2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Ancient History as Myth?: A Critical Review Centering upon the Dahuangjing and the Yaodian

Hwang Ming-chorng

Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

The paradigm of early Chinese history during the imperial period is "the Grand Lineage of all Chinese people started from the Yellow Emperor" established by scholars of the Eastern Zhou period and the Han dynasty. This old paradigm was replaced by the new paradigm of "ancient history as myth" during the twenties to the forties of this century due to the introduction of the concept "myth" from the West. This new paradigm, despite its powerful destructive effect over the old historical paradigm, is becoming an obstacle to our understanding of some texts of early Chinese history. The goal of this paper is to critically review some of the problems of "ancient history as myth" centering upon two critical texts: the Dahuangjing and the Yaodian.

This short paper discusses the following topics:

1. some problems in the methodology of Henri Maspero's "Les lendes mythologiques dans le Chou king," which may be considered the theoretical foundation of "ancient history as myth;"

2. the fallacy of the statement that "ancient Chinese mythology has no structure;"

3. the origin of the term shen-hua in modern Chinese and its problems as an analytical category in early Chinese history;

4. some problems concerning indigenous and contemporary terms in early China comparable to the idea of myth.


Key words: Early Chinese history, myth