Mythical Monsters, by Charles Gould, , at sacred-texts.com
In the sayings of the philosopher Tso, the following remarks may be found: "Virtue existed during the times of the Hsia dynasty; drawings of all animals far and wide were made, and the metal from which the urn was made, for the purpose of engraving thereon the images of these animals, was presented as tribute by the feudal lords of the Nine Kingdoms. This urn contained the images of all manner and kinds of animals. This was for the purpose of letting the people know about their existence, so that they might avoid them in entering the mountains and forests, and the genii of the mountains and rivers. Hence the object of the classic treating on the 'Wonders by Land and Sea.'" When Yü assuaged the floods, the Emperor presented him with a red-coloured wand made of jadestones, and then abdicated his throne in his favour; on this account he ordered a tribute of metals from the feudal lords of the Nine Kingdoms, wherewith to cast the urn, on which were engraved all kinds of animals from far and wide, such as the wonderful animals and beings of mountains, rivers, grass, and wood, as well as the wonders to be found among walking animals and inhabitants of the air. Yü, when Emperor, caused the forms of these wonders to be described, how produced, and their natures; he also had them classified. When he had described those wonders, whether seen or heard of, or common or uncommon, or rarely heard of, all these he had described minutely, whereby, when the people heard of them, an exceeding fear fell on them. All animals and beings that were common in those days were described in the Annals of Yü, but such as were wonderful and rare were engraved on the nine urns. These urns when completed were placed in those parts of the empire where these wonders originally came from, in order that the people of that age might learn and see daily the things that were either heard of or seen by others.
The things brought by tribute-bearers from afar were also added
unto the nine urns. Indeed, this made wonders an ordinary matter. That the people might learn these things was the idea of the sage King Yü. Hence, even though at that time all things were described honestly, still the works of that period are far deeper than those of the Chow dynasty. At the time of the last Emperor of the Hsia dynasty, the historiographer Chung Ku, fearing that that Emperor might destroy the books treating of the ancient and present time, carried them in flight to Yin. History also says that Kung Kiah compiled into a book all the things that were engraved on the vases and dishes from the time of Hwang Ti and his ministers, Yao and Sz. And the Annals treating on the animals described on the nine urns were due to such men as Chung Ku and Kung Kiah. These Annals are now known as the classic treating on "Wonders by Land and Sea." The nine urns were extinct at the time of Tsing, but the pictures and classic still existed. During the Tsin dynasty, Tao Chang and his school of poets gazed upon the pictures of the "Wonders of Land and Sea." In the "Seven Commentaries" of the Yuen family, there is observed a case of Chang Sun Yao's pictures of these wonders. These cases may be cited as proofs of the authenticity of the wonders. At the present time, the classic treating on these wonders still exists, but the pictures have become extinct. This classic has been treated upon and commented on and made intelligent by the people that have come after it, insomuch that the names of different districts of the Tsing and Han dynasties have been made to correspond with some of the names mentioned in the "Book of Wonders by Land and Sea." Hence the readers of this book are divided into the believing and the doubting. The believers base their belief upon the fact that it was the Emperor Yü who compiled it and explained its origin. The doubtful base their doubt on the probable fact of the book having been written by people who existed after Yü, and therefore unreasonable. This is indeed a base calumny. Liu Hsiu of the Han dynasty makes mention of the book in his seven chapters treating on it. And his style of composition might be said to be very ancient. Kwoh Poh of the Tsin dynasty in his preface and notes on this book, states these wonders. The honour of transmitting this book to posterity is due to Liu Hsiu and Kwoh Poh; but, to prevent learners from considering that the notes made by the two scholars are of no importance, I have therefore written this preface.
Of the Ming Dynasty.