CCCH9037 China: Culture, State and Society
Chinese Mythology

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘The Universe and the Question of Meaning’.]


Course Description

The purpose of this course is to examine China’s rich repository of myths from a socio-historical perspective and to consider their cultural significance in both an ancient and contemporary context. By introducing students to a select list of Chinese myths, both well-known and lesser-known ones, and inviting them to compare China’s mythological tradition to that of other ancient civilizations such as Greece, Scandinavia and Native America, a macroscopic examination of the relation between myths and qualities that are conceived of as traditionally Chinese will be conducted. Along the way, students will be encouraged to examine various Chinese myths from different perspectives (i.e. cultural, anthropological and psychological), and contemplate on their roles within the development of Chinese cultural identity.

In the end, this course hopes to encourage students to consider the role of myths in both ancient times and today’s modernizing society and the way the changing interpretation of specific mythological motifs can be analyzed as reflective of changes in cultural values.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify and assess critically the inherent cultural implications of Chinese myths.
  2. Critically analyze the historical and social significance of Chinese myths.
  3. Express through the means of oral presentations and essay writing their own opinions on the humanistic value of Chinese myths.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 12
Reading / Self-study 54
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 40
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 20
Total: 150

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Presentation 40
Tutorial discussion 10
Written report 50

Required Reading

  • Allan, S. (1991). The shape of the turtle: Myth, art, and cosmos in early China. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  • Chang, K. C. (1988). Art, myth, and ritual: The path to political authority in ancient China. London: Harvard University Press.
  • Dundes, A. (1984). Sacred narrative: Readings in the theory of myth. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Ebrey, P. B. (Ed.). (1993). Chinese civilization: A sourcebook. New York: Free Press.
  • Hucker, C. O. (1975). China’s imperial past: An introduction to Chinese history and culture. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Lincoln, B. (2000). Theorizing myth: Narrative, ideology, and scholarship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr I.M.C. Yue
School of Chinese, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 4355
Email: isaacyue@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr I.M.C. Yue
School of Chinese, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 4355
Email: isaacyue@hku.hk