Star-crossed lovers, fathers killing sons and a warrior bride shackling her newlywed husband to the bed, all play a role in the legendary folklore of Persia’s most famous fabled family; that of Rostam and his ancestors and descendants.
Journey to the West is a classic Chinese novel written by Wu Cheng’en in the 16th century. It depicts the adventures of a Buddhist monk and his three disciples. Although Journey to the West may be considered a pleasant introduction to the calm and gentle Buddhist philosophy behind this story is in fact a real journey by a Buddhist monk ten centuries earlier.
You may not know it, but the original Hamlet was actually a Danish Prince who had his father killed by his uncle. Over 600 years later, Shakespeare’s play about this prince is still a favorite among theater-goers. But how much do you actually know about the story behind this iconic tragedy?
Lady Murasaki’s Tale of Genji is one of the most celebrated novels in Japanese history. The story follows the life of Hikaru Genji, a child of nobility born into ancient Japan’s Heian Period. It was written by a woman known only as Murasaki Shikibu, who lived during this tumultuous time and recorded the customs and details of court life.
Some babies shake rattles and others shake up kingdoms. We hear many stories of the unhappy lives and ends of child rulers. Most recently, in 1908, Puyi became the last emperor of China at only two years old. As the crowning ceremony began, the frightened little emperor had to be carried to the throne by his father as he cried, kicked, and clawed – desperately trying to escape. But he had no choice. A child though he was, he had to rule an empire.
Every culture had strong influences on each other and their legends. A minor example of this can be seen in something as simple as a body armor – Ancient India’s Karna’s kawach (“armour”) has been compared with that of Ancient Greek’s Achilles’ Styx-coated body and with Ancient Irish warrior Ferdiad’s horny skin that could not be pierced.
We would often see her images and, perhaps just as often, forget her name. In paintings, she is a beautiful tragic figure, looking up helplessly towards a Roman soldier standing over her. However, in 16th century Europe, there was no other ancient name that fuels an artist’s imagination like “Lucretia”.
Chinese mythology and cosmology rest on the concept that the universe is shaped and maintained by two fundamental forces called yin and yang. They are opposites yet complementary forces that interact to form a dynamic system where the whole is greater than the assembled parts.
In “Civilization of China” (1911), Herbert Giles wrote that “for pleasure pure and simple, independent of gains and losses, the theater occupies the warmest place in every Chinaman’s heart”. The fact that the Chinese theater is also known by the name guo cui (“quintessence of the nation”) solidifies its prestige as the most important form of entertainment in China where it has been for centuries.
The concept of the afterlife in the ancient world is more varied and somewhat more complicated. Unlike travelling to hell, which seems to be a much quicker process, a soul’s journey to heaven consists of various tests and layers before it could reach its final resting place.
The people of ancient Rome knew of a tragic hero Drusus (Drusus the Elder), the younger brother of Tiberius who died in a campaign. But there was another, younger and lesser known, Drusus in Tiberius’ family. He was Nero Claudius Drusus (Drusus the Younger, nicknamed Castor), the only son of Tiberius. The elder Drusus may have been a hero, but Castor seemed to be mostly overlooked first by his own family, as well as future historians.
In mythology, the fox usually has a positive connotation. In early Mesopotamian mythology, the fox is one of the sacred animals and a messenger of the goddess Ninhursag. Then in Asia, the fox became cynical.