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Chinese Myths and Fantasies (3)


Style and Art of Writing

In style and art of writing, both early and later mythical stories are superb. Classical Chinese is extremely concise. A few hundred, even a few dozen words are enough to tell a story complete with dialogue and behavioral and psychological descriptions. Take The Foolish Old Man Removes the Mountains. After he heard that the Foolish Old Man of North Mountain had begun digging the Taihang and Wangwu Mountains.

The Wise Old Man at the River Bend came to stop him. He laughed and said, "How unwise you are ! At your age and with your energy, you cannot even remove one hair on the mountain, let alone so much earth and so many rocks!"

The Foolish Old Man of North Mountain heaved a long sigh and said, " You are so conceited that you are blind to reason. Even a widow and a child know better than you. When I die, there will be my sons, who will have their sons and grandsons. Those grandsons will have their sons and grandsons, and so on to infinity. But the mountains will not grow. Why is it impossible to level them?" The Wise Old Man at the River Bend could not answer him.

What vivid dialogue this is! And there are descriptive touches here and there, such as "He laughed and said" and "The Foolish Old Man Heaved a long sigh".


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