By Richard E. Strassberg
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Additional info for A Chinese bestiary: strange creatures from the guideways through mountains and seas = [Shan hai jing]
It is not impossible that certain strata of the Guideways could have been transcribed by literate wu-shamans who, in the era of competing, text-based schools, wished to preserve their knowledge or reinforce their oral authority with a written work of their own. But it is more likely that a broader spectrum of experts including occult philosophers in what was later collectively called the School of Techniques and Calculations I N T R O D U C T I O N 1 1 and other, private scholars may have compiled this as a reference text.
58 Some decades later during the Eastern Han, a scholar whom one might have expected to express some reservations about the fabrications in the Guideways was the iconoclastic thinker Wang Chong (27–c. ), but he too recognized its usefulness for those involved in court politics. Like Sima Qian, he disparaged shamanistic culture, though he shared the general belief in the existence of dragons and other strange creatures. In one of the essays in his Judicious Disquisitions entitled “Special Understanding” (Lunheng: Bietong, c.
It was one of the works reprinted, although without Wu’s illustrations, which Ji Yun also considered spurious. The entry on the palace edition provided the opportunity to discuss traditional historiographical issues. In contrast to the commentators and bibliographers over the centuries who valued its usefulness, Ji Yun reflected the skepticism of those who criticized the Guideways’ lack of factuality, and he opposed the tendency to regard it as a geographical work. 93 Ji Yun’s opinion, which carried the imprimatur of the Qing court, appeared to denigrate the text from a historiographical point of view, while his classification of it among “minor narratives” further supported the alternative reading earlier suggested by Hu Yinglin.