The Magic Lotus Lantern and Other Tales from the Han Chinese

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Focusing specifically on the stories of the Han Chinese (the largest ethnic group in China, numbering over a billion people), this collection presents more than 50 tales, both well known and obscure—from Monkeys Fishing the Moon and The Butterfly Lovers to Painted Skin and Dragon Princess. These are stories that will enchant listeners of all ages, while providing a glimpse into Chinese traditions and ways of thought. To further enhance cultural understanding, the tales are supplemented with historical and cultural background, notes on storytelling, crafts and games, recipes, proverbs, color photos, a map, a glossary, and more.

In the past decades, the doors between China and the West have been flung open. Explosive economic growth and massive increases in travel and immigration have engendered curiosity and interest in this burgeoning nation. Yet modernization has a dark side too, threatening traditional Chinese culture, including stories and storytelling. This new gathering of stories from a variety of sources, captures the fading storytelling traditions of a vast and diverse country. Focusing specifically on the stories of the Han Chinese (the largest ethnic group in China, numbering over a billion people), the collection presents more than 50 tales, both well known and obscure—from Monkeys Fishing the Moon and The Butterfly Lovers to Dragon Princess and Painted Skin. These are stories that will enchant listeners of all ages, while providing a glimpse into Chinese traditions and ways of thought. Tales are organized into seven sections: Animal Tales; Tales of Magic, Love and Romance; Myths, Legends and Immortals; Moral Stories; How Things Came to Be; and Proverbial Tales. To further enhance cultural understanding, the stories are supplemented with historical and cultural background, notes on storytelling and other folk traditions, recipes, proverbs, color photos, a map, a glossary, and more. All grade levels.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The book, written with verve and simplicity, is in a style that makes it interesting for readers of all ages. Clearly it is written by a person who really enjoys and understands his topic. It is a wonderful introduction to Chinese culture and one of the best books that I have read on Chinese folk tales."


Daily News (Bowling Green, KY)

"Yuan has done an admirable job of presenting these tales. In the book's first two parts (60 pages), he offers cultural context and a brief introduction to the language, population, history, literature, foods, games, and crafts associated with the popular culture of the Han Chinese, who make up more than 90 percent of the population of China. The writings themselves—54 folktales, myths, legends, and popular tales—take up the third part, and all are well known among the Han Chinese. Yuan distinguishes between the culture and tales of the Han Chinese and the cultures and tales of minority ethnic Chinese. He will treat the latter in a second volume, tentatively titled Princess Peacock and Tales of Other Chinese Peoples (forthcoming, 2007). Two appendixes, Chinese Proverbs and Motifs and Tale Sources, plus the glossary and references make this book useful to both scholars and the uninitiated. Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers."



"The author balances traditionality and modern transformations of customs, performing arts, music, games, and storytelling to convey a dynamic picture of their historical development. The brevity of the first two parts, along with powerful illustrations, effectively draws an informative sketch of China in a limited number of pages."


Journal of Folklore Research

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591582946
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/30/2006
  • Series: World Folklore Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 268
  • Sales rank: 1,476,735
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

HAIWANG YUAN is Associate Professor, Department of Library Public Services, and Web Site & Virtual Library Coordinator, Western Kentucky University. He is also Adjunct Instructor of Chinese, Department of Modern Languages and Multicultural Studies. A native of China, Mr. Yuan maintains a Web site, a large portion of which is devoted to Chinese traditionas and folktales. He has published widely in professional journals, and is a contributor to The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture (2004). He is the recipient of the 1999 Kentucky Libraries Award.

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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 A general introduction to China
Land 3
People 5
Languages 8
History 10
Religion 14
Customs 17
Music and performing arts 20
Fine arts and architecture 24
Literature 27
Storytelling in China 30
Pt. 2 Food, games, and crafts
Food 35
Games 51
Crafts 56
Pt. 3 The tales
Monkeys fishing the moon 62
A frog in a well 64
A fox and a tiger - who is the real king of the jungle? 65
A tiger that first sees a donkey 66
Wolf "mother" 67
A monkey and a tiger 69
Nezha fights sea dragons 72
A beauty on a painting scroll 75
The field-snail fairy 78
Dragon princess 80
The magic lotus lantern 83
Monkey king and the iron fan princess 86
A cricket boy 89
The butterfly lovers 93
A forsaken wife and her unfaithful husband 97
A peacock flying southeast 101
Cowherd and weaving girl 105
Meng Jiang wails at the Great Wall 108
A romance of Zhang Gong and Cui Yingying 112
Xu Xuan and his white-snake wife 115
Guanyin, goddess of mercy 119
Mazu, mother goddess of the sea 122
A dancing crane 125
Eight immortals crossing the sea 127
Bao Zheng and the fox fairy 131
Mulan fights in the guise of a male soldier 135
Women generals of the Yang family and Commander-in-chief Mu Guiying 138
Gun and Yu conquer the deluge 142
Laozi's prophecy 145
A compassionate scholar and an ungrateful wolf 146
Painted skin 149
Monkey king strikes the white-bone demon three times 152
A foolish old man tries to remove two mountains 157
The twin sisters and the magic Malan flower 158
A man with a dog's leg 161
The origin of the world 164
The origin of human beings 165
The origin of Chinese New Year and its customs 167
The origin of the twelve zodiac animals 170
The origin of the Duanwu Festival 171
The origin of the Mid-autumn Festival 173
The origin of kitchen god and the Jizao Festival 175
A steed lost is more horses gained 178
A professed dragon lover 179
Number is security 180
Forgot how to walk back home 182
Waiting for a rabbit to bump into a tree 183
Fishing for a sword dropped into a river from a moving boat 184
No sycee buried here but three hundred liang 185
The invincible spear versus the impenetrable shield 186
A smile worth a thousand ounces of gold 187
Reducing an iron rod to a sewing needle 188
An unfolded map reveals a dagger 190
A king who "eats bitter" 191
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