Shan Hai Jing - the Collection of the Mountains and Seas
Shan Hai Jing (山海经, literally "Collection of the Mountains and Seas") is a Chinese classic text that is at least 2,000 years old. It is largely a fabled geographical and cultural account of pre-Qin China as well as a collection of mythology. The book is about 31,000 words long, and is divided into eighteen sections; it describes over 550 mountains and 300 channels.
The Collection of the Mountains and Seas is an essential source for the research of history, folk customs, ancient geography and science and technologies. Due to its old age, the author, editor and composing date of the book are undetermined. It was originally thought that mythical figures such as Yu the Great or Boyi wrote the book. However, the consensus among modern Chinese scholars is that this book was not written at a single time by a single author, but rather by numerous people from the period of the Warring States to the beginning of the Han Dynasty.
Its first known editor was Liu Xiang (刘向) from the Western Han, who was connected to several works on Confucian classics. Later Guo Pu (郭璞), a scholar from the Western Jin, made a further annotation to it, including a few others.
The Collection of the Mountains and Seas is divided into 18 sections, including 5 sections of Mountain Classics, 8 sections of Sea Classics, 4 sections of Classics of the Great Wilderness and 1 section of Classic of Regions within the Seas. The book is 31,000 words long. It documented landscapes, mythological stories, special products, witchcraft, religious beliefs, folk medicine and customs etc in more than 100 small states, covering a wide range of areas from Nanhai of Guangdong in the south to Inner Mongolia in the north, from Shandong in the east to Xinjiang in the west.
There are numerous ancient Chinese mythological stories recorded in The Classic of the Mountains and Seas, including Giant Pangu, the first living being and the creator of all, Nüwa, the creator goddess who created human beings with mud, and Kua Fu, the sun-capturing god died of thirst etc. These stories are widely spread in China from one generation to another.
The Classic of the Mountains and Seas had a great impact on Chinese literature. Both Shi Jing (the Book of Songs) And lots of outstanding poems, legends and novels of later ages were all based on myths in The Classic of the Mountains and Seas, with some adaptation and creation. Among them, the most influential and widely spread works include Fengshen Yanyi (The Creation of the Gods) and Journey to the West of the Ming Dynasty and Flowers in the Mirror of the Qing Dynasty.and Chu Ci (Songs of Chu) included ancient myths, especially Chu Ci, which recorded a large number of ancient mythological stories. In addition, Taoist classics like Lao Zi, Zhuang Zi and the Huainanzi etc in large part drew on ancient myths and philosophized them.