March 31, 2008
40 illus.
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
1.7 Pounds (US)
$60.00 USD
v2.1 Reference

Legends of the Building of Old Peking

Legends of the Building of Old Peking examines a series of popular legends surrounding the building and rebuilding of the city that served as the capital of a succession of dynasties, including the Nazha or Nezha City legend of the Yuan (1279-1368) "Great Capital" and the Ming (1368-1644) "Northern Capital," and the Mongol legend of "siting by bowshot to locate the capital city" and its Chinese adaptations. These legends reveal a rich tapestry of religious and cultural traditions surrounding the majority Han and non-Han people's conceptions of the origins of their capital cities—legends that are distinct from imperial ideologies and dynastic traditions, and evolved under changing political and cultural circumstances. The book is a unique study of the historical origins of old Peking (spelled thus to distinguish it from modern Beijing) as well as the genesis and efflorescence of related popular culture in today's capital.

About the Author

Hok-lam Chan is affiliate professor of Chinese history at the University of Washington and former professor and chairman of the Department of History at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.


"Chan carries us through seemingly inexhaustible trains of legends, of Nazha of Tantric Buddhist origin and a Chinese Buddhist-Daoist advisor to Qubilai Qaghan in the design of his capital city. We are taken from Yuan through Ming and Qing to modern times. It remains to advise the reader to keep close attention to the line, where it exists, between 'history' and 'legend.' Chan walks carefully in his account, and the reader should emulate his gait."—Journal of Asian History

"This book is rich in sources, information, and analysis, and with careful exploration of the filiation and intermingling of these legends, Chan's work opens up new and important vistas for thinking about urban culture and the evolution of the popular imagination over time."—Journal of Asian Studies

"A meticulous study of the folklore surrounding the now largely-vanished Beijing walls. . . [A]n important contribution to Beijing historiography, illuminating its cultural, relingion, and ethnic complexities from a hitherto neglected angle. Legends of the Building of Old Peking throws significant light on the cultural, the religious, and the ethnic richness of one of the world's greatest cities."—Journal of Chinese Religions


"Each story brings a political figure or ruler face to face with the legend: the integral relationship between the eight—armed Buddhist and folk child—diety Nezha and two ministers named Liu, the flight of a Mongolian archer's arrow and the ethnicity of the Yongle emperor, and others. In uncovering these legends, the interplay of mythology, folklore, and cosmology are examined against history and urban reality. Meticulously researched, this ground—breaking book is the achievement of a career of in—depth examination and interpretation of primary resources."—Nancy Shatzman Steinhardt, author of Chinese Imperial City Planning

9780295987828 : legends-of-the-building-of-old-peking-chan
420 Pages
$60.00 USD

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