Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ho Yi the Archer and Other Classic Chinese Tales, retold by Shelley Fu

Ho Yi the Archer and Other Classic Chinese Tales, retold by Shelley Fu

I was wandering through Half Price Books the other day and found this on a sale table. I’ve always been interested in folklore,and I’m taking a trip to China soon, so I picked it up even though it is aimed at children. There are only seven tales here covering normal folklore topics such as creation, morality, and love. As expected from the land of Buddha, there is a heavy dose of karma for all involved. Some interesting tales here.

My favorite was The Story of the White Snake. It told of a snake, Bai Su-Tzin, that takes human form and marries a simple man named Shu Shen. On the surface this is a tale of love and trust, with the message it is sometimes better to simply accept happiness as it comes rather than always pushing for the truth at the heart of the matter. This symbolism illustrates the conflict between Buddhism and Confucian beliefs that was raging in China when this was written. It is a beer-pondering question for sure: would you want to know if your spouse was deceiving you at the cost of your happiness together? Depends on the nature of the deception, of course, but it is a slippery slope from fibbing when asked, “Does this dress make me look fat?”

First Sentence (from the introduction):
The origins of Chinese folktales include history, songs, theater, and the oral tradition of storytelling.

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