proposal

The topic I want to talk about in this paper comes from those stories in the field of mythology. Before I begin to tell those stories, I want to raise a simple question here that what mythology means to you. To many people, mythologies are just that God knows who talks about who knows what. Because they think that mythology stories are all about things that never happen and never exist. However, to many scholars, mythologies are stories that conceal history and truth. To litterateur, mythologies are one of the most important literary form through thousand of years. And to me, mythologies are some interesting things that accompany with me to sleep during my childhood.

It is easy to recognize that people can better accept those mythology which comes from Europe and America, such as Vampires, werewolf, merman, etc. However, for Chinese mythology, it seems that fewer people know about them and also it is hard to understand. But it would be a pity that those beautiful love stories and those special characters to be hidden because of cultural reasons. Therefore, this paper aims to translate those mythology stories to people who come from different countries and feel difficult to understand Chinese mythology. The paper mainly talks about one of the most important animal image in Chinese mythology, fox with nine tails. The paper would introduce this mythology image from different dynasties in Chinese history and would also contains their change process from one dynasty to another dynasty.

The fox mythology in China has a long history. The first fox image is originated from the book Shanghai Jing, which Shanghai Jing is the first book in Chinese history which records ghosts and goddesses. Shan in Chinese word characters is means mountain, and Hai means ocean. Therefore, it is not difficult to infer from the name of this book, that Shanghai Jing tells something related to geographic knowledge in the ancient time. Shanghai Jing has extraordinary value in many fields, not only for it tells lots of remarkable mythological stories that even has a profound influence in the modern society, but also for it contains lots of historical, cultural, geographic, medical, ethnological contents for scholars to do researches. The book records, “In the north of Sunrise Valley, there is a nation called Qingqiu. And there is a kind of beasts that lives in this country. It looks like fox but has nine tails and its sound like a baby. Whoever eats this beast would never be poisoned.” Although this animal image was a very small portion in Shanghai Jing, however, it gradually becomes one of the most important Chinese mythical creature image over history.

The first fox story happened in Xia Dynasty. This Dynasty existed from B.C.2029 to B.C. 1559, which is the first Chinese empire. The first fox story is related to the King of this Dynasty , Yu (禹),who built Chinese imperial system. The story tells, the king Yu was devoted himself into water conservancy project in order to bring benefit to his citizens and gain respect. One day he arrived at Tushan and he met a nine-tailed fox. Suddenly the fox became into a beautiful girl and said her name is Jiao, the daughter of Tushan. Yu fell in love with this girl and they married. But Yu spent most of his time to the water conservancy project and did not have much time accompany with his wife. Because Jiao was so miss his husband, so that she stand on the top of mountain everyday. But days went by but his husband would never come back. However, once Jiao went to see Yu, she saw Yu became a black bear. And she was so scared and turn to a stone. Yu said to that rock, “give my son back.” And the rock was separated, then Yu brought his son back.

In fact, Jiao is the daughter of one of most powerful local tribes which respect fox as totem. The reason why ancient people respect the fox with nine-tails is that in Chinese conception, tail means child. Child is very important in a Chinese family because it needs someone to inherit the family business. And nine is a a lucky number in Chinese conception. Therefore, a fox has nine-tails symbolize that a family would have lots of sons. There are also another similar stories in Chinese mythology that dragon has nine sons. Therefore, as we can see in this story, the image of fox is totally different from what people think of fox today. Actually in the ancient time, people though the fox with nine tails as the messenger of God, its social status is as same as Hermes in Greek mythology. But with the time goes by, the women’s social position and human’s respect to nature were decreasing gradually. The image of fox also experienced substantial changes.

When time came to Ming Dynasty, there is a famous literature masterpiece that even has profound effect today, which is called The Legend and The Hero. The book tells an epic story about Shang Dynasty. There was a very very beautiful woman called Daji in the Shang Dynasty and no man can deny her charm. And she used her beautiful performance captivated the King and became the Queen of the nation. This would be a wonderful love story if the story ends here. However, Daji is a nine-tailed fox and she raise a tyranny in the political filed. She led the King to kill his senators who are really loyal to him and squeeze the citizens and rob their money. These kinds of action caused revolution and finally lead the dynasty to the end. Because the book is so famous in China and also because the women’s rights in Ming Dynasty have been cruelly exploited. Hence, fox gradually become an  image that always used to describe bad women. From here, we can see that

Another important change happened in Qing Dynasty. A man called Songling Pu wrote a book named Ghosts and Foxes. The book is consisted of four hundreds and ninety-one short stories and contains eighty-nine stories about fox. During thousands of years, Chinese people were talking about fox stories. Traditional fox characters are always bold into debauched women who steal men’s life, or a charter that has special power and after thousands of year, it would turn into God. However, in Songling’s book, he gave fox human’s character and made these foxes into a lovely, intelligent and beautiful women characters. They act or try to act as a human being. And once they fall in love with a man, they dare to revolt tradition rules for guarding their love.

Actually, Songling aimed to use these characters to anti-tradition. The thought in Qing dynasty became pedantic, and the rules restrict people to reflect and judge. Women lived under suppression and their social status were decrease to the lowest situation. In such situation, Songling wanted to use these characters to satire the feudal society and revoke people to rebel with the imperial system.

Look over the whole history about the fox, it can be also concluded some other reasons except literary reasons. Firstly, there is an old saying in China, that destruction pursues the great. It means if a person stand in a higher place would be easily to be attacked because of others’ jealousy. Foxes always have beautiful performance, and it can be easily speculated in

a feudal society, the conservative would defame the fox image in order to constraint people from thinking. In the past, people always used fox to describe beautiful women. Therefore, the transformation of fox image also reflect the decline of women’s social status in the other way. Another reason is that compare with other mythical creatures such as dragon, phoenix, fox is a more common animal. Things are valued in proportion to its rarity. The image of fox have experienced defamation through the history and finally because a word of curse.

Fox image related to historical reasons

Look over the whole history about the fox, it can be also concluded some other reasons except literary reasons. Firstly, there is an old saying in China, that destruction pursues the great. It means if a person stand in a higher place would be easily to be attacked because of others’ jealousy. Foxes always have beautiful performance, and it can be easily speculated in a feudal society, the conservative would defame the fox image in order to constraint people from thinking. In the past, people always used fox to describe beautiful women. Therefore, the transformation of fox image also reflect the decline of women’s social status in the other way. Another reason is that compare with other mythical creatures such as dragon, phoenix, fox is a more common animal. Things are valued in proportion to its rarity. The image of fox have experienced defamation through the history and finally because a word of curse.

Mid term?……

The book of Songs

Zhu Lina 52636614

SM5323 Networks and complex systems

 

Abstract

 

The book of songs is one of the most important collection of traditional Chinese poems.  The works collected in the book have a quite wide range both in terms of time and content.  As the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry, the works are created between 1100 BC to 600 BC.  And they are classified into 3 different categories, namely Feng (Airs of the States), Ya (Court Hymns), Song (Eulogies). And more specifically, The Court Hymns contains Lesser Court Hymns and Major ones; and the part of Eulogies contains Eulogies of Zhou, Lu and Shang.

 

In the project, I mainly want to create an online database of this book, with a data visualization as the home page, which can be navigated by the users to explore more about each single poem.  After click into the single poem, the original poem, the English translation and the modern vernacular Chinese translation are there, accompany by some simple animation (if possible) and some history of key words including the oracles. The visualization of the database will be done according to the content of the poems, the proximity of the content will decide the position of the poem in the network, and the network will be like a cloud of points.

Table of Content

 

 

 

Motivation ……………………………………………………………………………………… 3

 

 

Form ……………………………………………………………………………………………… 4

 

 

Content ……………………………………………………………………………………….. 5

 

 

Technique and software ……………………………………………………………… 5

 

 

Progress and schedule ……………………………………………………………….. 6

 

 

References ………………………………………………………………………….……… 8

 

 

Motivation

 

Born as a Chinese, we always take Chinese elements around us as granted. It is until my university time in HK, have I started to think about what makes who I am now.  I began to look back into my root, what are there making me special as an individual, and at the same time, as one particular kind of person, namely Chinese?

 

I began to use some Chinese elements in my artworks in the past several years of study, and I always want to show the traditional culture in a modern and interesting way. Here, Chinese poems will be shown as a database visualization of dots and can be navigated by users interactively.  The work to me, is about the influence brought by the internet culture to our traditional art, about cultural inheritance in this era, and about a new way to imitate a traditional teaching method brought by interactive new media: teach by precept and examples.

 

By doing the project, the exploring experience is itself an exploring within a network of knowledge: a collection of works.  The collection has its own form and logic where each single work is put.  And the translations form a new network related to the original one as well.  As time goes by, different people in different groups express their feeling towards the work and pass it to the next generation, the different ideas about the works are different, but somehow linked through the works themselves; on the other level, the different people who make notes and translations are linked together by the book.  I think it will be interesting for me to collect data about the book and make the project.

 

 

Form

 

The work will be internet based interactive piece with a data visualization of dots as the home page, and single poems with translations, notes, simple animations and related history of Chinese characters as content.

 

Basically, the project has two major objectives: to visualize The book of Songs and give the user a sense of networked system; to give user an interactive reading experience where they can feel taught by a person face to face with precept and example, and where, they can explore the knowledge related to a single poem as a connected network.

 

As the form of data visualization, a cloud of dots will be generated using python language.  As the animations within each poem, I am considering to use gif sequences or mov file with a correspondingly lower data rate that the users can get the content easier without long loading time. (the network in the classroom remind me this point since we can hardly see video references in the classroom, thus I consider this as a point to be think about as well, the fluency of the user experience can be one part to be considered in the network system as well.)

 

Content

 

The final content of the project is basically a knowledge system of The book of Songs, namely a data visualization piece, some history of Chinese characters, some simple animations, some different versions of translations and notes, and the 305 poems in the book.

 

Technique and software

Dreamweaver will be a choice for internet based work, and python language will be used to do the data visualization.  Adobe after effect and premiere will be used to create simple animations for the poems.  And the Photoshop will be used to do some basic image editing, for example, color correction, resize, typesetting, and the overall visual design of the work, instead of using CSS to do the visual design of each single page, I prefer use PS to do so.

 

For collecting the data, since the database is not very large, I prefer to do it by hand instead of using software like site sucker, thus I can better choose the content to be include in the system.  And meanwhile, I can better understand the knowledge system through the data collection period as well, which makes the project make more sense to myself as a network.

 

Progress and schedule

 

For now, I have collected several different versions of translations of the book, and find some useful references for the project.  The time is quite limited for the project, and within the remaining several weeks, I will firstly have a quite completed database for the project with translations, Chinese characters history with images; secondly, I will study python language and do the database visualization since it is the home page of the project; after that, to program what will happen inside each single dot is the job; finally, if time permits, simple animations will be made for the project. If there is not enough time for the animation part, I will collect some proper animations or pictures which can help the audience understand the work to be included in the page.

 

Here are some works with their English translation that will be the major content of the database as a reference of what will happen in the project.

 

 

關睢 GUAN JU

關關雎鳩、在河之洲。

窈宨淑女、君子好逑。

參差荇菜、左右流之。

窈宨淑女、寤寐求之。

求之不得、寤寐思服。

悠哉悠哉、輾轉反側。

參差荇菜、左右采之。

窈宨淑女、琴瑟友之。

參差荇菜、左右芼之。

窈宨淑女、 鍾鼓樂之。

Guan-guan go the ospreys ,

On the islet in the river .

The modest , retiring , virtuous , young lady : —

For our prince a good mate she .

Here long , there short , is the duckweed ,

To the left , to the right , borne about by the current .

The modest , retiring , virtuous , young lady : —

Waking and sleeping , he sought her .

He sought her and found her not ,

And waking and sleeping he thought about her .

Long he thought ; oh ! long and anxiously ;

On his side , on his back , he turned , and back again .

Here long , there short , is the duckweed ;

On the left , on the right , we gather it .

The modest , retiring , virtuous , young lady : —

With lutes , small and large , let us give her friendly welcome .

Here long , there short , is the duckweed ;

On the left , on the right , we cook and present it .

The modest , retiring , virtuous , young lady : —

With bells and drums let us show our delight in her .

 

References

 

For now, most of references I found for the project are related to the first phase: collecting the database.  I’ve bought a bunch of books related to The book of Songs and Chinese character development history.  Later, more references for the programing part will be found for developing the project.

 

Here is a list of the reference books I’ve got for the project.

  1. 《古文字学导论》作者:唐兰著 页数:449 出版日期:1981.01  (A book about history of Chinese characters, which is hard to find since it is out of production. The book is originally handwritten by Tang Lan, who is quite famous in studying Chinese characters.

Here are some scans of the book to give you an idea about what it is like. (Actually quite beautiful, written from right to left and from top to bottom.)

  1. 汉字王国(讲述中国人和他们的汉字的故事) (瑞典)林西莉 社科文学 语言文字学 (A book written by a foreigner about Chinese oracles)
  2. 中国文字学概要 文字形义学 (Similar to the second one written by a Chinese specialist)
  3. 中国文字学/世纪文库 唐兰 上海古籍出版社 (Another book written by the author of the first book, talking about Chinese character history)
  4. 甲骨文字释林(繁体竖排版)/于省吾 (Chinese oracles)
  5. 诗经译注 程俊英 (About the book I’ve chosen)
  6. 诗经译注 周振甫注 中华书局 (Another book about the poems written by a different specialist)