IMAGE:  December 2002 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
Volume 95, Issue 2
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"Now that the joke has been had..."

The hiss of wings
Re: "I'll believe that when snakes have wings" ("Citations," October/02): I was intrigued by the note inasmuch as I was reminded of the Ming she, or "hissing snake," found in the Shan hai jing (The classic of mountains and seas), a repository of strange spirits, curious folkways, medical beliefs, and other related oral and written traditions of early Chinese origins dating back to the Shang dynasty (c. 1500-1027 B.C.).

This snake is described as follows: "In the Xian/Hsien River...[there are] many hissing snakes whose appearance would be comparable to those of [ordinary] snakes were it not for their four wings. Their sounds are comparable to those of the ching/qing [a chime consisting of a stone shaped like a carpenter's square, which is hung from its apex to a supporting frame; it was originally used as an instrument in the performance of ceremonial music]. When they are observed one's town will be subject to a great drought."

This only goes to show that some things just do not change over time, including flying snakes!

John W. Schiffeler
Carmel Valley, California

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