Origin of the Pangu myth, the cosmic egg, the creation of Heaven and Earth and separation of Heaven and Earth imagery, Nuwa repairing the Heavens

This article focuses on egg symbolism in mythology and highlights and identifies sources of egg myths and symbolism close to Japan.

Fossil ostrich eggs have been found all the way from the African continent in the west to India, Siberia and China in the east.  In the Gobi-dessert and Northern China there are reports of burials with ostrich eggs or parts of eggshells endowed. Further findings have also been reported from Inner Mongolia at Hutouliang and in the southern parts of Siberia at Krasnji Jar in Trans Bajkal  There have been findings of large ancient Struthiolothus Ostrich(168-186 mm) eggs outside of China in Cherson, Ukraine, and of stone eggs in Visoko  on the Bosna River. Neolithic burial jars of Old European cultures such as Cucuteni-Trypyllia were often egg-shaped, while clay eggs were often buried with the dead, symbolizing the regenerative power of the Great Goddess. The primary symbolism of Old European burials focuses on the tomb as the womb for the regeneration of life.  According to Old European Myth, the primordial egg was created by the cosmic snake, and from the egg gods have arisen:

“In the beginning all was water. From the water emerged a cosmic snake with a horned head. The snake (or the bull or the giant) created the cosmic egg…

 In China there were finds of painted ceramics and extinct ostrich eggs in the village of Jianzhai, Yangshao, China. The Yangshao culture is spread over an area, alongside the Yellow river, covering areas in both modern China and Inner Mongolia.  Ostrich eggshells have been used as container vessels and as decoration parts in necklaces (see Ancient Chinese may have worn [ostrich eggshell]necklaces 20,000 years ago, Xinhua 2005-12-14 ). In the Gobi-dessert and Northern China there are reports of burials with ostrich eggs or parts of eggshells endowed.  From the Shuidonggou complex in northern China, more than 80 finely-perforated and polished ostrich egg covered in red ochre were discovered (Cal. dates of 32,494-33,146; Source: “The Shuidonggou site complex: new excavations and implications for the earliest Late Paleolithic in North China” by Shuwen Pei, Journal of Archaeological Science 39 (2012) 3610-3626). Further findings have also been reported from Inner Mongolia at Hutouliang and in the southern parts of Siberia at Krasnji Jar in Trans Bajkal (see Hanging eggs, Cosmic Egg myths and  excavated ostrich eggs across the Near East, Europe and Eurasia.)

Egg symbolism and myths appear in a number of ancient civilizations, apparently emerging out of Southern Africa over 60,000 years ago (see “Ostrich Eggs Used in Stone Age Communication“, Discover News, Mar 2, 2010 .

Alice C. Linsley writes in “The Ostrich in Biblical Symbolism

In the ancient world, ostrich eggs were placed in the tombs and graves, especially those of rulers and children. They appear to symbolize the hope of resurrection or immortality.

Because of Earth’s precession of the equinoxes it is not possible to know exactly what ancient planispheres symbolize, but there are points in Earth’s seasons that are more or less fixed. They fall at different times given one’s location on Earth. For example, the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21 or 22 in the Northern Hemisphere, and June 20 or 21 in the Southern Hemisphere. As the Afro-Asiatics (who gave us the Bible) would have been most familiar with the cycle of the Northern Hemisphere, that will be the subject of this analysis.

The ancient Afro-Asiatics observed the Spring Equinox (March 21-22), the Summer Solstice (June 21-22), the Autumnal Equinox (Sept. 21-22), the Winter Solstice (Dec. 21-22). From the Winter Solstice, the hours of daylight lengthen again and the Sun is shown to be Sol Invictus (“the undefeated Sun”). In 12-division zodiacs, this is symbolized by the ostrich which hides its head for a time by lying flat against the ground, and after the Winter Solstice it begins laying its eggs.

Mircea Eliade has shown that ancient cosmological symbolism involves cycles. Time was regenerated and the cosmogony was repeated on the Winter Solstice, so January (Janus) looks to the past and to the future. The ostrich symbolism is again appropriate. The wild ostrich originated in Africa where this creature produces 90% of its eggs between January and March. In the Church, the egg is both a symbol of new life and the symbol of Christ’s resurrection. This is why eggs are decorated and distributed at Pascha/Easter.

The association of new life or rebirth with the ostrich egg has been verified by archeaological finds. Painted or incised ostrich eggs have been found in El-Badari and ancient Kush (Nubia). In the Oriental Museum there are examples of ostrich eggs which have been decorated over their entire surfaces. The largest concentration of ostrich eggs to be discovered in one place in Predynastic Egypt were found at a tomb in Hierakonpolis (Nekhen). In Kush ostrich eggs have been found in the burials of children. In Egypt, ostrich eggs were placed in the graves of the wealthy. At Naqada, a decorated ostrich egg replaced the owner’s missing head. This egg is now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

So where does the ostrich fit among the signs of the Lion (the Summer Solstice), the Bull (the Autumnal Equinox), the Man who was called “Father of Fathers” (the Winter Solstice), and the Eagle or Vulture (the Spring Equinox)? In ancient Egyptian art, the ostrich feather represented fecundity and new life. As early as 2600 B.C., the ostrich was associated with the goddess Ma’at, who is shown with an ostrich feather in her headband. Ma’at weighed the hearts of the dead in her scales to determine who would die the “second death” (Rev. 2:11) and who would enter eternal life. So the ostrich comes after the Bull, and this is verified by the book of Job.

In Elihu’s lengthy discourse (Job 32-39), he illustrates God’s transcendence by describing the Lion, the Nubian Wild Goat, the Wild Donkey, the Wild Ox (bull or rhinoceros), the Ostrich, and the Raven or GriffinVulture. The ostrich comes between the Bull (Autumnal Equinox) and the Vulture (Spring Equinox). Here the ostrich is clearly intended to represent the Winter Solstice and the hope of new life or life after death.”

3% of male graves; 2% of female g raves and 1% of children’s graves at a Kish cemetery (Mesopotamia), had ostrich eggs as grave goods. Mesopotamian ostrich eggs were usually unpainted, but a rare painted egg was found from a mid–later 3,000 B.C. grave at Susa. After the 2nd millenium, ostrich eggs were found from the Zagros, through the Levant to the western Mediterranean (Source: Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries: The Archaeological Evidence, by Peter Roger Stuart Moore, p. 128). In Sumer, the earliest eggs were found at the royal tombs of Ur, a widespread practice during the 3rd millenium B.C. (source:  “Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur” by Richard L. Zettler, Lee Horne, Donald P. Hansen, Holly Pittma, p. 70).

Thousands of ostrich egg shards were found in a funerary burial mound at the harbour site of Quseir al-Qadin (aka Myos Hormos), an important trading centre from the 1st -3rd centuries CE of the Roman period. Egypt controlled the spice trade with the area in the vicinity of Myos Hormos and other Arab ports being its trading center (between the 5th – 13th centuries) , and ships went as far as to China and the Indian Ocean (a large number of high quality fabric textiles from India are excavated from Quseir) besides the Mediterranean, but Muslim ships threatened that trade with their raids upon towns in the Mediterranean.  Quseir (or Myos Hormos) was in a strategic position for Christian missions bound for Ethiopia, and other pilgrimages,  and the Levantine trade from the south to the Red Sea.  In historical context, the Mongols were sweeping through Central Asia almost up to the Mediterranean coast, shaking the balance of the Islamic world and whose aggression was finally halted by the Mamluk rulers of Egypt. The temple of Ramses II has a wall relief showing the enthroned pharaoh receiving tribute items from Kush in Nubia, among which were piles of ostrich eggs, used to contain perfume at the time. The tradition of decorating ostrich eggshells, mounting and hanging ornamental eggs began with the Pharaohs (who often had them hung from the roofs of their mausoleums), which was then borrowed by the Coptic church.  “There is an old belief that the egg conveys miraculous power to the dead and can call them back to life. Chicken eggs are used in East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) for magical purposes. Muslims place chicken eggs with Qu’ranic verses written in saffron ink next to the bedside or under the bed of an ill person with the hope that the patient gets well. So the ostrich egg was not just a medium for decoration but also a method for engaging with and entering the spirit world. It is a powerful symbolic image  of the soul(s journey from the body to life thereafter…”” (Source: “Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk Eras“, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta p. 364)

Ostrich eggs were also found in ancient Persia and were known to have been sent from Persia as tribute to the emperors of China( see “Ostrich egg-shell cups of Mesopotamia and the ostrich in ancient and modern times” by Berthold Laufer)

An archeological team in China discovered two ostrich eggshells with stone-drilled holes that date back 20,000 years ago at the Xuchang primitive ruins. Experts from the team said that the two ostrich eggshells were the earliest artificially stone-drilled specimens that were ever found in Henan Province and the best-preserved specimens found in China over the age of 10,000 years, which showed that the primitive craftsmanship had developed to a quite high level even at that time. (Source: “20,000 years artificially drilled specimen found in Henan” Nov 23, 2010, Chinanews.org)

Elsewhere …4,000 year old decorated ostrich egg shells were excavated from burial mounds in Bahrain. (Source: “Red ostrich eggs from Bahrain” Danish research project)

50 small fragments of ostrich shell found on Bates Island, a small island near the modern Mediterranean seaport town of Mersa Matruh (known as Amunia in Ancient Egyptian, and Paraitonion in Ptolemaic and Byzantine times), governate of Egypt are reported to be linked to a 14th c. B.C. Bronze Age settlement by Libyans. Ancient Libyans offered ostrich eggs as tribute to the Egyptian Pharoah and the ostrich egg was best known as rhyton to the Late Bronze Age Mediterranean world. Decorated ostrich egg rhyta were offered in Greek sanctuaries in religious ceremonies as symbols of fertility and prosperity and were also displayed in churches. They were also placed in graves as early as the 5,000 BC. and the cultural practice was common for pre-dynastic and Pharaohnic Egyptians (see A pre-dynastic Ostrich Egg with incised decoration by Helen J Kantor, Journal of Near Eastern Studies Vol. 7, No. 1 (Jan., 1948), pp. 46-51), Greece, Crete, Cyprus, Syro-Palestine and Mesopotamia (seen in Akkadian and Kish cemeteries) between 4000-2000 B.C. From 1000 BC, Punic Phoenicians and Etruscans used ostrich eggs as grave goods  and food for the dead, symbolizing resurrection and eternal life.   Ostrich eggs had highly ornamental uses as chandelier hangings(known from a monastery in Sinai) and decorative arts displays in many places and ostrich shell jewellery are still made by the !Kung San bushmen in Southern Africa today. (Source: “On Ostrich Eggs and Libyans“, Expedition vol. 29 no. 3)

Alice Linsey adds more details in Abraham’s people had “Easter eggs” of the Africa-Egypt-India-wide trade of ostrich eggs:

Ostrich eggs were traded by Abraham’s Kushite ancestors, some of whom were rulers in Kerma, between the third and fourth cataracts on the Upper Nile. These Kushite rulers, such as Nimrod (son of Kush), one of Abraham’s most famous ancestors, established trade routes that connected the interior of Africa to Egypt and the islands of the eastern Mediterranean Sea and beyond. They traded exotic hardwoods, animals and their skins, ivory, ostrich eggs and ostrich feathers. “Through the wealth built up by this exchange of goods, the Nubians of Kerma became exceedingly rich…..” (The Nubians by R.S.Bianchi)  Those who built cities in southern India were called “Sudra”, which means Sudanese.

Of particular interest, the ostrich rhyta from Mycenae in Greece and Akkadian cemetery in Kish, Mesopotamia, seen in the above report are nearly identical in shape and appearance to Japanese amphora-like pottery and especially the well-known burial urns of the Jomon period, although the latter are not made of ostrich egg shell but of earthenware (possibly in symbolic imitation).

Berthold Laufer writes in ” “Ostrich egg-shell cups of Mesopotamia and the ostrich in ancient and modern times”   “:

“They were also imitated in clay and  decorated with black zigzag lines in imitation of cords or simply painted with white spots. …Egyptian Scene Showing a Captured Ostrich and Man with Ostrich Feathers and Eggs. …  enormous marble egg which is apparently intended for an enlarged ostrich egg, and which was once deposited in a sacred place. During the historic period, ostrich eggs and feathers were imported from the land of Punt and probably also from Asia. Imitations of ostrich eggs in terracotta have been found in the tombs of Vulci in Italy, which, according to G. Dennis (Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria) , seems to indicate that the demand was greater than the supply.”

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THE OSTRICH IN THE RECORDS AND
MONUMENTS OF THE CHINESE

The ostrich was first discovered for the Chinese by the renowned general Chang K’ien during his memorable mission to the nations of the west (138-126 B.C.) .
He returned to China with the report that in the countries west of Parthia there were “great birds with eggs of the size of a pottery jar.” The “great bird” is the  common name of the ostrich among all early Greek writers, while the name “camel-sparrow” or “camel- bird” is found at a later time in Diodorus and Strabo.
When Chang K’ien had negotiated his treaties with the Iranian countries in the west, the king of Parthia (called Arsak by the Chinese after the ruling dynasty, the Arsacides) sent an embassy to the Chinese court, and offered as tribute eggs of the Great Bird. In a.d. 101 live specimens of ostriches, together with lions, were despatched from Parthia to China, and at that time were styled “Arsak (that is, Parthian) birds,” also “great horse birds.” On becoming acquainted with the Persia of the Sasanian dynasty, the Chinese Annals
mention ostrich eggs as products of Persia, and describe the bird as being shaped like a camel, equipped with two wings, able to fly, but incapable of rising high, subsisting on grass and flesh, also able to swallow fire. Another account says quite correctly that the birds eat barley. When an attempt was made in Algeria to domesticate them, it was found that they thrive well on barley, fresh grass, cabbage, leaves of the cactus or Barbary leaves chopped fine ; and three pounds of barley a day was recommended for each bird, green food according to circumstances.

To the north of Persia, the Annals of the Wei dy-nasty mention a country Fu-lu-ni, where there is a great river flowing southward ; this territory harbors29 a bird resembling a man, but also like a camel. Again, under the T’ang dynasty, in a.d. 650, the country To- khara offered to China “large birds seven feet in height, black in color, with feet resembling those of a camel, marching with outstretched wings and able to run three hundred (Chinese) miles a day and to swallow iron.”

They were then called “camel birds,” in accordance with the Greek, Arabic, and Persian designations.
Again, in the first part of the eighth century, ostrich eggs were sent to China from Sogdiana. We have to  assume that the live birds transported from Persia to  the capital of China over a route of several thousand miles must have been extraordinarily tame, and it was a remarkable feat at that. These birds must have been  kept in the parks of the Chinese emperors who were always fond of strange animals and plants. What is still more astounding is the fact that in the mausolea of the T’ang emperors near Li-t’suan in Shen-si Prov-
ince there are beautiful, naturalistic representations of ostriches carved in high relief in stone (Plates VI-VII and Fig. 8). The two sculptured slabs shown in the Plates were erected on the tomb of the emperor Kao Tsung, who died in A.D. 683; the one in Fig. 8 was placed on the tomb of the emperor Jui Tsung, who died in a.d. 712. The artists of the period doubtless received an imperial command to portray the ostriches of the imperial park in commemoration of the vast expansion of the empire over Central Asia during that epoch.
As shown by their results, they did not copy any foreign artistic models, but they witnessed and carefully observed and studied live specimens. Their ostriches, in fact, belong to the best ever executed and known in the history of art, and are far superior to any representations of the bird in Assyria, Egypt, and Greece,  which are conventional and stiff. The Chinese ostriches
are correct in their accentuation of motion and action. …

CHINESE STONE SCULPTURE OF OSTRICH ON THE TOMB OF THE EMPEROR KAO TSUNQ (?. 30). T’ANQ PERIOD. SEVENTH CENTURY A.D.

After E. C’havannes.

The Ostrich Among the Chinese 81 to turn its head completely around, a characteristic skilfully brought to life in stone by the unknown Chinese sculptor (Fig. 8).

For comparison the sketch of an ostrich by Albrecht Dtirer is reproduced in Plate VIII. It is dated 1508 with the addition of the monogram A. D. It is supposed that during his stay in Venice the artist may  Chinese Stone Sculpture of Ostrich from the Tomb of the Emperor Jui Tsung.

Tang Period, Eighth Century.

After E. Chavannes.

have had occasion to view a live ostrich. His sketch is better than that of his contemporary, the naturalist C. Gesner, who had evidently never seen the bird. In the museum of Nuremberg there is a painting of Wohl- gemut representing the adoration of the Three Magi ;  the Moor offers an ostrich egg filled with spices and bordered with gold or silver. The initials A.D. on the egg possibly refer to Diirer, and may hint at his collaboration.

Under the Tang, the Chinese were also informed of the fact that the ostrich was a native of Arabia. It is on record that “the camel-bird who inhabits Arabia is four feet and more in height, its feet resembling those of a camel ; its neck is very strong, and men are able to ride on its back (compare p. 16) ; the birds thus walk for five or six miles. Its eggs have the capacity of two pints.”

When, during the middle ages, the Chinese became slightly acquainted with the east coast of Africa, they learned also that the ostrich was at home in the Somali  country. Then they styled it “camel crane,” and compared its eggs not unfittingly with a coconut. They even report that the natives of Africa heat copper or  iron red and give it to the birds to eat ; if the eggs are  broken, they give a ring like pottery vessels. In the fifteenth century, under the Ming, ostriches are reported also from Aden and Hormuz.

While in general the Chinese accounts are sensible and make an interesting contribution to the geographical distribution of the species in ancient times, it is noteworthy that they never allude to the bird’s plumage ; and it seems that its feathers were never utilized in China….”

Chinese creation myth 

Chinese creation myths explain the legendary beginnings of the universe, earth, and life.

Early Chinese texts recorded fragments of creation stories. The Zhuangzi and Huainanzi cosmogonically mention Hundun. The Shujing and Guoyu describe the separation of Heaven and Earth during the legendary era of Zhuanxu. The Huainanzi and Chuci say that Nüwa created the first humans from yellow clay and repaired the fallen pillars of Heaven (cf. Axis mundi).
One of the most popular creation myth in Chinese mythology describes Pangu 盤古 separating the world egg-like Hundun 混沌 “primordial chaos” into Heaven and Earth. However, none of the ancient Chinese classics mentions the Pangu myth, which was first recorded in the (3rd century CE) Sanwu Liji 三五歴記 “Record of Cycles in Threes and Fives”, written by Three Kingdoms period Daoist author Xu Zheng. Derk Bodde paraphrases.

Heaven and Earth were once inextricably commingled (hun-tun) like a chicken’s egg, within which was engendered P’an-ku (a name perhaps meaning “Coiled-up Antiquity”). After 18,000 years, this inchoate mass split apart, what was bright and light forming Heaven, and what was dark and heavy forming Earth. Thereafter, during another 18,000 years, Heaven daily increased ten feet in height, Earth daily increased ten feet in thickness, and P’an-ku, between the two, daily increased ten feet in size. This is how Heaven and Earth came to be separated by their present distance of 9 million li (roughly 30,000 English miles). (1961:382-3)
Derk Bodde, believed the Pangu myth “to be of non-Chinese origin” (Bodde 1961:383) and linked it to the ancestral mythologies of the peoples such as Miao people and Yao people in southern China. Professor Qin Naichang, head of the Guangxi Institute for Nationality Studies proposes the myth originated in Laibin city, Guangxi, in the center of the Pearl River Valley. He suggested that Pangu myth from this region originally involved two people. He also suggests that this mythology of Pangu had come from India, Egypt, or Babylon.

More on egg symbolism:

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Cosmogony

The (ca. 4th century BCE) Daodejing suggests a less mythical Chinese cosmogony and has some of the earliest allusions to creation.
There was something featureless yet complete, born before heaven and earth; Silent – amorphous – it stood alone and unchanging. We may regard it as the mother of heaven and earth. Not knowing its name, I style it the “Way.” (tr. Mair 1990:90)
The Way gave birth to unity, Unity gave birth to duality, Duality gave birth to trinity, Trinity gave birth to the myriad creatures. The myriad creatures bear yin on their back and embrace yang in their bosoms. They neutralize these vapors and thereby achieve harmony. (tr. Mair 1990:9)
Later Daoists interpreted this sequence to mean the Dao “Way”, formless Wuji “Without Ultimate”, unitary Taiji “Great Ultimate”, and binary yin and yang or Heaven and Earth.
The (ca. 4th-3rd centuries BCE) Taiyi Shengshui “Great One gave birth to water”, a Daoist text recently excavated in the Guodian Chu Slips, offers an alternate creation myth, but analysis remains uncertain.
Zhou’s Taiji tushuo diagram
The (ca. 120 CE) Lingxian 靈憲, by the polymath Zhang Heng, thoroughly accounts for the creation of Heaven and Earth.
Before the Great Plainness (or Great Basis, Taisu 太素) came to be, there was dark limpidity and mysterious quiescence, dim and dark. No image of it can be formed. Its midst was void; its exterior was non-existence. Things remained thus for long ages; this is called obscurity (mingxing 溟涬). It was the root of the Dao. … When the stem of the Dao had been grown, creatures came into being and shapes were formed. At this stage, the original qi split and divided, hard and soft first divided, pure and turbid took up different positions. Heaven formed on the outside, and Earth became fixed within. Heaven took it body from the Yang, so it was round and in motion; Earth took its body from the Yin, so it was flat and quiescent. Through motion there was action and giving forth; through quiescence there was conjoining and transformation. Through binding together there was fertilization, and in time all the kinds of things were brought to growth. This is called the Great Origin (Taiyuan 太元). It was the fruition of the Dao. (tr. Cullen 2008:47)
The Neo-Confucianist philosopher Zhou Dunyi provided a multifaceted cosmology in his Taiji tushuo 太極圖說 “Diagram Explaining the Supreme Ultimate”, which integrated the Yijing with Daoism and Chinese Buddhism.
Bodde, Derk. 1961. “Myths of Ancient China”, in Mythologies of the Ancient World, ed. by Samuel Noah Kramer, pp. 367–408. Anchor.
Cullen, Christopher. 2008. “Cosmogony: Overview”, in The Encyclopedia of Taoism, ed. by Fabrizio Pregadio, pp. 47–8. Routledge.
Mair, Victor H. (1990). Tao Te Ching: The Classic Book of Integrity and the Way, by Lao Tzu. Bantam Books.
Major, John S. 1978. “Myth, Cosmogony, and the Origins of Chinese Science,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 5:1-20.
Werner, E.T.C. 1922. Cosmogony – P’an Ku and the Creation Myth, in Myths and Legends of China, pp. 76–92. Harrap.

External links

Chinese story of creation, Thinkquest Mythology Project

In a Calabash, A Chinese Myth of Origins, Stephen Field

See also:

The Handbook of Chinese Mythology

“Pangu was born from the cosmic egg”

Chinese creation myths (Crystalinks) has several versions of the Pangu myth including a dog-man version, and a version that reminds us of the Norse giant holding up the skies. The dog version resembles a myth from India about dog vs horse trampling the clay human creations.

Chinese Mythology Clarified by Miao Legend Confirms Noah’s Flood History!

…the Chinese legend tells how the world was swept by a Great Flood, and only Fu Xi and his sister NüWa survived. They then retired to Kunlun Mountain where they prayed for a sign from the Emperor of Heaven. The divine being approved their union and the siblings set about to procreate the human race all over again. It was told of them that in order to speed up the natural procreation of humans, Fu Xi and Nüwa found an additional way by using clay to create human figures, and with divine power entrusted to them, they made these figures come alive.

The new father of humanity Fu Xi then came to rule over his descendants, although reports of his long reign vary between sources. He is supposed to have lived mid 29th century BC, or 2.900 BC, which is very close to the timing of the Biblical flood of about 2.400 BC. Nü Wa after surviving the great flood, “fixed the broken sky/heaven (Tian) with either five or seven colored stones.”

…the three earliest Chinese historians mentioned Nü Wa. The fourth, the noted Chinese historian Sima Qian (in the Shiji, Chapter Benji or prolog) clearly identifies Nuwa as a man with the last name of Feng. Some scholars consider Nüwa a tribal leader (or emperor); others consider the name Nüwa a title. Only after the fourth Nü Wah was cast into a woman’s role, and became known as Fu Xi’s wife! Over time these histories grew into even more bizarre myths, as the two of them are still proudly reported by Chinese people today, as being half dragons! Their earliest depictions as a couple shows both of them with intertwined reptilic tails. (see picture on the top) The legend goes as follows:

Nüwa as repairer of the “Wall of Heaven!” *

The earliest literary role seems to be the upkeep and maintenance of the Wall of Heaven*, whose collapse would obliterate everything. [Note the association with Flood traditions.] 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 (不周山), 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 floods and suffering to the people. Nüwa 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 colours, 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. (this account is similar to the Huainanzi account; it was added as The Upkeep and Maintenance of Heaven)

Other versions of the story describe Nüwa going up to heaven and filling the gap with her body (half human half serpent) and thus stopping the flood. According to this legend some of the minorities in South-Western China hail Nüwa as their goddess and some festivals such as the ‘Water-Splashing Festival’ are in part a tribute to her sacrifices.

* Noah’s ark landed approximately 300 meters from the huge limestone cliff face of what later would be called “The Wall of Heaven” in the famous Akkadian story “The Epic of Gilgamesh.” In this Epic, the hero Gilgamesh is en route to Utnapishtim, [Sumerian name of Noah] the one mortal to achieve immortality, that Gilgamesh comes to Mashu “the great mountain, which guards the rising and setting sun. Its twin peaks are as high as the wall of heaven and its roots reach down to the underworld. At its gate the Scorpions stand guard, half man and half dragon; their glory is terrifying; their stare strikes death into men, their shining halo sweeps the mountains that guard the rising sun”.

It could be that the earliest Chinese were familiar with the Epic of Gilgamesh, before the confusion of languages at Babel, and perhaps borrowed its symbolisms.

the three earliest Chinese historians mentioned Nü Wa. The fourth, the noted Chinese historian Sima Qian (in the Shiji, Chapter Benji or prolog) clearly identifies Nuwa as a man with the last name of Feng. Some scholars consider Nüwa a tribal leader (or emperor); others consider the name Nüwa a title. Only after the fourth Nü Wah was cast into a woman’s role, and became known as Fu Xi’s wife! Over time these histories grew into even more bizarre myths, as the two of them are still proudly reported by Chinese people today, as being half dragons! Their earliest depictions as a couple shows both of them with intertwined reptilic tails. (see picture on the top) The legend goes as follows:

Nüwa as repairer of the “Wall of Heaven!” *

The earliest literary role seems to be the upkeep and maintenance of the Wall of Heaven*, whose collapse would obliterate everything. [Note the association with Flood traditions.] 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 (不周山), 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 floods and suffering to the people. Nüwa 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 colours, 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. (this account is similar to the Huainanzi account; it was added as The Upkeep and Maintenance of Heaven)

Other versions of the story describe Nüwa going up to heaven and filling the gap with her body (half human half serpent) and thus stopping the flood. According to this legend some of the minorities in South-Western China hail Nüwa as their goddess and some festivals such as the ‘Water-Splashing Festival’ are in part a tribute to her sacrifices.

* Noah’s ark landed approximately 300 meters from the huge limestone cliff face of what later would be called “The Wall of Heaven” in the famous Akkadian story “The Epic of Gilgamesh.” In this Epic, the hero Gilgamesh is en route to Utnapishtim, [Sumerian name of Noah] the one mortal to achieve immortality, that Gilgamesh comes to Mashu “the great mountain, which guards the rising and setting sun. Its twin peaks are as high as the wall of heaven and its roots reach down to the underworld. At its gate the Scorpions stand guard, half man and half dragon; their glory is terrifying; their stare strikes death into men, their shining halo sweeps the mountains that guard the rising sun”.

It could be that the earliest Chinese were familiar with the Epic of Gilgamesh, before the confusion of languages at Babel, and perhaps borrowed its symbolisms….the Miao Zu are another early nation who remember some of their earliest patriarchs. Not only that, but they also possess a surprisingly accurate recollections of the Creation, the Flood, and even of the Tower of Babel and its confusion of languages! Many of the finer details of their accounts coincide almost identically with the Biblical record in Moses’ Book of Genesis….The oral traditions in which the descent of the Miautso has been preserved, owe their purity to the fact that they have been recited faithfully and in full at funerals, weddings, and other public occasions since time immemorial. Thus they are able to reproduce the earliest names of their primogenitors.

Noah, who survived the Great worldwide Flood, had three sons called Ham, Shem and Jafeth. In the Miao record, Nu Ah had also three sons, called Lo Han, Lo Shen, and Lo Ya Phu. Again virtually identical, with Lo meaning something similar to “Lao” in Chinese, meaning “old” or “venerable one!” Like Lao Zi, the famous father of Taoism.

Even the children of these three sons of Noah are similar. According to Genesis, Ham had Cush and Mizraim, Shem had Elam and Asshur, and Jafeth had Gomer!
According to Miao record, Lo Han had Cusah and Mesay, Lo Shen had Elan and Ngasshur, whereas Lo Ya Phu had GoMen, from whom the Miao claim to have descended…

Shem (Lo-Shen or Shen Nong Shi) lived a total of 600 years, according to the Bible. … Huang Di was purportedly a distant descendant of Shen Nong, but also his friend and fellow scholar. …Shem is considered the forefather of most Asians and of some European tribes. The following are the haplo DNA groups found in nations all over the world. You see that the (blue D) Southern Chinese and (orange O) Han Chinese s-i-c should be read in reverse orange D – Southern Chinese and blue O Han Chinese belong to different groups…

It is said that when a great flood took place that the heaven collapsed, and the earth was sunken under water, and wild beasts cruelly killed common people, Nü-Wa repaired the heaven with five or seven colored rocks and killed the brutal beasts.

All this coincides very much with the Hebrew scriptures in Genesis, where the windows of heaven were broken open! After the flood reached its peak they were closed up, and after the water dried up, God showed Noah a beautiful seven-colored rainbow in the sky [For more on the Miaozu song of the Flood Story, click here.]

Does any of this have relevance for the Japanese heritage?

We know that the Miao tribes share genetic ancestry with the Japanese (mtDNA M7 and derived subclades, and Y-DNA, O and O3a5 haplogroups)  since the tribes split at an early stage from a common ancestral branch along with the Qiangic, Sino-Tibetans.

Common mythical motifs such as turtle symbolism, cosmic pillar-sacred tree as axis mundi, reaching to the heavens and to the netherworld, cosmic egg, primordial pair and separation of waters at the creation, as well as the prevalent veneration of sacred trees, rock/stones and idea of sky as heavenly vault …the fashioning of Jomon human clay figurines, water-splashing festivals … might be examined for possible common origins or histories.

For a comparison with Japanese creation myths, refer to Sacred Text’s Kojiki or this page “In His Own Image” for an abridged version.

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