What is comparative literature, literally speaking, it is some kind of study to find out the differences between eastern and western literature. Well, that is right, but it’s only one aspect of comparative literature. Comparative literature is a branch of the art theory which compares and studies the process of interaction between two or more different national literature, and between literature and other discipline of arts or ideology. Comparative literature may also performed on works of the same language if the works originate from different languages and cultures among which that language is spoken.
Including Influence study, Parallel study and Interdisciplinary study. As a subject, comparative literature came into being during late 19th century and early 20th century. In 1970s, comparative literature was greatly developed among European and American countries, its research centre is France. In the year of 1931, “The Theory of Comparative Literature” written by Paul Van Vieghem summed up the theory and history of comparative literature development at the first time.
After the Second World War, America took the place of France with its “Yearbook of comparative literature and general literature”which summarize the achievements and problems during the development of comparative literature annually. The study of comparative literature, comparatists from different countries focus on different aspects. For example, French comparatists represented by Vieghem lay stress on the Influence study among different national literature, while American comparatists represented by Wellek lay stress on the Parallel study.
And also in China, there has been a long history of literary differences. Dated back to Tang dynasty, there has been someone who compared the differences between the works of Wu Jun in Southern Dynasties and the Indian Buddhist sutras “Apadana”. Although the development of Chinese comparative literature is largely effected by different cultures, it still has its particular origin and developing process. Nowadays, the literary study of the similarities and differences between eastern and western novels has become a hot subject in the field of comparative literature.
For example, a lot of western comparatists study the Chinese works of “Liao Zhai Zhi Yi” , “ShanHai Jing” and “The Journey to the west” etc. comparing with some legendary works in the west. There is different description of ghosts, animals, gods and illusions which attract a lot of scholars’ attention. Next, I will give some of my own opinions of the differences between the Chinese and western supernatural beings. Dragon Dragon, as some kind of symbol, is widely used in both eastern and western novels. But its appearance, action and implied meaning are sometimes absolutely opposite.
Then, what is the difference between the eastern and western dragon? And what is the reason of those differences? Let’s have a look at the different dragons in Chinese and western literature. Dragons in China If you are asked to name some national emblems of China, the dragon will probably be one of the famous images that pop into your head. We Chinese often consider ourselves “the descendants of the dragon. ” As a mythical creature, the dragon is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. Traditionally, dragons are considered to govern rainfall.
They have the power to decide where and when the rain falls. In addition, the dragon is a symbol of imperial power. The emperors thought they were real dragons and the sons of the heaven. Chinese dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology and folklore, with mythic counterparts among Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Western and Turkic dragons. In Chinese art, dragons are typically portrayed as long, scaled, serpentine creatures with four legs. In yin and yang terminology, a dragon is yang (male) and complements a yin (female) fenghuang “Chinese phoenix”.
In contrast to European dragons that are considered evil, Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers, particularly control over water, rainfall, and floods. The dragon is also a symbol of power, strength, and good luck. In Chinese culture today, it is mostly used for decorative purposes. It is a taboo to disfigure a depiction of a dragon; for example, an advertisement campaign commissioned by Nike, which featured the American basketball player LeBron James slaying a dragon, was immediately banned by the Chinese government after public outcry over disrespect.
In Chinese daily language, excellent and outstanding people are compared to the dragon while incapable people with no achievements are compared with other, disesteemed creatures, such as the worm. It is not unfamiliar to you that your parents hope that you “may become the dragon”. Dragons in the west While Chinese believe dragons bring prosperity and good fortune, the creature is regarded differently in Western countries. In the Bible, dragons represent the devil and they trick the world. “Western people usually see dragons as cold-blooded reptiles, like snakes,” said Jonathan Haagen, copy editor for the Teens. They are cruel killers, breathing fire and capturing women. ” He added that people think of dragons as being dishonest because of their forked tongues. More often than not, dragons in Western literature are presented as monsters against which the hero must battle. It is a common tale for a mediaeval knight to kill a dragon and save a princess and her country from its evil. Even the popular boy wizard Harry Potter has to battle a deadly dragon and get back a golden egg from its nest in J. K. Rowling’s book “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”.
So, some Chinese experts have suggested changing the English translation of dragon to “Long”. They believe the misunderstanding of the dragon is due to the translation. In Western folklore, dragons are usually portrayed as evil, with the exceptions mainly in Welsh folklore and modern fiction. In the modern period the dragon is typically depicted as a huge fire-breathing, scaly and horned dinosaur-like creature, with leathery wings, with four legs and a long muscular tail. It is sometimes shown with feathered wings, crests, fiery manes, ivory spikes running down its spine and various exotic colorations.
Many modern stories represent dragons as extremely intelligent creatures who can talk, associated with and sometimes in control of powerful magic. A dragon’s blood often has magical properties. For example, in the opera “Siegfried”, it let Siegfried understand the language of the Forest Bird. Dragons can be written into a story in as many ways as a human character, including as wise beings whom heroes can approach for help and advice; in such cases they resemble Asian rather than European dragons. However, dragons are not all bad in the West. Such as “Puff the Magic Dragon” , a well-known song.
The lyrics tell a bitter-sweet story of the dragon Puff and his playmate Jackie Paper, a little boy. When Jackie grows up, he loses interest in the imaginary adventures of childhood and leaves Puff upset. This song represents the innocence of a child’s imagination, which is very positive for a dragon. In western culture, there are different kinds of dragons. Below are listed some of the better known types and habitat of Western Dragons in novels and tales, such as the guiver, amphiptere, wyvern and so on. During a long time, there is always someone who claims that they have seen the real dragons.
It has been suggested that sightings of dragons are just a figment of an over active imagination but, if they are seen, then perhaps they are a residue left over from the dinosaur times. Many people from very different backgrounds, however, insist that they do see them, and not as rarely as we might imagine. Whatever the case may be, stories about Dragons and their magical powers continue to attract the curiosity of us all. And, who knows, perhaps one day science will find proof that they really do exist, but there is one truth that the tales of dragons originate from our ancestors and pass down to us, both in east and west.
No matter how it differs from each other, the images of dragon presents man’s eternal admire and worship, the desire for water, fire and sky, the desire for the power to control the great nature which is beyond man’s control. Other supernatural beings As to supernatural beings, besides dragons, we have also read a lot of the devils and gods in both Chinese and western works. What is interesting is that there are many differences in appearance and character between them because of the tradition and culture. Firstly, I will show some differences between the Chinese and western Devils and Demons. Devils
In myths, legends, and various religions, devils and demons are evil or harmful supernatural beings. Devils are generally regarded as the adversaries of the gods, while the image of demons ranges from mischief makers to powerful destructive forces. In many religions, devils and demons stand on the opposite side of the cosmic balance from gods and angels. Although devils and demons have been pictured in many different ways, they are usually associated with darkness, danger, violence, and death. The images of devils and demons, or we call them ghosts (Gui) in eastern literature, are very different from those in western literature.
Chinese devils The culture of devils has a very long history in China, it can be separated into two parts, one is the ghosts (Gui) and the other is the evil spirits (Yao),we can find all kinds of ghosts in our ancient works, such as “Liaozhai Zhiyi”, “Shanhai Jing” which is very popular in western countries. Ghosts and the evils spirits are usually cruel and scared, but there are also virtuous ones, especially in evil spirits. In Chinese belief , the people are made up of two parts, body and soul. When people die, their bodies decay, but their souls will go to the hell.
If they still have wishes to fulfill, their souls will remain in Man’s world, so they become ghosts. A ghost is always very scared with blood or scars on its body. They flout on the ground and wait to take the living people’s souls away. The evil spirits are different from ghosts, they are always shaped from animals or plants, they can be very ugly and cruel, such as those shaped from lions, tigers or bears. But there are also a lot of beautiful and kind-hearted evil spirits, and they are usually female, such as those shaped by fox, rabbit or some kinds of flowers.
There are even baby evil spirits in legends and fairy tales. Here, I will mainly focus on the ghosts (Gui). In Chinese culture, the ghosts take many forms depending on the way in which the person died, and are often harmful. Many of the Chinese ghost beliefs have been accepted by neighboring cultures, notably Japan and south-east Asia. Ghost beliefs are closely associated with the traditional Chinese religion based on ancestor worship, many of which were incorporated in Taoism. Later beliefs were influenced by Buddhism, and in turn influenced and created uniquely Chinese Buddhist beliefs.
Many Chinese people today consider that it is possible to contact the spirits of their ancestors through a medium, and that the ancestor can help their descendants if properly respected and rewarded. The annual ghost festival is celebrated by Chinese around the world. On this day, ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm. Ghosts are described in classical Chinese texts, and continue to be depicted in modern literature and movies. In Chinese works, there are many different kinds of ghosts, such as Yan Wang, the leader or the emperor of all the ghosts.
Diao Si Gui, The ghost of someone who has been hanged, Shui Gui, The spirit of someone who drowned, Yuan Gui: The ghost of someone who have died a wrongful death, and so on. Western devils and Demons Like Chinese devils, there are devils and demons in western culture. In most mythologies and religions, a devil is a leader or ruler among evil spirits, a being who acts in direct opposition to the gods. The general view is that devils are trying to destroy humans, to tempt them into sinning, or to turn them against their gods. Monotheistic religions often speak of one Devil, just as they recognize one God.
A demon is generally thought to be a harmful or evil spirit or supernatural being, sometimes a god or the offspring of a god. Demons may be the messengers, attendants, or servants of the Devil. They are often monstrous in appearance, combining the features of different animals or of animals and humans. Demons were not always regarded as evil. The ancient Greeks spoke of a person’s daimon as his or her personal spirit, guardian angel, or soul. In many cultures, demons were merely inhuman supernatural powers that could be evil or good at various times, depending on whether their actions harmed or helped people.
Human witches, wizards, and sorcerers were thought to gain some of their abilities by summoning and controlling demons through magical practices. The spread of religions has had an interesting effect on demons in world mythology. When one religion replaces another, the gods of the former religion may become demons in the new faith. For example, as Islam spread through West Africa, Central Asia, and Indonesia, some local deities did not disappear but were transformed into demons within a universe governed by the God of Islam.
The common image of the Devil in Western culture is drawn from many sources. The Devil’s pointed ears, wings, and sharp protruding teeth resemble those of Charu, the underworld demon of the Etruscans of ancient Italy. The Devil’s tail, horns, and hooves are like those of satyrs and other animal gods of ancient Greece. The trident he is often shown brandishing is similar to those carried by the Greek gods Poseidon (Neptune), god of the sea, and Hades, lord of the underworld. The Hindu god Shiva, who represents the powers of destruction, also carries a trident.
The Devil sometimes appears in other forms, such as a winged snake or dragon. Gods Opposite as devils, Gods are the righteous characters who own great power in literature and culture. They live in the place where people can not touch and control the whole world. They are the imagination of the natural phenomenon or social life given by our ancestors, because they cannot explain these questions in ancient times. But in Chinese and western literature, the gods are very different, or we can say, the Chinese gods are more serious than western gods.
Gods in China (Xian) We have read a lot of novels about gods in Chinese, such as “The Journey To The West”, or “BaoLianDeng”, from these novels, it is not difficult to see that the gods in China are far from common people. They live in the Palace in the sky, or far away in the mountains or sea where the scenery must be very beautiful. They are in charge of the rules of all creatures, including themselves, peoples, animals and devils. In ancient Chinese tales, gods are perfect, indifferent, responsible, authoritative and they will never die.
They look like the common people, but life is much more boring, they are forbidden to love and even come to man’s world. In Chinese culture, the first goddess is called Nv Wa, it is said that she mended the sky and created people. So in Chinese culture of gods, all goddess are beautiful and kind, they set the perfect examples of the a woman or a mother. Such as SanShengMu in the folklore “BaoLianDeng” and the ChangE living on the moon. Western gods We get familiar with western gods because of the famous Greece myths.
They are called God because it is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism. God is most often conceived of as the supernatural creator and overseer of the universe. Theologians have ascribed a variety of attributes to the many different conceptions of God. The most common among these include omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, divine simplicity, and eternal and necessary existence. Compared with Chinese gods, gods in western world are more humanistic.
Except the never-ending life and supernatural power, they are almost the same with common people. They have the so-called seven emotions and six sensory pleasures as Man. They can be selfish, arrogant, vain, luxury and seldom show their good quality. They are half-angels and half-devils. Come back to their origin, the Greek myths say that man are from males, and regard Prometheus as people’s ancestor. So all the male gods in Greek myths are strong and handsome, are on behalf of power and strength. But those goddesses even cannot decide their own fate, this is the obvious opinion of men being greater than women.
Conclusion Not only in supernatural beings, but also in every aspect, such as the description of heroes and stories, the theme an article emphasize, we see a lot of differences between Chinese and western literature. The causes for these differences are complicated, I am afraid it would be a question concerning many subjects. We should not only compare the works of different countries, but also to study the differences of different cultures, and the most important thing is to improve our own literature and culture by this kind of comparison.