In the beginning…

You are probably wondering why I didn’t start with the Chinese creation story right away on this blog. There is a good reason for this: there isn’t just one Chinese creation story, and the ones we have are sparse.

 

First, let’s start with the giant in the room; Pangu. He’s probably the most familiar Chinese mythological figure to the average Westerner. Here’s the version of his legend found on his Wikipedia page, retold in my own words.

At first, nothing existed in the universe but a formless chaos. Eventually, a cosmic egg formed (cosmic chicken was nowhere to be found) and over a course of 18,000 years, the perfectly opposed principles of Yin and Yang found balance and at last Pangu emerged (mugshot above).

With a swing of his giant ax, Pangu separated the murky Yin and clear Yang into the Earth and Sky respectively. To keep them separated, he stood between them, with the earth growing ten feet thicker, the sky ten feet higher, and Pangu himself ten feet taller every day for the next 18,000 years. Must have been boring (although in some versions, he had help from a turtle, a qilin, a phoenix, and a dragon).

After 18,000 years had elapsed, Pangu died, and his body parts became the rest of the world. Breath becomes air and clouds, eyes the sun and moon, facial hair becomes stellar phenomena, muscle tissue became fertile land, and his fleas became animals. Also his blood is the water you drink! Nice thought, isn’t it?

Cool story, eh? But it says nothing about the creation of humanity.

There’s the story of Nüwa, the snake-like goddess who either created humanity out of clay because she was bored or by doing it with her brother (mythology, man). But that story says nothing about where the world in which these beings lived came to be.

This has actually led scholars to believe that China has no cohesive creation story in its body of myths and folklore. Wikipedia calls it the “China as a special case” theory. Whether or not there was such a story at any time in Chinese history doesn’t bother me, though. Lot’s of myths worldwide have lots of variations for any number of factors.

So have fun drinking the blood of a giant. Our next topic will be on the most awesome of animals in the Chinese mythical bestiary: the dragon!

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