Salman rushdie calls mythology “the family album or storehouse of a culture's childhood, containing [its] … future, codified as tales that are both poems and oracles” (1999, 83). Myths are, in his words, “the waking dreams our societies permit” that celebrate “the non-belongers, the different ones, the outlaws, the freaks” (73). Of course, all societies have such waking dreams, but women as mythic figures loom rather larger in some cultures than in others. Chinese poets, painters, sculptors, librettists, essayists, commentators, philosophers, storytellers, puppeteers, illustrators, and historians made a veritable industry of myths of womanhood—an industry that, I shall argue today, far outstrips any of its counterparts elsewhere in Asia.

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