Classic of Mountains and Seas is probably one of the most ancient books about geography. The history of this book dates back to the Zhou Dynasty (1134 BC to 256 BC) or even earlier. Classic of Mountains and Seas is structured with 18 fascicles and has remained generally unaltered since the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368). This book is not a narrative; it details descriptions of locations in the mountains, seas, lands, and wilderness. The descriptions are usually about medicines, monsters, and geological features. Many of the descriptions are very mundane. Chapters follow the same pattern, and the whole book consists of different topics in that way.
This book contains rich legends and fairy tales, which are valuable for historical studies, especially for research on elements of primitive society in China, such as surnames, tribes, understandings of the universe, and nature. Since ancient times, this book has been seen as an encyclopedia. It illustrates beyond the limits of space and time and records the magical figures, local cultures and rituals, and all kinds of gardens and treasures. Moreover, among hundreds of mythical monsters that were described in the book Classic of Mountains and Seas, most of them are obscure in terms of location, attributes, and function.
Since the old book designs are ancient, challenging, and use vague language, most versions of the book don’t have English descriptions. People with limited knowledge of Chinese culture may not understand the stories behind the monsters. The thesis project presented in this study is a redesign of the mythical monster characters in this book. The purpose of this project is not only to design memorable and attractive characters to give non-Chinese audiences direct information about the monsters but to also design a concise book that can convey cultural messages to those who want to know more about traditional Chinese culture.
Visual Communication Design (MFA)
Department, Program, or Center
School of Design (CAD)
Nancy A. Ciolek
Li, Bochuan, "Understanding Culture Through Traditional Chinese Fairy Tales: A Study on the effects of Chinese fairy tale characters on audience perception of culture" (2018). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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