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A Comparative Study of Chinese and Western Cyclic Myths


Robert S. Chen

The cyclic myth is a temporal schema of the unity of man and the cosmos. It identifies man with the periodic becoming and perpetual regeneration in nature, and guarantees personal duration against the flux of time. It has imprints on every sphere of human experience in Chinese and Western cultures. The author first traces the origin, formation, abstraction and presentation of the cyclic myth in Chinese mythology, ritual, philosophy and literature, and confirms that the cyclic ontology is the core of Chinese culture. He then adumbrates the transmutation of the cyclic mentality in the linear eschatology of the Western culture and its impact in literature from Dante, Milton, Defoe, Sterne, Goethe, Shelley and Yeats to Joyce and Beckett. The author concludes with the assertion that the cyclic myth is an informing structure of literary works and an index of cultures.