The second edition of this book came into existence under the most unusual circumstances. In the middle of our Spring 2020 semester, we were, like the rest of the world, suddenly confronted with forces of a very different kind than we were studying in our course. Covid-19 was our demon to come to terms with; it is neither supernatural nor unnatural, but at the time, we knew very little about this disease. I, for one, suddenly understood much better how people imagined the origins of illness and infectious diseases in the age before germ theory, and how so much of our course material could connect to it. But to paraphrase an observant student: we were here to study history; it turns out that living in historical times is not fun at all.
Despite the technological challenges of emergency remote learning, the uncertainty of a rapidly changing world, and innumerable other challenges, the students managed to pull together an amazing set of chapters about what they learned about China’s magical creatures, the strange and wonderful world they inhabit, and how the Chinese people have made sense of the things in life that challenged their knowledge of nature and the universe.
I hope you enjoy reading this extended second edition as much as the first!