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How Did the World Come to be – Exploring the Chinese Story of Pangu

It always has been a mystery how the universe began. There is no definite answer to what came first. The topic has been an eternal debate for many people with different belief systems. Every computation, explanation and even theory on how the Earth came to be are always left unproven. It inevitably leaves loopholes that most of us can’t justify. Even our ancestors from remote antiquity can’t provide a definite answer on this topic. We can’t do anything but speculate. We disguise these speculations under the pretense of a mythological story. Consequently, that will be our topic for today. 

We will delve into an old Chinese story on how the Earth came to be. 

pangu separates the sky
image from Internet

There are a plethora of accounts of how the Earth came into existence. Most of these stories follow a specific pattern. That’s why we must delve into different perspectives that introduce something new. 

There’s no better way to do this than to deconstruct the Chinese story of Pangu Separates the Sky 盘古开天 (Pángǔ kāi tiān). It is a unique perspective that originates from the creative minds of Chinese people. It explains the origin of the world. Though it is a myth, it has vital significance to Chinese people. Not only is it critical for Chinese culture, but it is also captivating. Everyone loves this story, children and adults alike.  

Related Chinese Story

Legend has it that before heaven and earth were opened, there was a thing that did not know what it was. It has no consciousness, no externalities, and even emotions. They call it the Di Jiang (some people called him Chaos 混沌 Hùndùn). Di Jiang is a floating emotionless pocket pigmented with crimson color. It is faceless but with four wings and six legs. Interestingly, chaos has no orifices like that of a normal human. It looked like a pocket without holes. Despite its outward appearance, Di Jiang had two friends; Shu and Hu.

Su and Hu are the only good friends of Di Jiang. Consequently, it treats the two with benevolence and hospitality. To repay the kindness of Di Jiang, Su and Hu adhered to his request to open its seven orifices. So, Su and Hu discussed opening seven orifices for Di Jiang, and Di Jiang agreed. Su He Hu took seven days to open up the seven orifices for Di Jiang. Unfortunately, it died because of this process.

After Di Jiang died, a man named Pan Gu appeared in his stomach. Di Jiang’s spirit became the Yellow Emperor.

Pangu had been sleeping soundly 酣睡 (hānshuì) for 108,000 years. One day, he suddenly woke up. Opening his eyes, he found that there was nothing but darkness in front of him. He was astounded by the apparent nothingness.

His anger flamed up, so he pulled out one of his teeth牙齿 (yáchǐ), turned it into a powerful divine ax, and wielded it with an effort. The light and clear air rose up to the sky and the heavy and turbid to the earth.

Pangu still did not give up and continued to cast spells. Many years later, the sky finally couldn’t be higher, and the ground couldn’t be thicker. At this time, Pangu had exhausted all his strength. He slowly opened his eyes and looked at the world he had created with his own hands.

Before Pangu died, his breath became变成 (biàn chéng) wind and clouds, his voice turned into the thunder, his eyes became the sun and the moon, his body and limbs became high mountains, and his blood became rivers and his muscles and bones turned into roads of the earth. His hair and furs the stars, flowers, and trees. Even his sweat turned into rain and dew. More importantly, Pangu’s spirit and soul also became human after his death.

The Chinese Ancient Social  Realist Poet: Bai Juyi

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