East Asian Mythology: China and Japan

Historicizing Chinese Myths: Confucism and Taoism

How have Chinese myths been historicized?

There is a strong tendency in China to rationalize myths and to associate them, as metaphors, with history, or to use them simply as a means of teaching about moral and social order. It has been suggested by many scholars that this is because the Chinese have traditionally been less interested in the supernatural than are many other peoples. Whether or not that is the case, many Chinese intellectuals, dating back to the early first millennium B.C.E., have doubted the factuality of the myths and have treated them accordingly as representative of worldly concerns. To one extent or another, this is true of the great thinkers in all three of the religions or religious philosophies that have dominated in China: Confucianism, Taoism (Daoism), and Buddhism.


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