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Pangu Creation Story

The first writer to record the myth of Pangu was thought to be Xu Zheng during the Three Kingdoms period. However, his name was found in a tomb predating the Three Kingdoms period.

This discovery suggests that the tale of Pangu had been circulating orally or through other undocumented writings long before it was formally recorded by Xu Zheng.

In the beginning, there was nothing, and the universe was in a featureless, formless primordial state known as “chaos.”

This chaos coalesced into a cosmic egg over the span of about 18,000 years. Within this cosmic egg, the perfectly opposed principles of yin and yang became balanced, creating a state of perfect harmony.

It was within this state that Pangu, a colossal and powerful being, emerged (or woke up). Pangu inside the cosmic egg symbolizes Taiji, the Great Ultimate, which encompasses both yin and yang.

Pangu is usually depicted as a primitive, hairy giant with horns on his head, embodying the raw and untamed forces of nature.

With a mighty swing of his giant axe, Pangu began creating the world by separating yin from yang.

This act of creation was monumental; it split the chaos into two distinct parts: the earth, represented by murky yin, and the sky, represented by clear yang.

To maintain this separation, Pangu stood between the earth and sky, pushing the sky upwards.

With each passing day, the sky grew ten feet (3 meters) higher, the earth ten feet thicker, and Pangu ten feet taller. This arduous task took yet another 18,000 years, signifying the immense effort and time required to shape the cosmos.

In some versions of the story, Pangu was not alone in his endeavor. He was aided by the Four Holy Beasts (四靈獸): the Turtle, the Qilin, the Phoenix, and the Dragon.

These mythical creatures symbolized different aspects of the natural world and cosmic order, providing support and guidance to Pangu.

The Turtle, with its ancient wisdom, represented stability;

the Qilin, a symbol of peace and prosperity, brought harmony;

the Phoenix, embodying rebirth and renewal, signified transformation;

and the Dragon, a powerful and benevolent creature, controlled water and weather.

In other versions, Pangu alone separated heaven and earth, which were already imbued with the properties of yin and yang, using his immense strength and his axe.

After the 18,000 years had elapsed, Pangu had completed his task.

Exhausted from his efforts, he laid down to rest and eventually died.

His body underwent a magnificent transformation, becoming the very elements that make up the natural world.

His breath turned into the wind, mist, and clouds; his voice became the thunder that echoes through the sky.

Pangu’s left eye transformed into the Sun, providing light and warmth, while his right eye became the Moon, illuminating the night.

His head formed the mountains and the farthest reaches of the earth; his blood became the rivers that flow across the land; his muscles turned into fertile soil, supporting plant and animal life.

Pangu’s facial hair became the stars and the Milky Way, adorning the night sky with their brilliance.

His fur transformed into the bushes and forests, creating lush landscapes. His bones turned into valuable minerals, providing resources for future civilizations, while his bone marrow became precious jewels, hidden deep within the earth.

His sweat fell as rain, nourishing the land. Even the fleas on his fur, carried by the wind, became animals, populating the world with diverse species.

In other versions of the story, Pangu’s body turned into the mountains, forming the backbone of the earth. Each version, however, emphasizes the profound connection between Pangu and the natural world, illustrating how his sacrifice gave birth to the myriad elements that sustain life on earth.

The myth of Pangu serves as a powerful metaphor for the creation of the world and the intricate balance of forces within the universe.


P’an-Gu: The basic idea of the yih philosophy was so convincing that it almost obliterated the Taoist cosmology of P’an-Ku who is said to have chiseled the world out of the rocks of eternity. Though the legend is not held in high honor by the literati, it contains some features of interest which have not as yet been pointed out and deserve at least an incidental comment.

P’an-Gu is written in two ways: one means in literal translations, “basin ancient”, the other “basin solid”. Both are homophones, i.e., they are pronounced the same way; and the former may be preferred as the original and correct spelling.

Obviously the name means “aboriginal abyss,” or in the terser German, Urgrund, and we have reason to believe it to be a translation of the Babylonian Tiamat, “the Deep.”

The Chinese legend tells us that P’an-Ku’s bones changed to rocks; his flesh to earth; his marrow, teeth and nails to metals; his hair to herbs and trees; his veins to rivers; his breath to wind; and his four limbs became pillars marking the four corners of the world, which is a Chinese version not only of the Norse myth of the Giant Ymir, but also of the Babylonian story of Tiamat.

Illustrations of P’an-Ku represent him in the company of supernatural animals that symbolize old age or immortality, viz., the tortoise and the crane; sometimes also the dragon, the emblem of power, and the phoenix, the emblem of bliss.

When the earth had thus been shaped from the body of P’an-Ku, we are told that three great rivers successively governed the world: first the celestial, then the terrestrial, and finally the human sovereign.

They were followed by Yung-Ch’eng and Sui -Jen (i.e., fire-man) the later being the Chinese Prometheus, who brought the fire down from heaven and taught man its various uses.

The Prometheus myth is not indigenous to Greece, where it received the artistically classical form under which it is best known to us. The name, which by an ingenious afterthought is explained as “the fore thinker,” is originally the Sanskrit pramantha and means “twirler” or “fire-stick,” being the rod of hard wood which produced fire by rapid rotation in a piece of soft wood.

We cannot deny that the myth must have been known also in Mesopotamia, the main center of civilization between India and Greece, and it becomes probable that the figure Sui-Jen has been derived from the same prototype as the Greek Prometheus.