. For example, Gun and Yu’s ursinity, their ability to metamorphose into a bear, and Shun’s ability to turn into a dragon and a bird are deleted.
  3. Emblems are deleted. For example, Gaoyao’s ram, Gun’s stolen cosmic matter, Shun’s magic potion, Gun’s turtle, Yu’s dragon are all written out.
  4. The mythic motif of miraculous birth is excluded. Examples include Xi He’s ten suns, Yu’s birth from his father’s corpse, Hou Ji’s birth from god’s toe print, and Yi’s birth from an egg.
  5. The myth of the death and burial of a figure in the original source material is deleted. Examples include Gun’s execution by god (transposed to Gun’s execution by Shun), Shun’s own death on a royal tour, and Kui’s murder by the Yellow Emperor.
  6. The myth of the trials of the hero is not incorporated. Examples include the trials of the child-hero Hou Ji and the trials of Yu during the deluge. Two of the three trials of Shun are retained, but without mythic motifs.

454. Figures who appear as deities in the original source material are desacralized. Examples of this are Xi He, Gun, Shun, Yu, Hou Ji, Xie, You Chui, Yi, Kui, and Long (taking his mythic prototype to be Ying Long 應龍).

465. Figures who are independent deities in the original source material are represented as figures subordinate to Yao and to Shun. They include figures listed in 4. above, with the addition of Gonggong and Bo Yi.

476. Figures who appear as mythological and sacralized beings in the original sources are transformed into humanized figures. These include the figures listed in 4. and 5. above.

487. The mythological function of figures in the original sources is transposed and rationalized. For example, the sun goddess Xi He becomes four calendrical astronomers; the marplot and trickster figures Gonggong and Gun become rebels and enemies of the state; Yu the flood-queller becomes a minister of waterways; Hou Ji the grain god becomes the minister of cereal agriculture; and Kui the thunder god becomes the minister for music.

498. The role of figures in the original sources becomes diminished. This applies to all the figures with the exception of Yao and Shun.

509. A transposition of role sometimes occurs. For example, Bo Yi’s bestowal of the divine penal code becomes a functional attribute of Gaoyao, and Gonggong’s name becomes the title of Chui’s ministerial office.

  • 74 For myths of the creatrix goddess, Nügua (Woman Gua), see A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 163-16 (...)

5110. A gender transformation occurs with one female figure in the original sources. The sun goddess Xi He is masculinized to fit into a new role in the patriarchal system represented in the two canons. Moreover, other female primeval deities, such as the creatrix and flood-queller Nügua and the moon goddess Chang Xi 嫦嬟, are deleted from the new account74.

5211. None of the male deities that feature in the older classical pantheons, such as Fuxi, Shen Nong (Farmer God), and Yan Di (Fire God), appear in the dramatis personae of the new text.

53These eleven categories demonstrate how the anonymous author of the two canons practises both a positive and a negative intertextuality. By presenting a mythological analysis of the author’s original sources and an intertextual critique of his methods of rewriting these mythic sources, I have deconstructed the text of the two canons and shown how they were composed and assembled from a variety of older texts. It is now pertinent to reassemble the disparate parts of the author’s construction and put forward some ideas concerning his overall strategies.

Toward an Interpretation of Authorial Strategies in the Two Canons

54Thus far, I have presented core passages from the two canons in translation, and have applied the approaches of mythological analysis and intertextual criticism in order to deconstruct the texts. I will now bring these three lines of investigation together and propose an interpretation of the authorial strategies operating within the texts. From my analyses the author’s methodology has at least become clearer. It has been shown that he has adopted the historicizing method already found in the Confucian texts of the Lunyu and especially the Mencius, and has developed the expression of moral ideology in those two works. To dramatize his arguments the author has selected historicized mythical figures represented in those works to carry the moralistic burden of his new writing. In addition to these key figures, the author has appropriated other figures from the general repertoire of classical mythology, and has endowed them with Confucian characteristics. To achieve this, he has eliminated mythic and symbolic features attached to these figures and he has rewritten their role and function to make them consistent with his new idea of history.

55If we accept that the author’s overall strategy has been to historicize and politicize earlier texts and to develop those aspects already to be found in older Confucian texts, so as to invest his own writing with a new ideological statement, are we then in a position to interpret the significance of the narrative and dramatic dialog of the two canons? My own conjecture based on the foregoing investigation is this: the anonymous author has pursued a pluralist strategy to promote new concepts that are enshrined with a mythological aura yet resonant with the mystique of the tradition of ancient history transmitted through early Confucian texts. The new concepts are listed as follows:

  1. the concept that historical time began with Yao, and that the former mythological heroes Yao and Shun are the earliest historical personages;
  2. the concept that they inaugurated the first human government;
  3. the concept that they were ideal rulers;
  4. the concept that they exercised rule by moral suasion rather than by military force or coercion;concept that they exercised rule by moral suasion rather than by military force
  5. the concept of non-hereditary succession, through the promotion of meritocratic candidates;
  6. the concept of abdication of the ruler prior to his death;
  7. the concept of selecting government officials on the basis of their moral as well as their technical qualities;
  8. the concept of organizing government policy through consensual politics rather than autocratic decree;
  9. the concept of a patriarchal system, in which the masculine code predominates throughout the political body and the social system.

56The major conclusion to be drawn from the evidence that the author of the two canons based his history of ancient China on material transmitted through mythology is that he has invented a series of neomyths to serve as the ideological structure of his writing. These neomyths may be summarized as the etiology of historical time, the etiology of human government, and the etiological myth that justifies the authority of the patriarchal system.

57It was primarily due to the consummate mythopoeic skill of the author of the two canons that their pseudohistorical structure was not exposed for two millennia. The distinction between the opposing demands of the historical method and the mythological record began to be drawn by the pioneering and courageous research studies of Gu Jiegang and his colleagues in Gushi bian.

58I use the epithet courageous advisedly, for these modern historians were engaged in the process of deconstructing and dismantling the age-old edifice of sacred tradition. The writings of the author of the two canons contained in the Shangshu proved to constitute a much more powerful statement than an historical record of antiquity; they embody an inspiring political ideology and express profound beliefs and values of Chinese civilization. The persistence of the belief in, and acceptance of the two canons as verifiable and authentic ancient history has something to do with the assiduity with which orthodox Chinese scholars over two millennia maintained the status of the text of the Shangshu as a canonical work, and specifically as revered Confucian scripture. The enduring nature of the text is intricately bound up with the ways in which a people perceives its own cultural origins, and the transmission of its own national beliefs and values.

59In conclusion, the anonymous author inventively manipulated classical myths to create a form of mythologized history. His historical method had a major impact on generations of Chinese historians who accepted the content and structure, as well as the ideological persuasion of his pseudohistory. The text should be read as a late mythopoeic invention identifiable with the Confucian school of moral philosophy which persisted into the early twentieth century.

60Even so, the story does not end with the deconstruction of the text and the exposition of its authorial strategies. What has been found to be pseudohistorical and fallacious is, after all, merely the structure of the two canons, its chronological framework, and its personages. Yet what surely endures, after the exercise of deconstruction, is the sum total of the ideas which the author intended to convey to future generations. Although some are today found wanting, such as the patriarchal cultural construct, most of the ideas of the anonymous author strike a sympathetic chord with readers in the twenty-first century who wish to pursue a liberal and humanistic notion of political government.

Note

1 For a comprehensive history of the period, see Li Xueqin, Eastern Zhou and Qin Civilizations, trans. K. C. Chang, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 1985, p. 1-262; also see Derk Bodde, China’s First Unifier: A Study of the Ch’in Dynasty As Seen in the Life of Li Ssu 280?-208 B.C., Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1967. For a recent summary of intellectual currents in the period, see David Shepherd Nivison, “The Classical Philosophical Writings”, in The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 B.C., Michael Loewe and Edward L. Shaughnessy, eds., Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 745-812.

2 See the entries entitled “Chou li”, “I Chou shu”, “I li”, and “Kuo yü”, by various authors, and “Shang shu (Shu ching)” by Edward L. Shaughnessy, in Michael Loewe, ed., Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide, Early China Special Monograph Series 2, Berkeley, The Society for the Study of Early China and The Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1993, p. 24-32, 263-268, 376-389.

3 Gu Jiegang et al. eds., Gushi bian, 7 vols. (1926-41); rpt. Shanghai: Shanghai Guji, 1982.

4 Henri Maspero, “Légendes mythologiques dans le Chou King” [Shujing (Classic of Historical Documents)], Journal Asiatique, CCIV, 1924, p. 1; D. Bodde, “Myths of Ancient China”, in Mythologies of the Ancient World, Samuel Noah Kramer, ed., Garden City, N. Y.: Anchor Books, 1961, p. 372-373; William G. Boltz, “Kung Kung and the Flood: Reverse Euhemerism in the Yao tien” [Canon of Yao], T’oung Pao, LXVII, 1981, p. 141.

5 B. Karlgren, “Glosses on the Book of Documents” [Shu ching], Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, XX, 1948, p. 43.

6 The text of the Shangshu (Historical Documents of Antiquity) cited in this paper is the 1815 Shangshu jingu wen zhushu 尚書今古文注疏 edn. of Sun Xingyan 孫星衍 (1753-1818), rpr. from Pingjin guan congshu 平津館叢書 in SBBY; supplemented by the concordance Shangshu tong jian 尚書通檢, Gu Jiegang, ed., 1936; rpr. Beijing: Shumu wenxian, 1982; for Shangshu scholarship, see Liu Qiyu, Shangshu xue shi (The History of Scholarship on the Shangshu), Beijing: Zhonghua, 1989. For recent summaries in English, see Michael Nylan, “The KU WEN Documents in Han Times”, T’oung Pao, LXXXI, 1995, p. 25-50; and E. L. Shaughnessy, “Shang shu”, in M. Loewe, ed., Early Chinese Texts, p. 376-389. For a summary of the major Shangshu scholars, see B. Karlgren, “Glosses”, p. 43-44.

7 James Legge, The Chinese Classics, vol. III, pt. 1, The Shoo-King [Shujing], London, Trübner & Co., 1865, p. 15. (vol. III of the 7-vol. set in 8 tomes, 1861-1872).

8 J. Legge, The Shoo-King, pt. 1, p. 6.

9 E. L. Shaughnessy, “Shang shu”, p. 380.

10 For the biography of Fu Sheng, also known as Fu the Scholar (Fu Sheng), see Shiji, SBBY 121, p. 6b-7b; trans. Burton Watson, Records of the Grand Historian of China, Translated from the Shih chi of Ssu-ma Ch’ien, 2 vols., New York, Columbia University Press, 1961, vol. 2, p. 406-408; E. L. Shaughnessy, p. 381, 377. For the Shangshu dazhuan, also see Shaughnessy, p. 385-386. Text in Shangshu dazhuan jijiao 尚書大傳輯校 (Collected Glosses on the Shangshu dazhuan), Chen Shouqi 陳壽祺 (1771-1834), ed., based on Lu Wenchao 盧文弨 edn., Huang Qing jingjie xubian 皇清經解續編 (Explanations of the Classics from the Imperial Qing Dynasty, Supplements), and in the SBCK edn.

11 For a summary of the question of the dating of the text, see E. L. Shaughnessy, “Shang shu”, p. 377-380. Luo Genze 羅根澤, Zhongguo wenxue piping shi 中國文學批評史 (Critical History of Chinese Literature), 3 vols, Shanghai, Gudian, 1958-1962, I, 1958, p. 36, inclines toward a date of compilation as late as the second century B.C.

12 E. L. Shaughnessy, p. 378.

13 For the history of the scholarship on the Shangshu, see Liu Qiyu, Shangshu xue shi, 1989; Shaughnessy, “Shang shu”, p. 377-380.

14 M. Nylan, “The KU WEN Documents”, p. 25-50; E. L. Shaughnessy, “Shang shu”, p. 376-377, 384-385; William Hung, “A Bibliographical Controversy at the T’ang Court A.D. 719”, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, XX, 1957, p. 113-117.

15 M. Nylan, “The KU WEN Documents”, p. 25, n. 1.

16 M. Nylan, “The CHIN WEN/KU WEN Controversy in Han Times”, T’oung Pao, LXXX, 1994, p. 83-145.

17 E. L. Shaughnessy, “Shang shu”, p. 377. For a tabulation of the Kong Anguo version, see J. Legge, The Shoo-King, pt. 1, p. x.

18 Peter K. Bol, Review, Michael Nylan, The Shifting Center: The OriginalGreat Plan and Later Readings, Monumenta Serica Monograph Series XXIV, Nettetal, Steyler Verlag, 1992, in T’oung Pao, LXXX, 1994, p. 173.

19 Shangshu jingu wen zhushu 尚書今古文注疏 (Commentaries on the Modern and Ancient Texts of the Shangshu; henceforth, SSJGWZS), SBBY, 1. A, p. 5a-10b; trans. Legge, The Shoo-King (henceforth, Shoo), vol. III, pt. 1, p. 18-22 (note that Legge translates and cites the forged text, the Kong Anguo Shangshu, with Kong’s commentary, also a forgery); B. Karlgren, “The Book of Documents” (henceforth, Documents), Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, XXII, 1950, p. 3; and for exegesis, Legge’s is given with his translation, Karlgren’s is in “Glosses”, p. 49-59 (note that Karlgren’s translation is based on the Jinwen text).

20 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.A, p. 13a-14a; trans. Legge, Shoo, p. 24-25; Karlgren, Documents, p. 3; “Glosses”, p. 62-68.

21 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.A, p. 14b-16a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 26-27; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 4; “Glosses”, p. 69-71.

22 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 13a-14a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 39-40; Legge, p. 40, col. a, follows the spurious Kong Anguo commentary, translating Gun’s punishment by Shun as imprisonment until his natural death; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 5; “Glosses”, p. 91-94; Karlgren, p. 94 translates Gun’s punishment as death for a capital offence.

23 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 15b-17a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 42-43; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 5; “Glosses”, p. 98-99. The figures Hou Ji, Xie, and Gaoyao appear in the subsequent passages.

24 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 17a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 43-44; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 5, 7; “Glosses”, p. 99-100.

25 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 17a; trans. Legge, Shoo, p. 44; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 7; “Glosses”, p. 100. For “the five social classes”, Legge follows the list given in Mencius of parent/child, sovereign/subject, husband/wife, brothers, and friends; Karlgren follows Zuo zhuan 左傳 and the Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 commentary in SSJGWZS, giving father, mother, brothers, and sons.

26 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 17b-19a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 44-45; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 7; “Glosses”, p. 100-102.

27 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 19a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 45-46; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 7; “Glosses””, p. 102-103. The figures Shu, Qiang, and Bo Yu feature in other mythic narratives; Shu (Lance, Pole) appears as a divine descendant of the great god Yan Di 炎帝 (Flame), and the inventor of the archery butt, Shanhai jing 山海經 (Classic of Mountains and Seas), SBBY, XVIII, p. 7a; Qiang and Bo Yu are uncertain figures, some commentators seeking to amend the graphs of their names or coalesce them with others (Legge, 46, col. a).

28 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 19a-b; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 46; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 7. There are several figures named Yi in mythic narratives, all with different graphs, but some having variant graphs; of these Hou Yi, Yi the Archer or Lord Yi, is the most familiar; another Yi, Bo Yi, occurs in the subsequent narrative as an expert on ritual. For the names Zhu (Scarlet), Hu (Tiger), Xiong (Bear), Pi (Bear), Sun Xingyan notes in his commentary on this passage in SSJGWZS that in the Zuo zhuan (the Zuo Commentary [on the Spring and Autumn Annals]), Wen gong, 18th Year, it is related that the primeval deity Gaoxin 高辛 (alias Di Ku 帝嚳) had eight talented sons with similar animalian names. The Shanhai jing groups these four animals in several passages (Zhu (Scarlet) is taken to be either a bird or a tree); for example, the utopian scene in Chapter Six, Shanhai jing, SBBY, VI, p. 5b, trans. Anne Birrell, The Classic of Mountains and Seas, London: Penguin Books, 1999, p. 111, which describes Yao’s burial place.

29 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 19b; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 47; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 7. The figures Kui and Long appear in subsequent passages.

30 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 19b-21a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 47-49; Karlgren, Documents, p. 7; “Glosses”, p. 103-104. James J.Y. Liu, Chinese Theories of Literature, Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1975, p. 69-70, calls attention to the parallel passages in Shun’s commission of Kui here and in the opening lines of the Daxu 大序 (Major Preface) of Shijing (Classic of Poetry), noting that although the Daxu text is datable to the first century A.D. (ascribed to Wei Hong 衛宏), it is based on passages in the Yueji 樂記 (Record of Music), itself datable to around the first century B.C. For the passage in the “Major Preface”, see J. Legge, The Chinese Classics, vol. IV, The Sheking, pt. 1, p. 34; this is a more extended version of the theme, Shi yan zhi (Poetry expresses what is in the heart), than the passage in SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 20b.

31 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 21a; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 49; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 7; “Glosses”, p. 105.

32 SSJGWZS, SBBY, 1.B, p. 21b; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, p. 50; Karlgren, Documents, p. 7-8; “Glosses”, p. 105. The number of twenty-two men addressed by Shun has given rise to various head-counts, which are reviewed by Legge, p. 50, col. a-b. I follow the commentator noted by Legge, ibid., Cai Chen 蔡沈 (1167-1230), who gives 12 pastors, 1 Si Yue officer, and 9 ministers (excluding Shun with his rank of di 帝, emperor).

33 M. Nylan, “KU WEN Documents”, 1995, p. 34.

34 Chu ci, “Tianwen” (Heavenly Questions), SBCK, III, p. 1b-4a; Huainan zi, “Yuandao xun” (Instruction on the Original Way), SBBY, I, p. 1a-2b, “Tianwen xun” (Instruction on the Design of the Heavens), SBBY, III, p. 1a-2a, “Lanming xun” (Instruction on Examining the Obscure), SBBY, VI, p. 7a-b. “Jingshen xun” (Instruction on the Ethereal Divinities), SBBY, VII, p. 1a. Also see several essays in Mythe et philosophie à l’aube de la Chine impériale, Études sur le Huainan zi, Charles Le Blanc and Rémi Mathieu, eds., Montréal et Paris, Presses de l’Université de Montréal and De Boccard, 1992, especially “Une création du monde”, by Rémi Mathieu, p. 69-87. Also see A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology: An Introduction, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999, Chapter I, “Origins”, p. 23-39.

35 B. Karlgren, “Legends and Cults in Ancient China”, Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, XVIII, 1946, p. 207 (slightly amended).

36 See D. C. Lau, Confucius, The Analects, Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1979, Book 20.1, p. 158, and Lau, Mencius, Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1970, Book 5.A.6, p. 144.

37 D. C. Lau, Analects, “Glossary of Names and Places”, p. 236-249, and “Introduction”, p. 17-18, 28, and Book 3.14, p. 69; also see Lau, Mencius, Appendix 4, “Ancient History as Understood by Mencius”, p. 223-234, and “Glossary of Personal and Place Names”, p. 265-280.

38 For the Dan Zhu myth, see Zhuang zi, “Dao Zhi” (Robber Zhi), SBBY, IX, p. 22b, and see A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 193-195. For the myth of non-hereditary succession, see Sarah Allen, The Heir and the Sage: Dynastic Legend in Early China, San Francisco: Chinese Materials Center, 1981, p. 27-68. For vegetal myths of Yao, see Birrell, 238-240, and for Yao’s eyebrows of eight different colours, see Huainan zi, SBBY, XIX, p. 6b (“Xiuwu xun” chapter, Instruction on Striving Arduously). Sun Xingyan, SSJGWZS, SBBY, I. A, p. 1a, cites the Shangshu dazhuan of the Fu Sheng school to the effect that the name Yao means lofty. For a discussion of this and other symbolic forms in the “Yao dian”, see W. Boltz, “Kung Kung and the Flood”, p. 141-153. Yao acquired dynastic reign dates in later mythology of 2356-2255 with the title of Tang Di Yao.

39 Chu ci, “Li sao” (Encountering Troubles), SBCK, 1, p. 27b-28a; Huainan zi, “Tianwen xun”, SBBY, 3, p. 10a; Shanhai jing, SBBY, XV, p. 5a; also see A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 38-39, and Classic of Mountains and Seas, p. 170, “Notes” “Breath Blend”, p. 203.

40 For a discussion of this figure and the significance of his name, see A. Birrell, “The Four Flood Myth Traditions of Classical China”, T’oung Pao, LXXXIII, 1997, p. 228-235.

41 Huainan zi, SBBY, III, p. 1a-b; trans. A. Birrell, “Four Flood Myth Traditions”, p. 229-230. A shorter version of this myth occurs in Huainan zi, SBBY, I, p. 7a, where the deity Zhuanxu is replaced by the deity Gaoxin (Di Ku).

42 Huainan zi, “Benjing xun” (Instruction on the Order of Origins), SBBY, VIII, p. 6a; trans. A. Birrell, “Four Flood Myth Traditions”, p. 230.

43 Guoyu, “Zhou yu”, SBCK, III, p. 6b-7a; trans. A. Birrell, “Four Flood Myth Traditions”, p. 233-235.

44 For a perceptive analysis of the metonymic significance of the name and function of the mythical figure, Gonggong, see W. Boltz, “Kung Kung and the Flood”, p. 144-145, 147-148.

45 Chu ci, “Tianwen”, SBCK, III p. 5b-6b; III, p. 17a; Shanhai jing, SBBY, XVIII, p. 8b-9a (late chapters record older material). For a discussion of the role and function of Gun, see A. Birrell, “Four Flood Myth Traditions”, p. 235-238.

46 Mo zi, “Shangxian” (Honoring the Worthy), SBBY, II, p. 8a; trans. B. Watson, Mo Tzu: Basic Writings, New York & London: Columbia University Press, 1963, p. 31.

47 Chu ci, “Tianwen”, SBCK, III, p. 20b; trans. A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 74-76. This myth relates how Shun’s father, Gusou, and his half-brother, Xiang, tried to kill Shun by plying him with strong alcohol. (But he was protected by a special potion, in some versions dog’s mess, provided by his two wives, the daughters of Yao.)

48 For a summary of the myths of Shun in Shanhai jing, see A. Birrell, Classic of Mountains and Seas, “Notes”, listed under “Hibiscus”, p. 228-229.

49 Meng zi, SBBY, IX, p. 3b-4b; trans. D. C. Lau, Mencius, p. 139-140. The Mencius relates how Shun’s relatives tried to kill him by arson and drowning, but both times Shun escapes unscathed. For the dyad of Yao and Shun in Mencius, see Lau, Mencius, “Ancient History”, p. 224-225; for the dyad in the Lunyu, see Lau, Analects, Book 6.30, p. 85, and for the dyad of Shun and Yu, see Book 8.18, p. 94. In later legend, Shun acquired the reign-dates of 2255-2205 B. C. with the titles of Yu Di Shun and You Yu, of which the name Yu denotes a place, and You Yu 有虞 denotes Possessor of Yu. For the myth of Shun’s double eye-pupils, see Huainan zi, SBBY, XIX, p. 7a.

50 For a survey of myths of the figure of Yu, see Gu Jiegang, Gushi bian, vol. I, pt. 1, p. 106-134; Tong Shuye 童書業, Gushi bian, vol. VII, pt. 1, p. 353-365; Gu and Tong, Gushi bian, vol. VII, pt. 3, p. 142-195; B. Karlgren, “Legends and Cults”, p. 207-311; R. Mathieu, “Yu le Grand et le mythe du Déluge”, T’oung Pao, LXXVIII, 1992, p. 162-190; Zhang Zhenli 张振犁, Zhongyuan gudian shenhua liubian lunkao 中原古典神話流變論考 (A Discussion of the Evolution of Myths in the Classical Texts of Central China), Zhongguo minsu wenhua yanjiu congshu (A Collection of Studies on Chinese Folk Culture), Shanghai, Shanghai Wenyi, 1991, p. 209-236; A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 146-159. Poem nos. in Shijing referring to Yu are: 210, 244, 261, 300, and 305; trans. B. Karlgren, The Book of Odes, Stockholm, Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, 1974 (same poem nos.).

51 The major myths in this cycle are given in A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 146-159, and “Four Flood Myth”, p. 241-254; also in R. Mathieu, “Yu le Grand”, p. 162-190 (caveat the overly biographical approach in this presentation).

52 Chu ci, “Tianwen”, SBCK, III, p. 6b-7b; also see A. Birrell, “Four Flood Myth”, p. 242, n. 82, and p. 236, n. 69. Huainan zi, “Dixing xun” (Instruction on the Formation of the Earth), SBBY, IV, p. 2b; for a discussion of the archaic form of the graph for Di 墬, see C. Le Blanc, “Histoire du texte et études”, in Le Blanc and Mathieu, eds., Mythe et philosophie, p. 171, analysis of line 1. Shanhai jing, XVIII, p. 8b-9a; see n. 86, p. 244, A. Birrell, “Four Flood Myth”, for the context, and p. 244 for a translation of the passage; also translated in the comprehensive monograph on the classic by Mathieu, Étude sur la mythologie et l’ethnologie de la Chine ancienne, 2 vols., Mémoires de l’Institut des Hautes Études Chinoises, XXII. 1-2, Paris: Collège de France, 1983, vol. I, p. 645-653. For a discussion of the cosmic matter, xirang (breathing-soil), see Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 80. In later legends Yu acquired the reign-dates 2205-2197, with the title of Da Yu 大禹 (Yu the Great).

53 For the two versions in Mencius, see Meng zi zhengyi 孟子正義, “Teng Wen gong” (Duke Wen of Teng), SBBY, XI, p. 5b-13b, and SBBY, 13, p. 4a-5a; trans. D. C. Lau, Mencius, Book 3, pt. 1, p. 102-103, and pt. 2, p. 113. In the first version Yu is aided by Yi, and the postdiluvial state allows Shun to delegate new ministers in the restoration of the world; in version two, Yu is the sole hero of the flood, and his acts establish the renewal of the earth. (Note that in version two a line is cited from the Shu which does not appear in extant versions of the Shangshu.) For an illuminating study of both versions of the Mencian flood myth, see Stephen F. Teiser, “Engulfing the Bounds of Order: The Myth of the Great Flood in Mencius”, Journal of Chinese Religions, XIII-XIV, 1985/86, Symposium Issue: Myth and Symbol in Chinese Tradition, p. 15-43. Version two is discussed in A. Birrell, “Four Flood Myth”, p. 244-245.

54 Mao shi zhushu 毛詩注疏, SBBY, XVII. 1, p. 1a-6b; XX, p. 2.1a-b; trans. B. Karlgren, Odes, same nos. For a discussion of J. Legge’s treatment of the Hou Ji myths, see Birrell, “James Legge and the Chinese Mythological Tradition”, History of Religions, LXXXIII. 4, 1999, p. 342-344. For a general discussion of this myth, see Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 54-58, 116-118. For the gender-ambiguous title Hou, see Birrell, p. 55.

55 Mao shi zhushu, SBBY, XXIII, p. 9a; trans. B. Karlgren, Odes, same no. For later versions of the Xie myth, see Lü shi chunqiu, “Yin chu” (The Origin of the Yin-Song), SBCK, VI, p. 6b, and Shiji 史記 (Historical Records) by Sima Qian 司馬遷 (ca. 145-ca. 86 B.C.), “Yin benji” (Basic Records of the [Shang] Yin), SBBY, III, p. 1a-b; trans. A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 256, and Édouard Chavannes, Les Mémoires historiques de Se-ma Ts’ien, 6 vols., 1895-1905; rpt. Paris: Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1967-1969, vol. I, p. 173-174. Also see William H. Nienhauser, Jr., ed., The Grand Scribe’s Records, vol. I, The Basic Annals of Pre-Han China by Ssu-ma Ch’ien, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 41. (Note that while the Lü shi chunqiu may co-date the Fu Sheng version of Shangshu, the Shiji, which gives Xie’s name and manner of birth, postdates Fu Sheng.) For a discussion of the problems surrounding the Xie/Shang myth, see Birrell, “James Legge,”, p. 338-342.

56 Mao shi zhushu, SBBY, XX. 1, p. 10a; trans. B. Karlgren, Odes, same no. Xun zi, “Fei xiang” (Against Physiognomy), SBBY, III, p. 2a. Huainan zi, SBBY, XIX, p. 7a; the text gives the allegorical meaning of the facial motif as perfect integrity.

57 Wang Chong (A.D. 27-ca. 100) Lunheng (Weighing the Arguments), “Shiying” (Verifying Auguries), SBCK, XVII, p. 10a-b.

58 For a summary of the myth of Gaoyao and the ancient penal code, see Yuan Ke 袁珂, Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian 中國神話傳說辭典 (Dictionary of Chinese Myths and Legends), Shanghai: Shanghai Cishu, 1985, p. 322, col. a; some myths translated in A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 278. Cf. myth of Bo Yi and the ancient penal code (discussed below).

59 Meng zi zhengyi, Teng Wen gong, SBBY XI. 14b; trans. Lau, Mencius, Book 3.A.4, p. 102.

60 SSJGWZS, Gaoyao mo 皋陶謨 (The Counsel of Gaoyao), SBBY, II. A, p. 1-7a; II. B, p. 1-10b; II. C, p. 1-12b; trans. B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 8-12; J. Legge, Shoo, vol. III, pt. 2, p. 68-75.

61 Shanhai jing, XVIII, p. 7b-8a; trans. A. Birrell, Classic of Mountains and Seas, p. 195.

62 For the various figures named Bo Yi, with different and interchangeable graphs, see A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 58-59. Because of Yi’s dyadic relationship with Yu in one version of the flood myth (recorded in Mencius, see n. 54 above), he came to be associated with Yu as the co-author of Shanhai jing, in the early Han; see Liu Xin’s (53 B.C.-A.D. 23) preface to the classic, Shanhai jing, “Xulu” (Preface and Notes), SBBY, p. 1a (end papers). Liu Xin uses a different graph for Yi.

63 Meng zi zhengyi, SBBY, XI, p. 6b; trans. D. C. Lau, Mencius, p. 102. This passage in Mencius needs to be read in the context of the narrative of the second version of the flood myth given in Mencius (Meng zi zhengyi, SBBY, XIII, p. 4a-5a, trans. Lau, p. 113), where it relates that wild birds and beasts, including reptiles, became so aggressive to humans and overran the land that they had to be driven off and destroyed. The account of Yi and the flood in Mencius appears to have some material borrowed from the myth of the primeval goddess, Nügua the creatrix, who controlled the dual disasters of the world, conflagration and flood, as recorded in Huainan zi, “Lan ming xun”, SBBY, VI, 7a-8a; discussed and translated in A. Birrell, “Four Flood Myth”, p. 221-228.

64 Shiji, “Qin benji” (Basic Records of the Qin), SBBY, V, p. 1a-b; trans. W. H. Nienhauser, ed., Grand Scribe’s Records, p. 87; also trans. and discussed as motifs of miraculous birth and divine foundation in A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 120, 253.

65 Guoyu, “Zheng yu”, SBCK, XVI, p. 4a.

66 Shanhai jing, SBBY, XVIII, p. 6a; trans. A. Birrell, Classic of Mountains and Seas, p. 194.

67 SSJGWZS, “Lü xing”, SBBY, XXVII. A, p. 1-6a; XXVII. B, p. 1-7b; trans. J. Legge, Shoo, vol. III, pt. 2, p. 588-612; B. Karlgren, Documents, p. 74-78. For the myths of Chi You, see Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 50-53, 132-134.

68 Zhuang zi, “Qiushui” (Autumn Floods), SBBY, VI, p. 11b-12a, and “Dasheng” (Mastering Life), SBBY, VII, p. 5a; trans. B. Watson, Chuang Tzu, p. 183, 203. Shanhai jing, SBBY, XIV, p. 6b; trans. A. Birrell, Classic, p. 162. Guoyu, “Lu yu”, SBCK, V B, p. 8b.

69 Shanhai jing, SBBY, XVII, p. 7a-b, 14, p. 6a-b; trans. A. Birrell, Classic, p. 188, 162. Chu ci, “Tianwen”, SBCK, III, p. 6b-7b; trans. A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 82.

70 This function of Long perhaps derives from the representation of this supernatural creature in the Yu flood myth recorded in “Tianwen”, where it is able to traverse the rivers and seas of the whole earth (Chu ci, “Tianwen”, SBCK, III, p. 6b-7b). For a discussion of this garbled passage in “Tianwen”, see David Hawkes, The Songs of the South: An Ancient Chinese Anthology of Poems by Qu Yuan and Other Poets, 1959; rev. edn. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1985, p. 128.23, 138-139.

71 Julia Kristeva, “Poésie et négativité”, Séméiotikè: Recherches pour une sémanalyse, Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1969, p. 246-277. Susan Rubin Suleiman, Subversive Intent: Gender, Politics, and the Avant-Garde, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990, p. 129, 132, 142-143.

72 Lunyu, SBBY, VII, p. 4b; trans. D. C. Lau, Analects, p. 88. The word for the “gods” used by Confucius, shen, is the same as that in the compound shenhua, the modern term for mythology, or myth.

73 For references to Yu and Hou Ji in the Lunyu, see D. C. Lau, Analects, 14.5, p. 124; to Yu and the deluge, 8.21, p. 95; to Shun and Yu, 8.18, p. 94. For a discussion of the principles, or mythemes, these figures represent, see Fung Yu-lan, A History of Chinese Philosophy, 2 vols., trans. from the Chinese by D. Bodde, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952, I, p. 46-75.

74 For myths of the creatrix goddess, Nügua (Woman Gua), see A. Birrell, Chinese Mythology, p. 163-165, and Birrell, “Four Flood Myths”, p. 221-228. For a myth of Chang Xi, mother of the twelve moons, see Birrell, Classic of Mountains and Seas, p. 176; Shanhai jing, SBBY, XVI, p. 5a.

Indice delle illustrazioni

Titolo Table 1—Chronologies of Mythical Figures in Six Major Texts
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Autore

University of Cambridge, Clare Hall ; doctorat de l’Université Columbia. Son étude et sa traduction complète de l’anthologie médiévale de poésie galante Yutai xinyong (Les Chants de la Terrasse de Jade), sous le titre Games Poets Play : Readings in Medieval Chinese Poetry (2004) ont été acclamées comme une importante contribution aux études chinoises et aux humanités. Elle a occupé des postes d’enseignement à City University of New York et à University of Cambridge. Ses publications comptent aussi deux ouvrages sur la mythologie chinoise, Chinese Myths (2000, introduit par Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, traduit en plusieurs langues) et Chinese Myth and Culture (2006) et la traduction annotée d’un des plus importants ouvrages de mythologie chinoise ancienne, le Shanhaijing, sous le titre The Classic of Mountains and Seas (Penguin Books, 1999).

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