After reading Joan He’s Descendant of the Crane, the urge to read another Chinese-inspired story has been incredibly strong for me.
There are a few that have caught my eye (many other bookworms have been recommending Spin the Dawn, which I’m super stoked to try out), but I’ve just been thinking: There are so many amazing Chinese stories out there. So today, I’m here on Shut Up, Shealea to share some of my favorite Chinese myths with you guys! If you’re an author, I’m giving you guys some seriously badass ideas here. If you’re not, well, I’d love to know if you’d read some YA novels inspired by these myths too!
THE FOUR EVILS (四凶)
The Taotie (饕餮) is a symbol of gluttony. This beast has the body of a sheep, the teeth of a tiger, and the hands and face of a human. Its eyes are supposedly under his armpits. It’s a creature that eats everything, including humans… and its own body.
The Hundun (混沌) is a symbol of chaos. It has six feet, four wings, and no face. In some stories, the Hundun apparently is burning hot, and emits light. It’s a creature that has human emotions, but is unable to differentiate right from wrong.
The Qiongqi (穷奇) is a symbol of bad faith. It looks like a tiger with wings, and can speak human languages. It uses this skill to lure men into fights and wars, and will even go as far as eating the heads of those who are in the right mind, and will reward those who are being unreasonable.
The Taowu (梼杌) is a symbol of stubbornness. This creature appears to have “a human face, a tiger’s feet, a pig’s feet, and a tail 18 feet long.” It’s said that the Taowu knows divination and can see both the past and the future. Despite this, it never backs down from a fight, and is said to lead men astray from enlightenment.
How should you include them in a YA novel? I think we’d all love to read about a great war between four divided kingdoms, each guided by one of the bloodthirsty Four Evils, or an urban fantasy where these four beasts have human forms. PLEASE.
THE LADY IN THE MOON
If you aren’t Chinese or Vietnamese, you might still be familiar with the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節), also known as the Harvest Moon Festival), which happens every year, around late September to early October. It’s this gathering where people carry lanterns around, and eat Mooncakes all day. What you might not be familiar with is the fabulous myth behind the celebration.
Houyi (后羿) is basically this super badass archer who’s married to the beautiful heroine in our story, Chang’E (嫦娥). At the time, the Earth had ten suns. It was way too hot, so Hou Yi shot down nine from the sky, until there was only one left. The Jade Emperor of the Heavens rewarded him with a pill of immortality. Of course, Hou Yi loved his wife so much that he didn’t want to take it without her, so he left it in her safekeeping… until one of his apprentices decided he wanted it to himself. Chang’E, not knowing how else to keep it away from him, took the pill. She eventually flew up to the sky, where she perched herself on the moon to stay closer to her husband. Hou Yi offered fruits and other sacrifices in the hopes of getting another glimpse of his beloved wife.
How should you include this in a YA novel? I would love an urban fantasy retelling of this, or perhaps a darker version with hidden motives and deceitful characters. A darker, more in-depth retelling of even just Houyi’s part would be fantastic. Plus it’s been a while since we’ve seen the elixir of immortality in YA. Give it to some YA hero or heroine as a reward for a job well done, maybe?
MENDING THE SKY
This story’s a bit lengthy, so I’m going to share a very condensed, general version of it. Other versions are really interesting, so I definitely suggest looking into it! Anyway, here we go.
There are a few stories about the creation of mankind, but for the Chinese, it was all thanks to the deity Nüwa (女媧). She and her brother (and husband) Fuxi (伏羲) were basically the first creatures on earth. Nüwa got bored at some point and created human beings. They lived happily and peacefully for some time, until all hell broke loose.
Gonggong (龔工), the god of water, and Zhurong (祝融), the god of fire, got into a huge fight. At the time, the sky was being held up by four large pillars at the corners of the world (which people used to believe was square). Gonggong eventually smashed his head into one of the pillars, which was the Buzhou mountain. The sky collapsed.
Things just got weirder from there. Nüwa asked the gods for help, and five gods bearing colored stones met with her as she sat atop a giant tortoise. She used these colored stones to create a thick mixture, which she then used to fill up the hole in the sky.
Still, Nüwa was worried that the sky would just fall again. She handed the giant tortoise a sword, which it used to cut off its four legs. These legs eventually turned into four new pillars to support the sky.
How should you include these in a YA novel? An epic tale of a badass woman who holds the solution to a huge problem caused by troublesome parties? Count me in. I’d also love to read an adventurous story about a global catastrophe that can only be solved by some crazy-ass magic. Throw in some dragons (as seen in some versions of this story) and giant tortoises any time.
[ Source: SHINE News ]
So there you have it, lovelies! These are just a few of the millions of Chinese myths that I think would make brilliant YA novels. Of course, I chose not to include some classics that already have retellings, like the stories of Hua Mulan (Renée Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist) or Sun Wukong (FC Yee’s The Epic Crush of Genie Lo), but really, any story inspired by any culture will be brilliant and fascinating.
I really do hope you enjoyed learning about these legends today. Let me know if there are any other Chinese stories you’d love to see incorporated into a YA novel — or any less popular myth from any culture, for that matter!
Augvocate for the Day
Aimee is a loud, opinionated, happy-go-lucky little duckling. Her parents are both Chinese, but she’s born and raised in the Philippines. Aside from reading, she loves watching Asian dramas, designing graphics, and eating chaofan.
This guest post is part of a month-long collaborative series called Augvocacy, which is shorthand for August with an advocacy. Essentially, this project aims to bring together like-minded individuals — be it bloggers, authors, or readers — in actively forwarding a particular advocacy. All contributors to this project are referred to as Augvocates — and each Augvocate will share their thoughts on my blog from the 1st day of August
until the 28th.* Find the rest of the Augvocacy 2019 posts here.
For this year, Augvocacy hopes to discuss and encourage the importance of amplifying Asian voices in books and in media. While this particular call brings attention to the oftentimes-ignored demand for more authentic Asian representation, it also aims to debunk the bigoted view that Asian cultures are a monolith and to shed light on the nuances of struggle, privilege, and identity within and across our own communities. Learn more about Augvocacy 2019 in this post.
* Note: Due to unforeseen delays on my part, the posts for Augvocacy 2019 will keep coming until the 23rd of September! Hence, the new title: #Augvocacy2019 (Extended).
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I’d love to hear from you!
🌻 What are your thoughts on the three Chinese myths that Aimee shared? Which one fascinated you the most?
🌻 Are there myths or folklore in your culture that you’d love to see in a novel? Or maybe in a movie?
🌻 Do you like reading stories inspired by other cultures? What are some of your favorites?