Guest Author - Inci Yilmazli
Chinese mythology is defined as the combination of history, legend and myth, according to several writers and researchers. The early research suggested that the Chinese culture had very few myths that had culture-wide impact, compared to many other cultures. The attributions for Chinese myths were found incomplete on ancient Chinese texts and this was the solid evidence for the suggestions made by the researchers. Recently, many experts criticized the assertion that Chinese culture lacked a mythology or mythical elements.
As with other cultures, the beginning and end of creation are very important in Chinese mythology. This can be seen clearly in several myths about beginnings of events, inventions, living organisms as well as several creation myths. In ancient times, the idea of animal-ancestor and clan was emphasized while this was changed to a more orderly system differentiating between gods, humans and animals in the later periods.
There are several creation myths in Chinese mythology. These myths differ from each other depending on the characters of the myths or the religious inclinations. However, the main concept is very similar in each one of them: the transition from chaos to order and the creation of yin and yang. In a text named Huai Nan Zi, there is a creation myth telling how two gods created the universe. The names of these gods are not mentioned in the text. They come from chaos and create the earth and the heaven while they constitute the yin and yang.
In another creation myth, there are no gods mentioned. There is only an enormous cloud of water vapor. This cloud, over time, transforms from chaotic and irregular to regular and shaped state and create yin and yang which are the foundations of the universe with different natures.
One of the well-known creation myths in Chinese mythology is Pan Gu. This myth tells about a time when there is nothing but just chaos present as a dark mist in a giant egg. This egg contains everything needed for creation. The creator, Pan Gu, starts to grow in this egg. In the meantime, the creative elements inside the egg are dispersed everywhere. The yin based elements create the heaven while the yang based elements create the earth. Pan Gu stands in between and carries the heaven in order to keep these two elements separated. He believes that if these two elements get together again, there will be chaos. So, he keeps them apart for thousands of years. When he believes that the earth and the heaven are completely separated, he lets go and lies down in heaven to rest, in other words, he dies.
Different parts of his body and presence constitute natural phenomenons and geographical structures: his hands and feet constitute the corners of the Earth as they are believed to be square-shaped while his sweat constitutes the rivers. One of his eyes is believed to constitute the Moon and the other is the Sun, while his body is believed to constitute the five holy mountains. This creation myth is related to the creation of humans as well. The fleas in Pan Guís body are believed to constitute humans. However, these changes differ in different myths.
In another myth, itís told that none of the creatures of Pan Gu had mental capabilities. This makes Pan Gu sad and leads him to create humans with his muddy hands and leaves them to dry. As he continues to create humans, it starts to rain. Even though Pan Gu tries to carry his creatures (humans) to a safe place to protect them from the rain, as they are not dried yet, some of them are damaged from the rain. So, these damaged creations are believed to be the ancestors of disabled people.
As with other myths, we may not appreciate how the ancients made sense of their world, but we must admit they are are interesting.