Chinese Story of Creation

Pangu created the world

Pangu is the god who created the world in ancient Chinese legends. He was first mentioned in the “三五曆記” written by 徐整 during the period of the Three Kingdoms.

Later, in “述异记” written by 梁任昉, it was also said that Pangu’s body was transformed into various objects in the material world. The legend of Pangu has it that before heaven and earth were created, the universe was like a big egg, a mess, with no east, west, north, west, front, back, left, or right. It was in such a world that a great hero was born and his name was Pangu.

Pangu slept soundly in this “big egg” for about 18,000 years. When he woke up, he found darkness all around him. He wanted to stretch his limbs, but found himself enclosed within the egg, making it very difficult for him to breathe. So, he became furious, pulled out one of his teeth, turned it into a huge magic ax, swung it and chopped around with all his might.

The pressure in the “egg” was released, the airy contents floated to high places, and turned into the sky while the solid contents slowly settled down and turned into the earth. Thus, heaven and earth appeared in a once chaotic universe and it was no longer pitch black. However, the sky was not high enough and the earth was vast. Pangu was afraid that heaven would fall and crush the earth. So he stood tall and held up the heavens.

Pangu then cast magic spells on himself and grew taller each day. The taller he grew, the higher heaven rose. After 18,000 years of hard work, Pangu became a giant who held the sky and towered over the earth. Over time, the sky became higher and higher; the earth became thicker and thicker. Pangu’s body grew to a height of 45,000 miles. He did not stop but continued to work his magic and grew taller still.

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After an infinite number of years, the sky could not be higher and the earth could not be thicker. By this time, Pangu had exhausted all his powers. He opened his eyes and looked at the world he had created with his magic. The heaven stayed where it was and would not fall down. Finally satisfied, he lay down on the earth and his body disintegrated.

His breath became the wind and clouds. His voice turned into thunder. His left eye turned into the sun, His right eye turned into the moon and his hair turned into stars. His blood flowed into rivers and lakes. In the fertile fields, bones grew into flowers, plants and trees. His veins divided the roads on the ground. His teeth turned into stone and metal. His sweat turned into rain and dew. His head became Taishan 泰山 in the east. His feet became Huashan 华山 in the west. His left arm became Hengshan 衡山 in the south, his right arm became 横山 in the north, and his abdomen became 嵩山 in the central region. His soul would later enter clay statues and give life to them.

Nuwa creates humans

A goddess by the name of Nuwa 女娲 walked the earth for thousands of years. She suddenly felt her loneliness. One day, she looked into a pool of water and an idea struck her. She would make someone just like her so she could have a companion. So she dug some clay by the pool and shaped it according to her own image. Not satisfied with one clay statue, she created a herd of them. Infused with the soul of Pangu, the clay statues came to life one by one. Nuwa was so excited that she created more and more of them and called them humans. Unlike the animals, humans were created in the image of a goddess and so they could communicate with her.

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As their numbers grew, the humans started to disperse, form their own tribes and territories. But she soon realised that there was a problem. Humans grew old and died. She was getting tired and could not replace them fast enough. So she created two forms of humans – male and female that could reproduce and perpetuate the species. That way, she would not have to keep sculpting clay statues. However, Nuwa felt that being made in her image, humans must reproduce under a strict set of rules dictated by her. She imposed the concepts of marriage and family.

Huang Di fights Chi You

Legend has it that thousands of years ago, many clans lived and established tribes in the Yellow River and Yangtze River basins of China. Two great leaders emerged. One was Xuan Yuan 軒轅, also known as Huangdi 黄帝 (Yellow Emperor) who ruled over the Yellow River Basin. The other was Shennong 神农, also known as the first Yandi 炎帝 (Fire Emperor). Under the leadership of Huangdi, Chinese people developed agriculture, animal husbandry and Taoism. Under the leadership of Yandi, Chinese people developed slash and burn agriculture and medicine. As there was no writing during this period, most of the legends during this time was passed down by word of mouth. Depending on the source, the first Yandi Shennong was succeeded by 8 or 10 descendents.

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Battle of Zhuolu

Legend had it that there was a mythical creature called Chi You 蚩尤 who often led his beastly tribesmen to invade and harass nearby tribes. Once, Chi You invaded the territory of Emperor Yandi. Emperor Yandi raised an army to resist, but he was no match for Chi You. Emperor Yan knew that he could not fight alone, so he fled to Zhuo Lu 涿鹿, a place where Huangdi resided and asked Huangdi for help. In fact, Huangdi the Yellow Emperor had long wanted to get rid of the menace that was Chi You, so he rallied the tribal leaders to a decisive battle against Chi You in the fields of Zhuo Lu. This is the famous “涿鹿之战”.

Chi You was winning at first. But Huangdi the Yellow Emperor called upon a dragon to help him. Chi You’s soldiers might be ferocious, but they were no match for the Yan Huang alliance and their dragons. When Chi You thought he could make the Yan Huang soldiers lose their way in heavy fog, The Big Dipper guided them. Chi You brought the the gods of wind and rain on the Yan Huang army. The Yan Huang army also called on gods and mythical creatures to assist them.

Destroying Chi You

When Chi You was finally defeated, His head and body were separately buried so he would not be able to cause trouble after death. Subjects of the Yellow Emperor could finally cultivate his land in peace. From then on, Chinese people saw him as a god. After the battle of Zhuo Lu, the absence of a common enemy caused Huangdi and Yandi to fight each other. Yandi lost and surrendered. Thenceforth, the two clans were merged to form the Yanhuang clan. Based on the Chinese story of creation, Chinese people identify themselves as descendents of Yanhuang 炎黄子孙.