The Shanhaijing 山海經 "Classic of mountains and seas" is a kind of early geography of China. The modern version has 18 juan "scrolls" and consists of fourt parts describing "mountains" (shanjing 山經), "seas" (haijing 海經), "the great wilderness" (dahuangjing 大荒經), and China herself (haineijing 海內經). Authorship is traditionally attributed to Emperor Yu 禹, the mythological founder of the Xia dynasty 夏 (17th to 15th cent. BCE), or Yi 益, one of his ministers, or is said to be a chart of the ding 鼎 cauldrons Yu the Great erected in the provinces of China.
The first two parts of the book can be seen as Daoist writings. The first part deals with mountais and their nature and character, plants, animals and ores, all being features relevant for the ideal performance of Daoist shamans working there. It was probably compiled during the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. The second part deals with foreign countries and its inhabitants and contains a lot of mythological stories and tales about strange persons and animals. It was probably written during the late 3rd or the 2nd centuries BCE. The last two parts were originally supplements compiled by the Former Han period 漢 (206 BC-8 AD) scholars Liu Xiang 劉向 or Liu Xin 劉歆. Only when Guo Pu 郭璞 started compiling his commentary during the 4th century the supplements were dealt with as proper parts of the classic.
Although the stories told in the Shanhaijing are historically not reliable they are valuable sources for the study of early Chinese mythology, and eventually for the origin of certain parts of Chinese popular religion. The Yellow Emperor 黃帝, for example, can be found out to have been a deity venerated in western China.
Guo Pu's commentary to the Shanhaijing is the oldest. During the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) Hao Yixing 郝懿行 wrote a commentary, the Shanhaijing jianshu 山海經箋疏. The most recent commentary is Yuan Ke's 袁珂 Shanhaijing jishi 山海經集釋.
There are translations by Schiffeler (only partial), Thern, Yuan K'o, Mathieu, and Anne Birrell (1999). The Classic of Mountains and Seas. London: Penguin.
Source: Yuan Xingpei 袁行霈 (1992). "Shanhaijing 山海經", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史, vol. 2, pp. 887 f. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.
1. 南山經 Nanshan The classic of the southern mountains
2. 西山經 Xishan The classic of the western mountains
3. 北山經 Beishan The classic of the northern mountains
4. 東山經 Dongshan The classic of the eastern mountains
5. 中山經 Zhongshan The classic of the central mountains
6. 海外南經 Haiwai nan The classic of regions beyond the seas: The south
7. 海外西經 Haiwai xi The classic of regions beyond the seas: The west
8. 海外北經 Haiwai bei The classic of regions beyond the seas: The north
9. 海外東經 Haiwai dong The classic of regions beyond the seas: The east
10. 海內南經 Hainei nan The classic of regions within the seas: The south
11. 海內西經 Hainei xi The classic of regions within the seas: The west
12. 海內北經 Hainei bei The classic of regions within the seas: The north
13. 海內東經 Hainei dong The classic of regions within the seas: The east
14. 大荒東經 Dahuang dong The classic of the great wilderness: The east
15. 大荒南經 Dahuang nan The classic of the great wilderness: The south
16. 大荒西經 Dahuang xi The classic of the great wilderness: The west
17. 大荒北經 Dahuang bei The classic of the great wilderness: The north
18. 海內經 Hainei The classic of regions within the seas