Synopses & Reviews
In this book, the first comprehensive study in a Western language of the zhiguai genre in its formative period, Company sets forth a new view of the nature of the genre and the reasons for its emergence.
Between the Han dynasty, founded in 206 B.C.E., and the Sui, which ended in 618 C.E., Chinese authors wrote many thousands of short textual items, each of which narrated or described some phenomenon deemed strange. Most items told of encounters between humans and various denizens of the spirit-world, or of the miraculous feats of masters of esoteric arts; some described the wonders of exotic lands, or transmitted fragments of ancient mythology. This genre of writing came to be known as zhiguai ( accounts of anomalies ).
Who were the authors of these books, and why did they write of these strange matters? Why was such writing seen as a compelling thing to do? In this book, the first comprehensive study in a Western language of the zhiguai genre in its formative period, Campany sets forth a new view of the nature of the genre and the reasons for its emergence. He shows that contemporaries portrayed it as an extension of old royal and imperial traditions in which strange reports from the periphery were collected in the capital as a way of ordering the world. He illuminates how authors writing from most of the religious and cultural perspectives of the times including Daoists, Buddhists, Confucians, and others used the genre differently for their own persuasive purposes, in the process fundamentally altering the old traditions of anomaly-collecting. Analyzing the accounts of anomalies both in the context of Chinese religious and cultural history and as examples of a cross-culturally attested type of discourse, Campany combines in-depth Sinological research with broad-ranging comparative thinking in his approach to these puzzling, rich texts."
Includes bibliographical references (p. 403-449) and index.