- Series: Library of Chinese Classics
- Library Binding: 2145 pages
- Publisher: Foreign Language Press; 1 edition (January 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 7800054861
- ISBN-13: 978-7800054860
- Package Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.3 x 4.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.5 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,019,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Creation of the Gods (Library of Chinese Classics: Chinese-English: 4 Volumes) 1st Edition
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Top customer reviews
The main purpose of this book is to show the origins of many of the gods in Chinese Buddhist and Daoist cultures. There is also a political and religious agenda that relates to the author's time period. The main character in the book, Zhang Ziya, is a man that many ancient writings show was probably a real person living during the waning years of the Shang empire. In true history, he was probably a general of the Zhou army that eventually overthrew the Shang empire. In this book, he is portrayed as a great leader, but is also a powerful Daoist who is fated to send many souls to the Terrace of Creation, where he later deifies them as gods of various locations or activities. (Daoism, Buddhism, and other isms, didn't come into being until nearly 500 years after the end of the Shang dynasty.)
The book is Chinese on one page and English on the facing page, so if you're learning Chinese, this is a great tool. But good luck - it's written in an older style of Chinese, akin to Shakespeare or the Bible in Western literature. The Chinese is written in simplified characters, which I was kind of disappointed with, because I learned traditional characters. Several of my Chinese friends from mainland China also found that odd, as much of the beauty and meaning of the original characters are lost when using the simplified script.
I read the first two books quickly and with much interest. By the third book, though, it seemed to be getting a bit repetitive and I was wishing the end was near. The fourth book is quite interesting and fun to read, although the entire story gets a little predictable. You need to realize that this was written about 700 years ago, in a culture that was very much removed from Western traditions, so the writing style and plot structure are very different from what you might be used to. There is also a lot of mythology and magic involved, some of which may appear as silly to the Western reader.
You really can learn a lot about Chinese culture from this book, especially if you already know some things about the culture to give you a point of reference. I highly recommend it to anyone learning about China.
As for the translation, I didn't care for the way the translator portrayed much of the work. He simplified most of it - many of the English pages are only half as long as the corresponding Chinese page. This is especially strange given the fact that written Chinese is a much more concise language than English, so it's usually the Chinese that's shorter. Also, the translator used the same annoying cuss words over and over, I suppose in an effort to sound like a Western novel. It would have been better to either leave that out, or just translate the Chinese directly.
There are also a lot of cliches in the book, and we all know that a writer should avoid cliches like the plague. In looking through the credits of the book, there is not one Western-sounding name in the list (and it's a big list). That's really commendable that they would use only Chinese people on such a big project. However, I think that for the final editing, they should have had an experienced novelist that was raised in an English-speaking country do the final proofing and polishing, such as fixing all the typos and removing the cliches and other odd usages of words. Last point - the translator is probably U.K.-educated, which I certainly don't have a problem with, but I had no idea that "gaol" has the same meaning and pronunciation as "jail".
The translation itself left something to be desired. Swear words used to address immortal beings in the story sounded very insulting to me, the reader. There were countless battles, challenges, and matching of magic skills. But how could an opponent of a goddess call her the b-word? Or an opposing general call a Taoist immortal the other b-word? The translator, whom I assume had to have a depth of academic knowledge in Chinese literature as well as a certain command of formal English, did not need to use such low-level language to express the meaning of the character.
It was, however, an easy read and the action moved the story along. Unfortunately, quality of the translation and the books themselves could learn a lesson from traditional Chinese literature.
Overall, this is a pretty faithful translation, except for the name... This book might have been better if they leave the name of the gods intact rather than translating also, a little footnote of the meaning would have done a better job. Translation of the names makes the book pretty confusing, and it hinders anyone who want further study of the subject...