By Richard E. Strassberg
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Extra info for A Chinese bestiary: strange creatures from the guideways through mountains and seas = [Shan hai jing]
During its greatest expansion in the Spring and Autumn period, it was highly successful in absorbing the beliefs and artistic styles of the many non-Chinese states on its periphery that it gradually engulfed so that others particularly associated it with shamanistic and demonological practices, the worship of nature gods, and the early Daoist philosophy expressed in such texts as the Old Master (Laozi, late 3rd cent. ) and the Master Zhuang. Even during its gradual decline in the Warring States period, it still expanded eastward.
Nevertheless, Guo maintained that the fantastic quality of the Guideways 1 6 I N T R O D U C T I O N enabled the enlightened reader to grasp the Master Zhuang’s theme of the relativity of rational judgments about reality. He apparently felt no conflict between this position and more animistic and demonological beliefs and argued that what people conventionally regard as the strange is a legitimate part of nature: People who read the Guideways through Mountains and Seas today all suspect it because of its exaggerations and absurdly extravagant claims and because of its many strange and fanciful expressions.
They pursued “mystical learning” by speculating on the relationships between the human and the spiritual while seeking greater understanding about strange phenomena. New literary genres spread during this period such as accounts of anomalies and local geographies, religious scriptures, as well as a wide range of manuals of the occult, many of which transmitted ancient mythology and other information related to the content of the Guideways. Guo Pu revived the book in this new intellectual context alongside such other important works of the early and middle fourth century as Gan Pao’s (fl.
A Chinese bestiary: strange creatures from the guideways through mountains and seas = [Shan hai jing] by Richard E. Strassberg