Out of the Chinese story books DDâ€™s uncle sent to her, there was one book talking about the creators of the world: Pangu and NÃ¼wa. Although this book is bit deep for DDâ€™s age, I still read to her once a while.
This book features a synthesis of three stories about Pangu and NÃ¼wa from classical Chinese mythology, which is a collection of cultural history, folktales, and religions that have been passed down in oral or written tradition, including creation myths and legends and myths concerning the founding of Chinese culture and the Chinese state.
In Chinese mythology, Pangu was the first living being and the creator of all. He separated Yin from Yang with a swing of his giant axe, creating the Earth (murky Yin) and the Sky (clear Yang).
To keep them separated, Pangu stood between them and pushed up the Sky. This task took 18,000 years; with each day the sky grew ten feet (3 meters) higher, the Earth ten feet wider, and Pangu ten feet taller.
After the 18,000 years had elapsed, Pangu was laid to rest. His breath became the wind; his voice the thunder; left eye the sun and right eye the moon; his body became the mountains and extremes of the world; his blood formed rivers; his muscles the fertile lands; his facial hair the stars and milky way; his fur the bushes and forests; his bones the valuable minerals; his bone marrows sacred diamonds; his sweat fell as rain; and the fleas on his fur carried by the wind became the fish and animals throughout the land.Thus in death, as in life, Pangu made the world as it is today.
Many centuries later, there was a goddess named NÃ¼wa who roamed this wild world that Pangu had left behind, and she became lonely in her solitude. Stopping by a pond to rest, she saw her reflection and realized that there was nothing like herself in the world. She resolved to make something like herself for company (Walls, 1984).
NÃ¼wa the goddess then used the mud of the water bed to form the shape of humans. She breathed into her creations to give them life. NÃ¼wa then became bored of individually making every human so she started putting a rope in the water bed and lettings the drops of mud that fell from it become new humans.
Even then, NÃ¼wa realized that her work was incomplete, because as her creations died she would have to make more. She solved this problem by dividing the humans into male and female, so that they could reproduce and save her from having to make new humans to break her solitude (Walls, 1984).
Many years later, there was a quarrel between two of the more powerful gods, and they decided to settle it with a fight. When the water god, Gong Gong, saw that he was losing, he smashed his head against Mount Buzhou, a pillar holding up the sky. The pillar collapsed and caused the sky to tilt towards the northwest and the earth to shift to the southeast. This caused great calamities, such as unending fires, vast floods, and the appearance of fierce man-eating beasts.
NÃ¼wa cut off the legs of a giant tortoise and used them to supplant the fallen pillar, alleviating the situation and sealing the broken sky using stones of seven different colors, but she was unable to fully correct the tilted sky. This explains the phenomenon that sun, moon, and stars move towards the northwest, and that rivers in China flow southeast into the Pacific Ocean.
The texts of the book Pangu and NÃ¼waÂ were well written, reflecting the beauty of Chinese langauge. The carefully composed illustrations, coupled with superb book design, make the book appropriately childlike and whimsical, and open this classic tale to new interpretations.
The high-quality print is nicely produced to capture the vivid color and exceptional detail of the original artwork. It became one of my favorite books. Hopefully, one day, DD will enjoy it as well.
Walls, J. & Walls, Y. (1984). Classical Chinese Myths, Hong Kong, Joint Publishing Company, P. 135 (BL1825.C48 1984).