A Galaxy of Immortal Women: The Yin Side of Chinese Civilization
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“A valuable historical reference guide.” —Publishers Weekly
“This is a very ambitious and timely book, a book that many historians, literary theorists and story tellers who care about China and its “Other Half of the Sky” want to write, but Brian Griffith did it first, with such scope, ease and fun.” —WANG PING, author of The Last Communist Virgin and Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China
“This book is a most engaging and entertaining read, and the depth of its scholarship is astounding. Griffith vividly describes the counterculture of Chinese goddesses, shows that their fascinating stories are alive and active today, and points us toward a more inclusive and caring partnership future.” —RIANE EISLER, author of The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics and The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future
Touching on the whole story of China—from Neolithic villages to a globalized Shanghai—this book ties mythology, archaeology, history, religion, folklore, literature, and journalism into a millennia-spanning story about how Chinese women—and their goddess traditions—fostered a counterculture that flourishes and grows stronger every day.
As Brian Griffith charts the stories of China’s founding mothers, shamanesses, goddesses, and ordinary heroines, he also explores the largely untold story of women’s contributions to cultural life in the world’s biggest society and provides inspiration for all global citizens.
Brian Griffith grew up in Texas, studied history at the University of Alberta, and now lives just outside of Toronto, Ontario. He is an independent historian who examines how cultural history influences our lives, and how collective experience offers insights for our future.
tragedy, but simply an inevitable march of progress. Others felt that social inequality was always a choice, and other options were always possible. If the fall of women wasn’t inevitable, how did it happen? How was it different in cause or effect in China compared to what happened in Europe? In Europe, the early “civilizations of the goddess” excavated by Marija Gimbutas and others show signs of almost total destruction during several periods of warfare. It looks like these ancient villages
the 1800s. But of course there was always a women’s counterculture. We find it recorded from the beginning, and it probably formed the foundation of Chinese civilization. For example we have the ever-popular legend of the Golden Age, about how things were in the beginning, and how they should be in the future. According to this legend of an original paradise, social equality and servant leadership are the natural standards of human life. The rise of force-backed ranking (of men over women and
In recent decades, many Christian denominations sought to remove sexist language from their worship services, hymns, and prayers. But it is far more than words that accommodate women in some of these Chinese traditions. These are schools of religious wisdom built largely by women, for women. Their poetry and teachings are created through women’s explorations of their own inner continents. In surveying their evocative words, we have to wonder what was ever gained by excluding female experience
persecution. But within several centuries Confucianism won impressive popular support, and the emperors co-opted it by making it an official imperial religion. With such patronage it became a religious arm of autocratic governments for almost 2,000 years. Then, like Christianity in the French or Russian revolutions, Confucianism was largely rejected in China’s twentieth-century revolutions. Confucianism was then firmly labeled as a feudal ideology, designed for the oppression of common people and
could be expert on horseback, frightfully skilled with a bow and arrow, and stunningly proud. Their personal strength and authority could be shocking to Chinese city dwellers. For example, the first empress of the Sui dynasty (589–618) came from the Toba tribe. Her name was Tuku, and she grew up in a world of murderous intrigue, where various court factions conspired to eliminate each other. Tuku emerged triumphant, but what sort of feminine virtues did she represent? As Arthur F. Wright