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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 146

Shen of the Sea is a collection of sixteen lighthearted and humorous Chinese folktales. These action-filled stories express ancient Oriental philosophies and culture, and offer descriptions of pagodas and paper-covered windows, brocade tapestries and lacquered sedans, Chinese medicines and foods, and the constant fear of "death by beheading." Many of the tales attempt to explain the invention of a widely used article or the beginning of a custom: How were printing and gunpowder invented? Why did people begin to drink tea or eat with chopsticks? Who flew the world's first kite?

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Each story in Shen of the Sea illustrates an aspect of human nature, often with an emphasis on family and community relationships. Some of the tales reflect how misunderstanding, stubbornness, or fate can influence the outcome of a person's life. In other stories, the human characters interact with mythical demons (Shen), dragons, or bewitched animals.

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