An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions

by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.


 Also see under Buddhism: General

Satellite Map (with locations filled in) of China from the National Geographic Society
*** For a great collection of maps of China, try here***
For a large, detailed single map:

Author's Note:
(25 February 2001)

For over two years, this page has had only one link on it -- one for the Guggenheim's 1998 exhibit of 5000 years of Chinese art.  My neglect didn't come from disinterest -- far from it.  China has fascinated me since I was a child growing up in western Michigan.  When I was very young, I was told that if I dug deeply enough in the backyard, I'd eventually come to China.  I dug and dug, but never found that fabled land.  As I grew older, I began "digging" in different ways.......

When I was ten or eleven, after several years of studying ballet, I found black silk trousers and a green one-size-fits-all Chinese cotton tunic embroidered with a yellow dragon that my mother's younger sister had packed away in the attic.  I "stole" the outfit, practiced dancing in it, choreographed a simple little ballet solo for it, and counted it among my greatest treasures until it faded and became threadbare in my teens.  When I was twenty, I did a season of summer stock in Manistee, Michigan where my favorite role was playing a Chinese "Fairy Fox" in a musical production for children -- I still sing my Fairy Fox song around my apartment.  In my thirties in the 1970's, one of my favorite TV programs was "Kung Fu" -- it wasn't the Old West plotlines that interested me but the childhood flashbacks to the training of  "Grasshopper" in a Shaolin temple back in China.  For me, my sense of China seems always to have been intimately bound up with theatre and media.

The closest I've actually been to China was a brief three-day stopover in Hong Kong in 1962.  I also lived for several months that same spring in Hue, South Vietnam with my professor-father.  Since then, I've collected statues and paintings of Kuan Yin, whom I revere, and many books on Chinese art, poetry, and lore.

So my "neglect" of this page wasn't from disinterest but, rather, because I have tried to focus on those areas to which my students are most likely to be drawn -- and the subjects I teach at Pacifica Graduate Institute rarely involve China (the sole exception is the Confucian concept of li which I explore at some length in my Ritual & Ceremony course).

Why then am I beginning work in earnest on China on a rainy February night in Southern California?  It's because I saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon last week and I can't get it out of my mind.  So, in an unusual departure for the way in which I usually work, I begin this page with a film.......

Chinese Cinema

The genius-brat, Jen,
fleeing from her one true teacher through a forest of bamboo,6737,394676,00.html

From 7 November 2000 comes this fascinating three-page interview from London's The Guardian/NFT with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's director, Ang Lee, and screenwriter, James Schamus.  My favorite part is about the color green and its relationship to the film's characters and the "Green Destiny" sword:
Ang Lee: Green Destiny is a name which is derived from the book, and I took the name and I go further with the Taoist philosophy. The jade fox - the old green, the murky green that's what the green really means. It is the ultimate yin-ness. Yin and yan where everything exists in and derives from. . . this is hard to explain.  The most mysterious feminine factor, the existence that we men, we don't know. It's woman. It's feminine. That's what the sword is about. That's the symbolic meaning of the sword. Even in Chinese you probably don't get that. . . I don't know. But that's for me. Anything green is hidden dragon, desires and repression... something weird when you dig into the depth. I think there is something like that in Excalibur, for example...
When I saw the film last week, my writer's instinct told me that some loose threads in an otherwise tightly structured film were an obvious sign that it had been written with a sequel in mind, should it prove popular enough.  Thus, I was delighted and excited to discover from the interview that this is exactly what will happen -- the sequel will be called Green Destiny.  I can hardly wait <smile>.

[FYI: for the best photo gallery of "stills" from the film, I'll give you two routes.  First, try: and type the film's title into their search engine -- I'd give you the direct URL but it's about 15" long & it doesn't always load!  When you get to the film's site, scroll down to the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Photo Gallery and click on it.  Alternate route: ignore what I just said and click on the hot link immediately above this line.  It might work.  Regardless, once you're in, keep hitting either "Next Picture" or "Previous Picture," and you'll circle around the full loop of photos.  Many of the stills are stunning and well worth the trouble.  I searched for hours, by the way, to find a site like this  -- the "official" movie site doesn't even list it.]
This is another wonderful Chinese film, totally different from Crouching Tiger..., but quite magical in its own way. (Note: I love it so much that I bought the video last year.)   It's called The King of Masks and is set in the world of traditional Chinese street theatreThis link will take you to a sensitive review by Roger Ebert.
If you're interested in Chinese film, don't miss this China WWW Virtual Library page maintained by the Institute of Chinese Studies at the University of Heidelberg.  It offers a large collection of annotated links to many aspects of Chinese cinema and celebrities.

Chinese Martial Arts

Detail of the Nine Dragons Scroll
13th century
Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Since I began this page with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it's only fair that I should continue with the "how" and "why" of China's martial arts.  This is a general page of briefly annotated links on the topic by's Chinese Culture guide, Jun Shan.  Many of the links will take you to sites where you can get information on studying the various martial arts, but what I found most interesting was an educational site from the Shaolin Gung Fu Institute on Shaolin history, philosophy, and temples -- see the next three links for direct access.......
From the Shaolin Gung Fu Institute comes this engrossing essay on Shaolin history from its origins, to the Boxer Rebellion of 1901, to post World War II.  Here is how it began (I'm quoting at some length lest this site ever disappear):
...The Shaolin order dates to about 540 A.D., when an Indian Buddhist priest named Bodhidharma (Tamo in Chinese) [see undated Japanese sketch of Bodhidharma], traveled to China to see the Emperor. At that time, the Emperor had started local Buddhist monks translating Buddhist texts from Sanskrit to Chinese. The intent was to allow the general populace the ability to practice this religion.

This was a noble project, but when the Emperor believed this to be his path to Nirvana, Tamo disagreed. Tamo's view on Buddhism was that you could not achieve your goal just through good actions performed by others in your name. At this point the Emperor and Tamo parted ways and Tamo traveled to the nearby Buddhist temple to meet with the monks who were translating these Buddhist texts.

The temple had been built years before in the remains of a forest that had been cleared or burned down. At the time of the building of the temple, the emperor's gardeners had also planted new trees. Thus the temple was named "young (or new) forest", (Shaolin in Mandarin, Sil Lum in Cantonese).

When Tamo arrived at the temple, he was refused admittance, probably being thought of as an upstart or foreign meddler by the head abbot (Fang Chang). Rejected by the monks, Tamo went to a nearby cave and meditated until the monks recognized his religious prowess and admitted him....

...When Tamo joined the monks, he observed that they were not in good physical condition. Most of their routine paralleled that of the Irish monks of the Middle Ages, who spent hours each day hunched over tables where they transcribed handwritten texts. Consequently, the Shaolin monks lacked the physical and mental stamina needed to perform even the most basic of Buddhist meditation practices. Tamo countered this weakness by teaching them moving exercises, designed to both enhance ch'i flow and build strength....

The essay addresses the issue of violence and makes it clear that Shaolin techniques were never intended to "glamorize" violence:
...It is hard to say just when the exercises became "martial arts". The Shaolin temple was in a secluded area where bandits would have traveled and wild animals were an occasional problem, so the martial side of the temple probably started out to fulfill self-defense needs....

...This is not to say that Tamo "invented" martial arts. Martial arts had existed in China for centuries. But within confines of the temple, it was possible to develop and codify these martial arts into the new and different styles that would become distinctly Shaolin.  One of the problems faced by many western historians is the supposed contraindication of Buddhist principles of non-violence coupled with Shaolin's legendary martial skills. In fact....the study of gung fu leads to better understanding of violence, and consequently how to avoid conflict.  Failing that, a Buddhist who refuses to accept an offering of violence...merely returns it to the sender. Initially, the gung fu expert may choose to parry an attack, but if an assailant is both skilled and determined to cause harm, a more definitive and concluding solution may be required, from a joint-lock hold to a knockout, to death. The more sophisticated and violent an assault, the more devastating the return of the attack to the attacker. Buddhists are not, therefore, hurting anyone; they merely refuse delivery of intended harm....
From the Shaolin Gung Fu Institute comes this well thought out and lucidly presented discussion of a number of significant strands in Chinese philosophy -- and how these relate to Shaolin.
Again from the Shaolin Gung Fu Institute comes a page describing the five major temples, how they were organized, how the masters and students were ranked, and what a typical day was like:
...As you walk along the side wall, you may observe a few monks playing traditional musical instruments, or attending a philosophical discussion with a senior monk. Though movies portray Shaolin as testosterone-enhanced mega-jocks, the temples were actually cultural centers, something like modern universities. It was believed that mastery could only come from attaining a harmony of body, mind, and spirit. Each monk, therefore, was versed in more than martial arts, which were actually considered among the lower levels of accomplishment....
Along the way, this page debunks many modern "myths" about Shaolin -- e.g., that celibacy was required, or that the temples were for men only:
...Shaolin was dedicated to the universality of human experience, and denied no one with qualifications admittance (again, contrary to television). Among the most famous Shaolin were some of the "nuns", including southern green dragon co-founder Ng Mui, Wing Chun  founder Ng Mui (separated by about ten generations, and probably no relation), and others. The chauvinistic idea that Shaolin was for men only is loudly declaimed by the very existence of two of the Temple's most famous and prestigious styles....
 I thoroughly enjoyed the essay and came away with a deeper sense of what these martial arts really imply.

Chinese History & Culture

Deer in a Mountain Landscape
Detail from a Chinese Painting, 15th century, Artist Unknown
[I scanned this from a greeting card]
Nelson Gallery, Kansas City

Dr. Paul Halsall's excellent pages from his Fordham teaching days appear elsewhere on my site.  This one is from his time as a faculty member at Brooklyn College (1996-1999).  Now that he has moved to the University of North Florida, this Chinese Cultural Studies course remains online for those who are interested.  The syllabus has seven thematic sections -- Section 1: Introduction: The Nature of Culture; Section 2: Tiananmen: Gate of Heavenly Peace; Section 3: Jen:  Geography, Language, Early History; Section 4: San Jiao: Chinese Religions; Section 5: Gender [see below in next section]; Section 6: Zhong guo: China and the World I; and Section 7: China and the World II.

What makes this page so marvelous are the number and range of hot-links to online reference and academic e-texts (required reading for his students) covering relevant aspects of the seven themes.  There are some extraordinary links here (see below for a few pages that caught my eye).  Kudos to Brooklyn College for keeping this great resource online.
This is Halsall's huge selection of Images for his Chinese Cultural Studies course (see directly above).  Categories include Maps (19 of them from various historical periods, plus flags), Archaeology, Art, Divinities, People, Historical Sites, Historical Illustrations, Technology, Customs, and Stereotypes.   In addition to the wide range of images, I especially like this page because of Halsall's careful annotations.
This is a list of good handouts available from a 1998 course at Ohio State University on Chinese history and culture.  Material is brief, but sound.  There are also several pages of well chosen images.
From Richard Hooker at Washington State University comes this fine page on China's prehistoric Yellow River Culture (along the Yellow River is where Chinese civilization began).  The page gives a mixture of lore and history with a link at the bottom that takes you to the next historical period, the Shang, and from there to the Chou.   (I assume the links continue through all the historical periods but I could find no site map so you'll need to wade through them one by one if you're seeking a later period.  The site has an attractive home page where you can link to other ancient cultures but everything is trapped in frames so I can't extract specific links for you.)
This is an educational site from the University of Maryland's Leon Poon on Chinese history from ancient times to 1988.  It's illustrated, conveniently divided into brief "chapters," and offers solid data, primarily taken from material by Rinn-Sup Shinn and Robert L. Worden for the "Army Area Handbook."
This page from's archaeology guide, K. Kris Hirst, offers a well chosen selection of briefly annotated links to Chinese archeology (including the famous terra cotta warriors and the mummies of Urumchi), maps, history, culture, archaeologists currently in the field, and available university programs. [URL updated 14 December 2001]
This is "China and the Chinese according to 5-13th Century Classical Armenian Sources," a 1981 paper by Dr. Robert Bedrosian published in the Armenian Review.
...The first of the Armenian geographical references to China appears in the Geography written in the 7th century by the Armenian mathematician, Anania of Shirak....
Bedrosian includes passages from colorful, wildly improbable, medieval reports about old China.  He also considers the possible Chinese origins of an important Armenian family.
From Chinese New Digest  (CND) comes "Chinese Classics" -- links to poetry, prose, and much more are all in Chinese, with the exception of books on Japanese atrocities during WWII.
This report from 9 July 1999 is by Tammy Todd: "Falun Gong Sect Outlawed In China."  She gives an excellent survey of the sect's history and beliefs.  She also provides good links if you wish to explore further.
From the BBC News comes a March 2000 report on finding Asia's oldest axe tools in China:
The oldest stone axe tools ever found in Asia have been unearthed by a team of Chinese and American archaeologists.

The tools, which are about 803,000 years old, demonstrate that early humans living in the region had a similar degree of technological expertise as those living in Africa.

Until now it had been suggested that early Asian humans were not as sophisticated as those living on the African continent and in Europe during the same time period....
From Jun Shan, the Chinese Culture guide at comes this brief page on rice (with excellent hypertext and relevant links):
 ...It is believed that Chinese started to eat rice about 5,000 years ago. It is also believed that rice cultivation was originated by Shen Nung, the Divine Farmer, around 2,737 BC....
The site includes links to traditional recipes using rice.
This is a tantalizingly brief page on Bronze Age China featuring the research of  Lothar von Falkenhausen, associate profesor, Department of Art History at UCLA.  (There's an e-mail address in case you're seeking additional information.)
[Added 19 March 2001]: After three weeks of annotating links for this China page, I come to the one I've left for last -- and this site remains as exciting as when I first read it several years ago.  Why?  Because it confirms an intuition that I share with a number of Native Americans, both academics and lay, with whom I have discussed this issue.  This series of 5-linked webpages is "A Link Between Chinese and American Cultures? --The Olmec and the Shang," reprinted from Sinorama Magazine, Vol. 22 No. 5 May 1997 [I'm quoting at some length lest these pages disappear]:
The continent of Asia at the western edge of the Pacific Ocean and the Americas at the ocean's eastern edge lie 15,000 kilometers apart. Today, a US-resident Chinese scholar believes he has found evidence in ancient writing that 3000 years ago, a lost people of the Shang Dynasty went to Columbus's "New" World. . . .

...Last year, in a book entitled Origin of the Olmec Civilization, Professor Mike Xu, a Chinese who teaches in the foreign languages department at the University of Central Oklahoma, proposed a hypothesis which aroused a storm of controversy in archeological circles. In Xu's view, the first complex culture in Mesoamerica may have come into existence with the help of a group of Chinese who fled across the seas as refugees at the end of the Shang dynasty. The Olmec civilization arose around 1200 BC, which coincides with the time when King Wu of Zhou attacked and defeated King Zhou, the last Shang ruler, bringing his dynasty to a close....

...As long ago as the 1920s and 30s, several scholars pointed out numerous points of similarity between the cultures of China's Shang and Zhou dynasties and those of Mesoamerica. For instance, the structure of the temples on top of Maya pyramids can be compared with that of Chinese ancestral temples, and the feathered serpent spirit worshipped in Mesoamerica is similar to the various human-headed, snake-bodied spirits such as Fu Xi and Nu Wa which were known to the early Chinese. Even more striking is the traditional love of jade shared by peoples on both sides of the Pacific, and practices such as placing a jade bead or jade cicada in the mouth of the dead, or even painting jade corpse-amulets with the life-giving color of cinnabar.

          As early as the 1970s, US researcher Betty Meggers pointed out close similarities between the social organization of the Olmec and the late Shang, and in the layout of their settlements. Both also had far-reaching trading networks, and both venerated jade and the tiger or jaguar. British sinologist Joseph Needham once wrote that any sinologist visiting Central or South America would have a sense of deja vu. He said that although "nothing can in any way diminish the profound originality of the Amerindian civilizations," ". . . there is a multitude of culture traits which point to influences from, and contacts with, the Old World."

This series of five linked pages does not solve the mystery, but it certainly intrigues and provokes further thought.

Gender Issues in China

Chinese Woman
By Tang Yin (Ming Dynasty)
[Source tba]
Of Dr. Paul Halsall's seven thematic sections (see above), the one that most interested me was the fifth one on "Gender."  It is subdivided into two parts: On Gender Systems and Sexuality (this includes material on Chinese homosexual literature, a Lesbian poet, and the role of royal eunuchs), and On Women (see below). The above link goes to an excerpt from Mary M. Anderson's Hidden Power: The Palace Eunuchs of Imperial China, (Buffalo NY: Prometheus, 1990).  Fortunately, this excerpt comes from an academic book written in a style that's probably not accessible to those who are under college age.  Be warned that portions of it are graphic and chilling.  It is sickening that men will go to such lengths, even against others of their own gender, just to ensure that their female "property" remains "pure."
This is another link from Halsall's fifth section on "Gender," this time from the On Women subdivisionThis is Views of A Female Confucian, an excerpt from "Lessons for Women" from the first century CE woman, Ban Zhao Pan Chao (c. 80 CE).  From Alfred J. Andrea's excellent introduction to the role of women in ancient China.
...Among her many literary works, Ban Zhao composed a commentary on the popular Lives of Admirable Women by Liu Kiang (77- 6 BC) and later in life produced her most famous work, the Nü Jie, or Lessons for Women, which purports to be an instructional manual on feminine behavior and and virtue for her daughters. In fact, she intended it for a much wider audience.  Realizing that Confucian texts contained little in the way of specific and practical guidlines for a woman's everyday life, Ban Zhao sought to fill that void with a coherent set of rules for women, especially young women....
The opening section on "Humility" breaks my heart to read, but in the context of an intensely patriarchal culture, the remainder of this aging, ill woman's words are refreshingly sensible.  Knowing about such views is important in understanding Chinese attitudes.

(Note: if you go to Halsall's main page and look at other links in this fifth section, you'll find a newspaper article by Tom Hilditch, "A Holocaust of Little Girls," about the current fate of China's baby girls.  It's from Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, reprinted in World Press Review, September 1995, p. 39.  You'll notice that I'm not providing a direct link -- my reason for not doing so is that this is a deeply disturbing, heartbreaking piece, suitable only for college age and older, although written in a style that's accessible to others.  I don't want children randomly clicking on it -- they have enough to deal with.  For all others, this is painful but important.)
Again from Halsall comes this legend of Miao-shan, a Chinese princess who was the first female-form manifestation of Kuan Yin (who had heretofore been depicted as a bearded male):
...The oldest extant version of the legend is preserved in a chronicle of Buddhism in China, the Lung-hsing fo-chiao pien-nien t'ung-lun, written in 1164 by Tsu-hsiu. The story, as adapted from the translation by Glen Dudbridge (pp. 25-34), goes as follows:
Tao-hsüan (596-667) once asked a divine spirit about the history of the bodhisattva Kuan-yin. The spirit replied: In the past there was a king whose name was  [Miao]-chuang-yen. His lady was named Pao-ying. She bore three daughters, the eldest Miao-yen, the second Miao-yin, and the youngest Miao-shan....
In the manner of all fairy tales, it's this youngest child who proves to be the most remarkable of all, for it's always the despised youngest who represents the deepest source of renewal to a rigid status quo.  Usually, this is the youngest son, but in this story it's the youngest daughter.  Her father, a cruel king, wants to compel her to marry an unwanted suitor.  She refuses and seeks refuge in a monastery:
...The king was angry. He called for the nuns [at White Sparrow monastery, Po-ch'üeh ssu] and charged them to treat her so harshly that she would change her mind. The nuns were intimidated and gave her the heaviest tasks to do--fetching wood and water, working with pestle and mortar, and running the kitchen garden. In response to her, the vegetables florished even in winter, and a spring welled up beside the kitchen.

Much time went by, and Miao-shan still held firm to her purpose. When the king heard about the miracles of the vegetables and the spring of water, he was furious. He sent soldiers to bring back her head and to kill the nuns....

It's an interesting tale on many levels (although the feminist in me can only shake my head over some of the implications -- i.e., the cultural assumption that a "perfect" woman would be willing, even happy, to mutilate herself for the sake of a corrupt and cruel king).
Finally from Paul Halsall's site, this is a student paper, chosen by Halsall for its excellence.  It is Marie Vento's "One Thousand Years of Chinese Footbinding: Its Origins, Popularity and Demise."  The paper is intelligent, carefully done, sensitive and balanced:
...It is important to consider the practice without criticism in order to understand the symbolic and personal meanings of footbinding, which embraced a number of purposes. Its origins may be perceived as a means of enforcing the imperial male's exclusive sexual access to his female consorts, ensuring their chastity and fidelity, but its impact extended far beyond these boundaries....
From Jone Johnson Lewis,'s Women's History guide, comes "China and Women" -- she's collected many terrific links on everything from women in ancient lore to contemporary issues concerning them.  Give this one a look -- the links are an eye-opener in many ways, some quite unexpected.  [FYI: I came across some of them independently so you'll find them among my own links too.]
This is "100 Celebrated Chinese Women," written and illustrated (in striking black and white prints) by Lu Yanguang, and translated by Kate Foster.  Currently, only 60 of the 100 have been completed but they're excellent -- very readable, attractive, and enhanced with excerpts from traditional poetry.  It's a terrific site for browsing.

Chinese Mythology & Lore

Detail of "The Nymph of the Lo River"
Ku K'ai-chih (c..344-c.406)
Freer Gallery of Art, Washington
[I privately scanned this from the book]
(In Chinese Painting by Mario Bussagli.  Hamlyn 1969)

"Folktales from China" is a collection of nine tales selected and edited by the always engaging Professor D. L. Ashliman.  You'll find humor, cruelty, trickery, and wonder here.
This is "Resources of Chinese myths, legends, tales and stories" from Jun Shan, the Chinese Culture guide at It's a large collection of his own folklore re-tellings plus annotated links to outside websites.  You could spend quite awhile exploring these great resources.  (I only had time to look at a few tales but I especially liked one about an artist who knew that painting in the pupils of the eyes of a dragon would bring it to life.)
From China the Beautiful comes an intriguing page on "Dragons in Chinese architecture, paintings, and culture."  Text is minimal on this page but many of the internal links to mythic dragons in art are terrific -- so are the links to more text-rich external sites.
Again on dragons: if you love them as I do, you'll especially enjoy this site from Willy at Orient Aided.  He has compiled excellent data on dragons, east and west, including great quotes from reliable reference works.  Here, for example, is a wonderful quote on a delightful puer-dragon from China: Empire of Living Symbols:
"... It was thought that he -- the dragon was definitely male and one of the leading manifestations of male force -- slept curled up at the bottom of the sea or the river in winter. When Spring came and the atmosphere was at last again filled with moisture and warmth, he rose into the sky and lived up there through the six months of summer. He whirled around in storm clouds, washing his curly mane in the pouring rain. His claws were forked lightening across the sky, his voice the thunder and the storms rustling the dry leaves in the forest and making them tremble. He was dangerous, certainly, but if people danced in his honor with willow twigs in their hands and asked for help, he might let the clouds huddle round the mountain peaks and the rain fall onto dry fields."
From China Vista comes "Chinese Myths & Fantasies," a well-done entry level site that includes data on history, writing styles, mythic characters and content:
...Many of the mythical stories written by intellectuals tell stories of how men and goddesses, fox fairies or ghost women love each other passionately and sincerely.  Such stories reflect, in an indirect way, the yearning for true love when it was stifled by feudal ethical codes....
Again from China Vista comes a great collection of 14 tales:
...Ancient Chinese myths were not recorded in a systematic way in any work, and , as a result, only fragments of them are extant today.  Fortunately, many classical works of the pre-Qin period and the Han Dynasties ... contain fragments and excerpts of ancient mythical stories, which make up a beautiful and fascinating part of our classical literature....
(FYI: if you like weaving lore, don't miss the brief tale, "Dong Yong's Wife."]
From Shanghai on Internet comes "Historic Legends & Tales," a collection of 25 tales.  I only had time to check 2 or 3 of them -- none of these gripped me, but I'm sure there's excellence here for those with the time to explore more fully.
Almost everything in China ultimately derives from ancient lore and traditions.  This includes tea -- and this marvelous little site explores a wealth of sources, including some interesting legends concerning Bodhidharma (whom we met above in the martial arts section).  About the origins of tea:
...The custom of drinking tea has been in China for thousands of years. According to legends in China, tea has been known in China since about 2737 BC. One legend tells of the story of how the mythical emperor Shen Nong “invented” tea. Shen Nong is known as the Divine Cultivator, the Divine Farmer, or the Divine Husbandman. One legend states that by tasting various plants, he would eat seventy-two poisonous plants a day but then would drink tea and be cured....
This website, again from Willy at Orient Aided, has many additional pages on tea so it's a good place for browsing.  One link, for example, looks at more recent history connected with tea, and includes the Opium Wars (a very nasty and dark chapter in British history).  See:
A much appreciated feature of this site is that Willy provides access to books for all his data.

Chinese Religion & Philosophy

Daoist Immortal Lü Dongbin Crossing Lake Dongting
Southern Song dynasty, mid-13th century
From Boston's Museum of Fine Arts

This is Su Tzu's "Chinese Philosophy Page," a collection of briefly annoted links on Confucius, Mencius, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, I Ching, Sun Tzu, Guigu Tzu, and others.
This page has been designed for the purpose of organizing the resources on Chinese philosophy that can be found in the 'cyberspace'. It is my goal in setting up this page to attract more people, who are interested in searching for the answers of their life, not to limit themselves within the scope of traditional Western philosophies, but to open themselves to some alternatives offered by several schools of Chinese philosophy....
Fine texts as well as commentary are included here.  There's also an interactive online I Ching if you'd like to try the oracular dimension.  (Note: not all links work since the site hasn't been updated since 1996 -- it's still worthwhile, however.)

FYI: for another online, interactive I Ching, which I've personally tried, liked, and found more accurate as well as more user-friendly, try:
This is John Berthrong's "Sages and Immortals: Chinese Religions," an overview taken from Eerdman's Handbook to the World's Religions (1982).  The passage is well-written and offers sensitive, thoughtful comparisons and contrasts between China and the monotheisms of the West:
Chinese religion is unique. This is partly due to the fact that, alone among the great religions of mankind, Chinese religion first developed in isolation, without the influence of the other great world religions. Confucianism and Taoism, two of the three faiths of China, developed their distinctive forms before there was any significant contact with the rest of the world. For this reason, Chinese religion has taken a form which often seems quite unlike any other....

...If there is one idea, one characteristic which informs the entire history of the development of Chinese religion, it is a 'consciousness of concern'. Even in the western Chou and eastern Chou one finds the persistent claim that high Heaven itself has concern for the well-being of the people. In fact, Heaven is said to hear and see, as the people hear and see, and hence to have a most active concern for them.

This sense that concern is the basis of the cosmos makes Chinese religion different from such religions as Judaism, Christianity or Islam, where a sense of awe or dread of a supreme power informs religious consciousness. This is why Chinese religion has always had such a close connection with the ethical thought of the people. A sense of concern and participation pervades the Chinese understanding of mankind's relationship to the transcendent and with other people....

As noted, this dates from 1982, which perhaps explains the fact that the essay makes no mention of the fact that China's "consciousness of concern" applies almost exclusively to males, and only rarely to females.  Western monotheism, of course, shares a kindred bias, although the parameters differ.  Despite this discouraging, poignant, and tiresome blind spot common to all the so-called "major religions," the essay is still worthwhile as a general overview.  In a series of brief subdivisions, for example, Berthrong explores ancient oracle-bones, yin and yang, the three founding fathers of Confucianism (Confucius, Mencius, and Hsun-tzu), and Taoism (Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu).  He concludes with a look at the role of Buddhism and Christianity in China.
This is a site on Taoism featuring English-language scholarly and philosophical information on alchemy, feng shui, martial arts, Chinese philosophy, and much more.  This is a site where you could spend hours.
This is "Sacred Mountains of China," a beautifully written and photographed journey to China's mountains and mountain-monasteries by Martin Gray, an anthropologist and photographer who has been recording his pilgrimages to the world's sacred sites for many years.  His work has won many awards -- visit this page and see why.  Here is a brief excerpt on why the mountains are considered so sacred:
...Another reason for the sanctification of particular mountains are the legends and myths of both shamanism and early Taoism. These legends speak of sages and mystics, often called 'immortals', who lived deep in the mountain wilderness, existed on diets of rare herbs and exotic elixers, and lived to be 400 to 800 years old. The mountain areas where these sages  dwelled came to be regarded as sacred places, as access points to the  heavenly realm, and also as the abodes of magical spirits and powerful deities....
This is a detailed, engaging account (with a good section of selected readings) of "Rituals and Legends of The Chinese New Year" by the China Institute Women's Association in New York City.  I found the issue of year-end debts especially interesting and dramatic.
...In old China, it was not uncommon for the pursuit of a debtor to last right up to New Year's Eve, when the bill collector's search might be aided by a lantern as the midnight hour approached. Although it was considered vulgar to hound a debtor on New Year's Day, this convention was circumscribed by another which allowed the creditor to pretend it was still the preceding evening by continuing to carry a lighted lantern on his chase. The safest refuges for one unable to pay a debt were to remain well hidden in one's home, or to seek asylum in a temple, often that of the city god, where propriety simply did not permit financial transactions....

Chinese Art

Two leaves from Landscapes and Flowers
Yun Shou-p'ing (1633-1690)
Part of an exhibit from the National Palace Museum, Taipei
at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
[For exhibit's main portal page, see directly below]

This is a gorgeous page of art and text from the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.  It's called "The Splendors of Imperial China: Treasures from the National Palace Musuem, Taipei."  Each of the thumbnails is clickable for exquisite enlargements (see directly above for one of them).
This is the portal page for "Tales from the Land of Dragons: 1000 Years of Chinese Painting," a 1997 exhibition from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.  Don't miss the Overview and Exhibition pages where you'll find brief but useful data on both art and history.  My favorite piece of art is the "Nine Dragons" scroll (I have several details taken from this scroll elsewhere on my page -- but for the full version, go to this link's Exhibition >>> Daoism categories).
This is a huge, exceptional site of stunning photography from the Berger Foundation's "World Art Treasures."  The above link will take you to a series of photos of the Cliff of 1000 Buddhas -- absolutely gorgeous -- makes one feel one's there in person.  Don't miss it.  But then look at the long list of other choices available -- brew a cup of green tea and settle in for awhile!  (The only flaw is that there's no text explaining what you're seeing -- an on-going project hopes to remedy this.  In the meantime, let the beauty be its own reason.  If you become obsessed with a particular site, consider doing a web search for further information on it.)[URL updated 2/25/01]
[From 1998 -- and the only link on my page until 2001]: The Guggenheim Museum in New York City provides this site for their 1998 exhibit of 5000 years of Chinese art.  There are only a handful of images but the brief survey essays on such areas as jade, bronze, grave goods, painting, and sculpture are useful for non-experts.
From the Chinese University of Hong Kong comes this "Exhibition of Chinese Archaic Jades."  The use of jade dates back to the Neolithic, but it took on an increasingly significant role in later ages:
Of all materials in the world of Chinese antiquities, jade best exemplifies the essential aspects of Chinese culture and aesthetic appreciation. This beautiful stone is admired for its hardness, translucent colours and warm brilliance. From these natural properties the ancients found the embodiment of the cardinal virtues of a perfect gentleman. Ancient texts such as Li Ji (Book of Rites) expounded the importance of jade to a gentleman whose wearing of jade pendants achieved both moralizing and ornamental purposes. With time jade came to be identified as a symbol for everything that is good, pure, noble and sublime....
Following the Introduction page, there are two pages of art -- some excellent pieces but no interpretive data, which makes it difficult for non-Chinese viewers to get a sense of what they're seeing.  Still, the art is lovely and worth exploring.
This is a more in-depth site on jade: "From Heaven and Earth: Chinese Jade in Context" was held at the Columbus (Ohio) Museum of Art in 1998.  This page keeps portions of the exhibit alive in cyberspace.  Click on the opening image and you'll go to the site map.  The selections in the "Text Index" are lengthy and very well done.  The "Exhibition Index," unfortunately, traps its treasures in irritating frames (three per page), which made me claustrophobic (in 1998 frames were the fad).  If you have the patience, however, the art is gorgeous -- it includes bronze, clay and painting in addition to jade.  From the Introduction's "Values & Symbolism" section:
...Given the interest in jade that developed among the early Chinese, it is not surprising that jade became a symbol for immortality. The earliest evidence, suggestive of the significance and functional associations, comes primarily from burial practices of the Neolithic period where jade beads and other objects were placed near or on the deceased. As these traditions evolved jade came to be thought of as a preservative, clearly leading to alchemical experimentation, such as the consuming of powdered jade, and the use of jade burial suits during of the Warring States and Han periods....

...As to lasting cultural values, however, it is the inherent qualities of the stone itself that captured the Chinese imagination. By the middle of the first millennium BCE, jade had become a symbol of human potentiality, the slow working of the stone likened to the arduous process of perfecting the human mind. Only through persistent and disciplined effort could true character and virtue be developed....
This is the University of Pennsylvania Musuem of Archaeology and Anthropology's 1998 exhibit, "Treasures of the Chinese Scholar," an intriguing and unusual exhibit focusing on a small, but crucial, slice of ancient Chinese life.
For thousands of years Chinese scholars, men greatly esteemed by their society, were also collectors of high quality, highly sophisticated art objects-some functional, some inspirational, most small enough to decorate a scholar's desk or complement his study....

...Within his studio, his room for study and contemplation, he surrounded himself with "treasures" created for scholars-brushes, inkstones, water droppers, toggles, figurines and scholar's rocks.  More than mere art curios, these treasures embodied the shared wisdom, traditions, and values of the Chinese literati who governed China for more than two millennia....

Text is useful and the clickable thumbnails will take you to high-quality enlargements.
This page looks at an exhibit called "Chinese Rotunda" at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.  Included are Chinese Buddhism, Foo Lions, Horses, and Kuan Yin.  Art and text are fairly minimal.
From Asian Arts comes a lovely exhibit called "Heavens' Embroidered Cloths: One Thousand Years of Chinese Textiles."  There are 14 clickable thumnails (with minimal data): these photos include woven, embroidered textiles depicting a rabbit, birds, dragons, flowers, and deities.
From Maricopa Community College in California comes a page on a Western Han tomb.  I found it too fussy and high tech (you'll have to let your mouse glide over the title --then a menu will float out with links to text explaining what this site is all about; you'll also need to do similar mouse-overs to access the art) -- but the photos are worthwhile.  There's no navigation provided to get back to the home page so, in case you don't know how to peel back a URL, here's a direct link for those who might wish to explore this anthropological site further:

Chinese Language & Literature

Source Unknown
This is "The Chinese Language: Myths and Facts," an excellent overview by Timothy Light for the Asia Society's Focus on Asian Studies. Excerpts:
...Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language group.  Sino-Tibetan is a major genetic grouping of languages like the Indo-European family to which English belongs (along with German, French, Hindu, etc.). The Sino-Tibetan speech community stretches from northeastern India to northeastern China, and its billion-plus speakers are found in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and East Asia. Chinese itself is not a single language, but a language family like the Romance language family to which French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, and Swiss Romansch belong.  Like the Romance languages, the Chinese languages are mutually unintelligible (that is what makes them different languages)....

...Along with Korean, Japanese is related to the Altaic language family, which includes Turkish, but not Chinese. In Japanese there is a highly elaborated system of hierarchical expression for speaking with persons of different social levels, something Chinese does not have. In Japanese, verbs come at the end of a sentence; in Chinese they come in the middle. In Japanese, the characters may be read with words of several syllables. In Chinese every character is read with a single syllable.  To sum up, although the two languages both employ written characters, their differences outweigh their similarities, and Americans should not assume that the two languages have much in common....

...The tendencies to indirectness and allusion are ancient cultural traits of Chinese society, and politicians and negotiators were using them as much hundreds of years ago as they are now. This use of language is an expression of a cultural preference for harmonious and positive intercourse among people. It is a cultural expression, not a control of thought by language....

...Misunderstandings related to language -- particularly those that lead to troublesome problems -- come from cultural misperceptions and language incompetence, not from the different structures of the two languages that two peoples speak. So long as we in America remember that Chinese is one of the world's human languages and make intelligent provisions for the training of enough Americans in the use of that language, we face little problem from the uniqueness of the way that the Chinese speak and write....
This is another site on Chinese language, but of a very different kind.  From 10 October 1999 comes a fascinating (but tantalizingly brief) article from the Sunday Times of London by Michael Sheridan in Hong Kong: "'Women's only' language found among Chinese."  From the opening (I'm quoting at some length lest this site disappear):
LONG hidden in the hill villages of southern China, an extraordinary secret language for women has been discovered, with its own unique script.

The language, Nu Shu, is fading away as women become emancipated from age-old traditions of rural life and China puts economic progress before preserving its heritage.

Men could not understand Nu Shu, developed over hundreds of years among peasant women, when Chinese girls were denied formal education and had their feet bound to enhance sexual attraction.

"In comparison with Chinese, it is very feminine and beautiful," explained Yang Yueqing, a film-maker who found it and whose documentary had its premiere at the Vancouver film festival this month.

"The writing of Nu Shu is very different from Chinese writing.  Chinese characters are made from straight lines or strokes and are always square in shape. But Nu Shu is written with curves and tilted lines. It is also extremely graphic because it was woven into cloth and embroidered as patterns...."
From China Guide, a Chinese publishing company, comes this lively, 19th century cartoon-like illustrated page on Chinese literature, especially a classic fantasy-adventure:
...Journey to the West is a mythological novel based on many centuries of popular tradition. It was probably put into its present form in the 1570s by Wu Cheng'en (1500-82).

This lively fantasy relates the amazing adventures of the priest Xuanzang as he travels west in search of Buddhist sutras with his three disciples, the irreverent and capable Monkey, greedy Pig, and Friar Sand....

It looks like great fun!

Multi-Category Sites

Detail of the Dragon-like Oceans from the Nine Dragons Scroll
13th century
Boston Museum of Fine Arts

This China WWW Virtual Library page is maintained by the Institute of Chinese Studies at the University of Heidelberg.  This is a rich, scholarly resource covering all aspects of China and Chinese studies.  (FYI: there's a search engine.)  Plan to spend much time exploring if you try this one.
From China the Beautiful comes 1300 pages covering all aspects of Chinese culture.  You could spend hours here too.  Here are the current categories:
 |  4Arts  |  100 Names  |  Beijing Opera  |  Biography  |  Calligraphy  |  Classics  |  Dictionaries  |  Discussions  | Dragons  |  Dragon Boat  |  Duck  |  Emperors  |  Flash cards  |  Graphics  |  The Grand Canal  |  History  | Paintings Chinese  |  Learning Chinese  |  Links  |  Maps |  Mulan  |  Museums  |  Novels  |  New Additions  |  New Year  |  New Year graphics  |  Pei is My Name  |  Paintings  |  Picture of the Month  |  Poets  |  Poetry |  Portrait  |  Sages  |  Seals  |  Silk road  |  Software  |  Sound  |  View China from Space  |  World Literature  |  Zen Buddhism
This is the home page for the Harvard-Yenching Library's database for traditional and modern East Asia.  Navigation is a bit confusing until you realize that it's all done through mouse-overs, moving from menu to menu.  In case you have trouble, here's the direct link for their online China resources:
It's divided into three areas: News, Electronic Newspapers and Journals; Databases in Chinese; and Chinese Library and Academic Resources.  The site also has a search engine but don't waste your time (as I did) looking for "images: Kuan Yin" or the "eight immortals."  Search engine aside, you could spend a long time here exploring the links, especially if you let yourself get seduced (as I did) by the electronic newspapers.
I nearly ignored this site on "Traditional Chinese Culture in Taiwan" because the poorly designed home page is crammed full of categories in "banners" and looks more like a collection of advertisements than a credible page.  Once I clicked on a few banners, however (e.g., tea, painting, philosophy), I was pleasantly surprised to discover very tasteful pages with excellent data & lovely opening and closing images (not all the essays' accompanying image-links work, but the text is fine).  The site has 18 separate page-banners linked to the homepage -- these cover: medicine; philosophy; books; written language; music; opera; the arts (i.e., separate sections for architecture, bronzes, cloisonne, macrame, furniture, lacquer, painting, paper cutting, and pottery & porcelain); and food (separate sections on food in general; history of tea; and wine & cheese). [The site is sponsored by the Ministry of Education in Taiwan but originates in Houston, Texas.  If you're irritated by the broken image-links, I'd suggest e-mailing the Texas webmaster, whose address is at the bottom of the home page.]
This site from a Purdue University student offers often stunning photos of art and scenery (don't miss the waterfalls of Jiu Zhai Gou; also the misty, floaty Yellow Mountains; you'll also find photos and text on the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Imperial Gardens, Terra Cotta Warriors, pandas, and much more).  In addition, there's a section of sound-clips of Chinese traditional and modern music -- they take a long time to load, so I only heard a violin piece that ran about 2 minutes -- it was lovely and I wish I had time to hear more.  There's also a language section with sound-clips so that you can hear exactly how to pronounce a word or phrase.  Finally, there a whole section on Chinese recipes, and another on finding your Chinese zodiac animal.
This is Inside China Today, an excellent daily news and information service (FYI: the articles I clicked on were all from Reuters and gave a deeper look at issues rarely covered by the American media). (Also see the Harvard-Yenching Library site for more electronic newspapers.)


There are a number of books I'll eventually be adding to this section but I wish to start with a gem by Herbert Fingarette: Confucius -- the Secular as Sacred (Harper & Row, 1972; republished 1998 and currently available on  As a graduate student, I had the honor of being this wise, gentle professor's teaching assistant in Asian philosophy just before he retired from the University of California, Santa Barbara.  He gave me an autographed copy of his book in late 1989, a few months before his class began.  I read it with admiration and great pleasure, especially his exploration of ritual and li.  The book only has 79 pages, but they're exquisite.


Also see Common Themes, East & West: Dragons & Serpents

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This page created with Netscape Gold 3.01
Technical assistance: William Weeks
Text and Design:
Copyright 1998-2002 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
Launched 13 November 1998 with Guggenheim Museum link only.
All other links date from 2001.

Latest post-launch updates:
25 February 2001; 27 February 2001;
1-2 March 2001 (inc. Nedstating); 4,  5,  8,  9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 22, 27 March 2001;
14 December 2001: Link update for Bedrosian;
25 January 2002: fixed file name for Daoist Immortal image (the umlaut in it broke the link).

Detail of the Nine Dragons Scroll
13th century
Boston Museum of Fine Arts

[Added 22 August 2007]: "An Army as a Cultural Relic" by J. Sri Raman: article yet to be grokked on Emperor Qin's ancient terracotta army.