Shen of the Sea

 Shen_of_the_Sea 793903


Shen of the Sea: Chinese Stories for Children

by Arthur Bowie Chrisman

illustrated by Else Hasselriis

Age: 6+ (read to); 8+ (independent reading)

Interests: China, folk tales, dragons

E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.: 1925

252 pp – 16 stories

This is a collection of Chinese folk tales, though it’s not certain how authentically traditional or Chinese they really are. The author, born in Virginia, never travelled to China, but he studied Chinese history and literature, and reputedly heard these tales in California, from a Chinese shopkeeper. What Chrisman did contribute for certain is a knack for oral storytelling, and a loose writing style, rambling and rhythmic, that begs to be read aloud.

The stories are little oddities, about sons and fathers, kings and princesses, demons and dragons, and foolishness and good sense. There are quite a few about a very lazy, no-account son, and the consequences of his actions. There are even a few amusing ‘origin’ stories, about the accidental invention of chopsticks or kites. As in all folk tales, the humble often rise to power and wealth, and a good or bad turn is always repaid in kind.

Whether or not these are fully authentic Chinese stories, the narrator’s voice is wryly witty, and the tales themselves are quirky and amusing. Rambling and wordy, this book is best read aloud.

Full list of stories:

Ah Mee’s Invention
Shen of the Sea
How Wise Were the Old Men
Buy a Father
Four Generals
The Rain King’s Daughter
Many Wives
That Lazy Ah Fun
The Moon Maiden
Ah Tcha the Sleeper
I Wish It Would Rain
High as Han Hsin
Contrary Chueh Chun
Pies of the Princess
As Hai Low Kept House

(used copies available via


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mary Gilmartin
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 18:26:18

    Sounds like an interesting book based on your review.


    • Kim
      Jul 18, 2013 @ 09:44:32

      I found it enjoyably quirky. I’ve seen some reviewers indignant over the fact that the author had never even been to China, but I thought the stories had the ‘flavour’ of authenticity to them, as well as the voice.


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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