Happy New Year to everyone! May it be a joyful, loving time for all who read this and your family members.
I haven't been active for a while as I wrap up my Ph.D. dissertation. However, I'd like to take a moment to share with you seven books that have been instrumental in enabling me to understand and more fully appreciate one of my passions, Chinese folklore, specifically folktales from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Four of these books are by the same author. The folktales I relate on this blog, except for "The Midnight Bus" told to me in English by a premier Chinese folktale/legend scholar, come directly from Chinese sources I have translated. However, the books that follow below have been very helpful in allowing me insight into the psychological/anthropological/sociological backdrops of the tales.
#7 Guilt and Sin in Traditional China (Wolfram Eberhard; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967)
On this list, this is the first of 4 books by the late great German-born American sociologist and sinologist, Wolfram Eberhard. In this very slim volume, Eberhard analyzes the manifestations of guilt and sin in Chinese Buddhist writings and popular literature. He especially focuses on the theme of suicide. Everything he writes about in this book can be found as themes and motifs in folktales, legends, and myths. This book serves as an excellent introduction to traditional Chinese mores.
#6 Studies in Taiwanese Folktales (W. Eberhard; Taipei: Orient Cultural Service, 1974)
Here, Eberhard provides sociological analyses of several famous folktales that are told in Taiwan. One of them, "Momotaro" (aka, "The Peach Boy") is actually a Japanese tale widely known in Taiwan. The most famous story "Grandaunt Tiger" is given an extended analysis that might interest anyone involved in a social science.
#5 A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols (W. Eberhard; London: Routledge, 1983)
This is a very good basic compendium of symbols that can be found as motifs and metaphors in Chinese folklore.
#4 Outlines of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives (C.A.S. Williams; New York: Dover, 1976)
Outlines overlaps in many areas with Eberhard's book on symbols. Williams's articles tend to be a little lengthier than Eberhard's. His book nicely complements Eberhard's later work on symbols.
#3 Gods, Ghosts, & Ancestors: Folk Religion in a Taiwanese Village (David K. Jordan; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973)
A masterful introduction to Taiwanese folk religion. It was eye-opening to me when I first read it back in 1976 in Taiwan. It introduced to me the world of ghost brides and temple shamans. In my view, it is the best book of its kind.
#2 Folktales of China (W. Eberhard; New York: Washington Square Press, 1973)
An excellent survey of folktales, legends, and myths from across China, 79 in all, each appended with notes that provide some sociological/anthropological insight for that particular tale.
#1 Strange Stories From a Chinese Studio (Pu Songling; H.A. Giles, trans. New York: Dover, 1969)
This book, along with Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan, initiated my interest in East Asian folklore. It is an amazing collection of supernatural tales from the Ming Dynasty. Giles's edition is still one of the best. Shape-shifting foxes, ghosts, and early forms of what would be known as urban legends--they're all here.