East Asian Mythology: China and Japan

Historicizing Chinese Myths: Confucism and Taoism

How did Taoism affect Chinese mythology?

The Taoists, too, used the ancient myths according to their own philosophy. The most famous of the Taoist philosophers was Zhuangzi (369–286 B.C.E.). His work is replete with Taoist interpretations of the myths. Lihui Yang and Deming An use the Hundun myth as an example. Hundun was a god with no body orifices. When the gods Shu and Hu tried to chisel holes into Hundun’s body, thinking this would be helpful to him, Hundun died. For Zhuangzi, Shu and Hu represented the artificial realities of time and direction whereas Hundun was the chaos that preceded creation, a chaos which was in reality perfect wholeness. In this case, artificial order destroyed natural harmony and diverted attention from the proper “way,” the Tao.


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