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The Sea of Meanings, Established by the Saints [Море значений, установленных святыми]. Xylograph facsimile edition / Translation from Tangut, foreword, commentary and appendixes by E. I. Kychanov. Saint Petersburg: "Peterburgskoe Vostokovedenie" center, 1997. 330 pp. (Monuments of the Oriental Culture: Saint Petersburg academic series. IV).

“The Sea of Meanings, Established by the Saints” is an original work in Tangut (Xi-xia) language written in the second half of the 12th century. It is related to the Chinese literary genre “leishu” which is conventionally translated as “encyclopedia.” The Tangut work closely follows the pattern of the Song Dynasty “leishu” and reflects contemporary trends of Chinese thought, but it is not a direct translation from Chinese. The study of the extant parts of the “Sea of Meanings” reveals the compilers’ impressively profound knowledge of the Chinese literature and also confirms the special accent put by the Tanguts on the propagation of filial piety as the most comprehensive ideology capable of guaranteeing stability of the state when transferred into the “lord-subject” relations. This tendency is known from other Tangut sources as well. Very important are those few traces dispersed in the “Sea of Meanings” that reflect native Tangut worldview and refer to Tangut legends. Together with the text of the “Great Ode” also included in this volume, they allowed the author to make a first attempt to reconstruct Tangut mythology. Reconstructed fragments demonstrate a substantial similarity between Tangut myths and those of the peoples of the Southwest China, especially of the “izu” group, which have been recently introduced to the public through the works of Chinese scholars. For example, one can mention mythological motifs of the bird (crane) as the creator (weaver) of the Universe, and nine brothers of the White High. The abbreviated version of the latter legend was even incorporated into the full title of the Tangut state. Like any other encyclopedia, the “Sea of Meanings” was a tool to spread knowledge and it also served as a textbook.


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