Monkey in the Middle: The (Nearly) Indefinable Monkey King

I love tricksters, and possibly my favorite is Sūn Wùkōng (孫悟空), the Monkey King. Recently, I got to read Professor Anthony C. Yu’s annotated and revised English translation of Journey to the West /Xīyóujì (西遊記). Seeing the original Monkey King in all his mischievous glory just made me fall in love all over again. His larger-than-life personality is instantly recognizable in every story he appears in. At the same time, however, the Great Sage Equal to Heaven is incredibly difficult to pin down identity-wise. Is he a god or a demon, a mythical being or a novel character? Or maybe he was always meant to be constantly outside the lines. Since the Hong Kong version of his festival was on the 22nd of this month, I thought I’d post a celebration of this quirky hero’s slippery nature. Here’s to you, Marvelous Monkey King! Continue reading “Monkey in the Middle: The (Nearly) Indefinable Monkey King”

Spirited Swords, Part 2: Five Living Blades

Welcome back! Ready for more swords? In Part 1, I listed blades that, like the Soul-Devouring Sword in Ice Fantasy, were possessed and/or cursed. These swords were animated or driven by forces that initially existed outside of their steel or bronze. Now I’d like to cover swords in a slightly different category: Living blades. Unlike cursed swords, these weapons have a little bit more ambiguity because they have their own intelligence and therefore their own agenda. Just like with people, whether you get along with a living sword is a matter of personal compatibility rather than because the sword itself is good versus evil. So here are another five blade displaying a different kind of spirit! Again, I will include at least one update of the exact sword in modern media along with one echo, a similar media sword possibly inspired by the myth. Continue reading “Spirited Swords, Part 2: Five Living Blades”

Spirited Swords, Part 1: Five Possessed and Cursed Blades

Greetings on this morning after Guǐ Jie /the Ghost Festival! Contemplating the roaming spirits of this thin time led me to thinking of the Soul-Devouring Sword (噬神劍) from Ice Fantasy. The energy-eating sword spirits possessing it give the sword great power but in their hunger they may strike even when the sword’s wielder would rather show mercy. Searching for a mythological model for the Soul-Devouring Sword turned up several interesting possibilities that I could only cover briefly. It seemed a shame to just leave those blades in my unposted notes, so I’d like to expand on them now. I’ll pair each one with at least one update, where the exact sword reappears in modern media, and at least one echo, original fictional weapons that bear some resemblance to the mythical. In keeping with tone of the Ghost Festival, I’ll start with possessed and cursed blades. Continue reading “Spirited Swords, Part 1: Five Possessed and Cursed Blades”

Steady Light, Many Names: Five Faces of Venus

After several months as the Morning Star, Venus has returned to the twilight side. It’s still low in the Northern Hemisphere sky, but you might be able to catch a glimpse near sunset. Back when I kept a star journal, this bright light was one of the first I learned to identify and track. It has received many faces and stories throughout the world, with sometimes quite different personalities. To celebrate the return of the Evening Star, I’d like to share a selection of these faces with you. Though I only have room to go into five in detail, I’ll include some of their close relatives or neighbors as well as a few media appearances. Continue reading “Steady Light, Many Names: Five Faces of Venus”

The Mythology of Ice Fantasy, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my exploration of the mythology behind the Chinese drama Ice Fantasy! In Part 1, I focused entirely on the original show with only a brief mention of its sequel series, Ice Fantasy Destiny. This time, I’d like to touch on a couple points connected to the sequel as well as more from the original series. After all, this is my last post for 2020 and that was the year Ice Fantasy Destiny supposedly took place. Let’s start with a bit about Destiny. Continue reading “The Mythology of Ice Fantasy, Part 2”

The Mythology of Ice Fantasy, Part 1

It’s that time of year again! In the northern hemisphere, winter has arrived, and in the southern, summer is in full swing. Contemplating these contrasting seasons existing simultaneously has me thinking of Ice Fantasy, the first Chinese drama I ever watched. At first glance, it’s easy to see it as a Chinese interpretation of Western fantasy tropes, with pointy-eared immortal princes and mystical swords. However, look deep enough and you’ll find it actually draws strongly on Chinese mythology with influences from a few other cultures. Since its sequel series is set in then-futuristic 2020, I thought it might be fun to close the year by delving into the mythology within the fantasy. Continue reading “The Mythology of Ice Fantasy, Part 1”

Red Thread Reblog: Chinese Dragons — Olivia’s Blog

Red Thread
Artwork by Bridget Sarsen.

Welcome to Red Thread Reblog, a feature that pairs a post about media inspired by mythology with a post about the mythology shown in the media.

The dragons in Eon and Eona are based on Chinese mythology, so an overview of that makes it easier to grasp their world. Olivia’s Blog, maintained by Olivia or olichi19, provides just that in this wonderful post on Chinese dragons. It’s one of the more comprehensive descriptions of Chinese dragons I have found in the current blogosphere. It includes the different types, the symbolism of dragons, and even the dragon as an animal sign in Chinese astrology. Goodman’s dragons are each associated with one of the 12 animal signs from this system, whereas Olivia explains how each dragon year is further associated with one of the five elements.  Whether you’re interested in some context for the books or you just want some cool facts about Chinese dragons, this is the place to start!

The Chinese dragon like the Indian Naga’s, are often associated with water and rain and lakes and rivers. Chinese Dragons are divine mythical creatures that brings with it ultimate abundance, prosperity and good fortune. The Chinese proclaim themselves “Lung Tik Chuan Ren”, Descendents of the Dragon. Unlike the the negative aspect associated with Western Dragons, […]

via Chinese Dragons — Olivia’s Blog

Red Thread Reblog: Eona: Review — Average Nicole

Welcome to Red Thread Reblog, a feature that pairs a post about media inspired by mythology with a post about the mythology shown in the media.

As promised, here are the dragons! Alison Goodman’s YA duology of Eon: The Last Dragoneye and Eona came out nearly ten years ago, but these books remain among the few I’ve discovered to explore certain details of Chinese dragon mythology for more adult readers. This fantasy world is not based entirely on Chinese culture and creates its own distinct landscape where dragon power is harnessed as a sort of weather control. For more details, I suggest this review by Average Nicole at Inner Confusions. If you haven’t visited Inner Confusions before, I recommend checking it out. Nicole posts both book reviews and personal writing, often piercing reflections on life with the occasional poem. Her review focuses mainly on Eona but also includes a quick summery of Eon. Like many of her reviews, it features a non-spoiler section and a spoiler section. So choose your style and visit her review!

4.0/5.0 Stars Author: Alison Goodman Pages: 637 Published: 2011 After not reading for MONTHS, I decided to finally start again with Eona by Alison Goodman. And I am glad to say I was not disappointed. Eona is the sequel to Eon, and the conclusion in the duology. I read Eon back in I think 2015, […]

via Eona: Review — Average Nicole

 

Two Major Love Days: Part 2—The Qixi Festival

Welcome to Part 2 of my dive into two of the biggest love days! The original article covered both, but it grew so large that I decided to split it in half. I’ll turn now from Valentine’s Day to the Qīxī Festival of China. Though it may not be as well known in countries where Valentine’s dominates, this love day still has a sizeable following. Like Valentine’s Day, it has experienced some commercialization, but at its heart is a love story that has survived for more than 2, 000 years. I particularly enjoy how its mythology weaves itself around the stars. So let’s take a look at this very different love day and how it has evolved. Continue reading “Two Major Love Days: Part 2—The Qixi Festival”

Red Thread Reblog: Chinese Goblins, Monsters, Spirits, Demons, Ghosts, Immortals, and Gods — Haoheng Chinese Translations

Welcome to Red Thread Reblog, a feature that pairs a post about media inspired by mythology with a post about the mythology shown in the media.

Happy Lunar New Year! Now that we’ve taken a look at The Dragon Warrior, let’s look at the mythology behind it. Haoheng Stone (also known as Eric Stone) is a Chinese-English translator who primary works with human rights-related news articles and government policies. He also runs a blog featuring translations of essays, literature, and political articles from China and Taiwan. I am extremely grateful for these translations as it allows me to read Chinese sources on mythology I would otherwise be unable to access. This article, translated from text by Gan Daofu, discusses the different broad categories of supernatural entities in Chinese mythology. In The Dragon Warrior, Farin fights with guai and yaoguai as well as interacting with shen of various levels. One of the entries also gives insight into the fate of Farin’s grandfather. The book sometimes alternates between Chinese terms and English translations, so to gain a better understanding of the spirit beings of the book, check out the article!

In Traditional Folk Lore and Mythology By: Gan Daofu, Translated By: Eric Stone Source: Article Raw Chinese Text: PasteBin Goblin-monsters Goblin-monster (yaoguai, or yokai in Japanese) is a general term for all supernatural and magical creatures [in Chinese folk lore and mythology] that aren’t gods (shen), immortals (xian), humans, or ghosts (gui), and which have […]

via Chinese Goblins, Monsters, Spirits, Demons, Ghosts, Immortals, and Gods — Haoheng Chinese Translations