Myths, Legends and Folkways of East Asia (PG)

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures

Module overview

This module introduces students to some of the most prominent themes of East Asian mythology. From mythical culture bearers and warring monkey kings to mischievous fox spirits and perfidy sensing goats, we will examine the origins of various myths, their sources and evolution over time, as well as their historical and cultural significance.



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. demonstrate advanced understanding of the theories and methods used to study myth traditions;
  2. analyse critically the sources of various myths in East Asia;
  3. discuss the historical and cultural significance of various myth traditions in East Asia;
  4. demonstrate advanced skills necessary to research specific myth traditions in East Asia;
  5. analyse specific myths and compose critical studies of their influence on East Asian society.


Total taught hours : 20 hours. 1 hours of lecture and 1 hour seminar per week for 10 weeks.

Independent study : 130 hours

Total hours for module : 150 hours

Scope and syllabus

The following outline is illustrative and the content may vary based on student interests and availability of teaching staff.

  • Introduction to Module and Introduction to Mythography
  • East Asian Culture Bearers Myths I
  • East Asian Culture Bearers Myths II
  • Sacred Geographies in East Asia
  • Animals and Mythology in China
  • Animals and Mythology in Korea
  • Animals and Mythology in Japan
  • Afterlife, Immortality and the Underworld in China
  • Afterlife, Immortality and the Underworld in Japan
  • Afterlife, Immortality and the Underworld in Korea
  • Continuity and Difference in East Asian Myth Traditions
  • East Asian Myths in the Modern World

Method of assessment

  • Annotated bibliography of 1,000 words (30%)
  • Myth study of 3,000 words (70%)

Suggested reading

Core readings:

  • Birrell. Chinese Mythology. JHUP 1999.
  • Strassberg. A Chinese Bestiary. UCP 2008.
  • Pu and Minford. Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. Penguin 2006.
  • Bathgate. The Fox's Craft in Japanese Religion and Folklore. Routledge 2004.
  • Isomae et al. Japanese Mythology. Equinox 2009.
  • Grayson. Myths and Legends from Korea. Routledge 2012.

Additional readings:

  • Kimbrough, et al. Monsters, Animals and other Worlds. Columbia UP 2018
  • Doty. Mythography. 2nd ed. Unv of Alabama. 2000.
  • Watson et al., The Bloomsbury Reader in The Study of Myth. Bloomsbury 2019.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules