A Garden of Marvels: Tales of Wonder from Early Medieval China

Hardback: $65.00
ISBN-13: 9780824853495
Published: September 2015
Paperback: $26.00
ISBN-13: 9780824853501
Published: July 2015

Additional Information

208 pages | 1 black & white illustration
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  • About the Book
  • Between 300 and 600 C.E., Chinese writers compiled thousands of accounts of the strange and the extraordinary. Some described weird spirits, customs, and flora and fauna in distant lands. Some depicted individuals of unusual spiritual or moral achievement. But most told of ordinary people’s encounters with ghosts, demons, or gods; sojourns in the land of the dead; eerily significant dreams; and uncannily accurate premonitions. The selection of such stories presented here provides an alluring introduction to early medieval Chinese storytelling and opens a doorway to the enchanted world of thought, culture, and religious belief of that era. Known as zhiguai, or “accounts of anomalies,” they convey a great deal about how people saw the cosmos and their place in it. The tales were circulated because they were entertaining but also because their compilers meant to document the mysterious workings of spirits, the wonders of exotic places, and the nature of the afterlife.

    A collection of more than two hundred tales, A Garden of Marvels offers an authoritative yet accessible introduction to zhiguai writings, particularly those never before translated or adequately researched. This volume will likely find its way to bedside tables as well as into classrooms and libraries, just as collections of zhiguai did in early medieval times.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Robert Ford Campany, Author

      Robert Ford Campany is professor of Asian studies and religions at Vanderbilt University.
    • Robert Ford Campany, Translator

      Robert Ford Campany is professor of Asian studies and religions at Vanderbilt University.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • These zhiguai texts are not simply anomaly tales but valuable sources for Chinese studies and reading them is not only for our entertainment. . . . In sum, the zhiguai texts also serve as indirect material for various fields of Chinese studies such as religion, culture, and society.
      —Monumenta Serica
    • Campany (Vanderbilt Univ.) presents a collection of 225 brief Chinese fantastic narratives. . . . The scholarly apparatus is thorough and accessible to the general reader.
      —Choice
    • Undergraduate students of Chinese religion will surely find A Garden of Marvels a useful and interesting tool to explore the complex facets of Chinese religious traditions outside of the standard textbooks; to critically think in “unusual ways” about the interactions between religions, everyday life, material culture, and social behavior; and to better understand how the boundaries between ordinary life and other unworldly dimensions in medieval China were often blurry and not well defined.
      —American Academy of Religion