History of Literature

The Ten Suns of Heaven



Chinese mythology

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Is a collection of cultural history, folktales, and religions that have been passed down in oral or written tradition. These include creation myths and legends and myths concerning the founding of Chinese culture and the Chinese state. Like many mythologies, it has in the past been believed to be, at least in part, a factual recording of history.

Historians have conjectured that the Chinese mythology began in 12th century B.C. The myths and the legends were passed down in oral format for over a thousand years, before being written down in early books such as Shan Hai Jing. Other myths continued to be passed down through oral traditions such as theatre and song, before being recorded in the form of novels such * Hei'an Zhuan - Epic of Darkness Literally Epic of the Darkness, this is the only collection of legends in epic form preserved by a community of the Han nationality of China, namely, inhabitants of the Shennongjia mountain area in Hubei, containing accounts from the birth of Pangu till the historical era.

Imperial historical documents and philosophical canons such as Shangshu, Shiji, Liji, Lshi Chunqiu, and others.
Some myths survive in theatrical or literary formats, as plays or novels. Important mythological fiction which is seen as definitive records of these myths include:

Verse poetry of ancient states such as Lisao by Qu Yuan of the Chu state.
Fengshen Yanyi (封神演義), or Anointing of the Gods, which is mythological fiction dealing with the founding of the Zhou dynasty.

Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng'en and published in the 1590s, a fictionalised account of the pilgrimage of Xuanzang to India in order to obtain Buddhist religious texts, in which the pilgrims encounter a variety of ghosts, monsters, and demons as well as the Flaming Mountains.
Baishe Zhuan, a romantic tale set in Hangzhou involving a snake who attained human form and fell in love with a man.

(上帝), appears in literature probably earlier than 700 BC as Huangtian Dadi 皇天大帝 very occasionally as 皇天上帝, (the dating of these occurrences depends on the date of Oracle Bones and the
Shujing, aka "Book of Documents"). When Huangtian Dadi was used it refers to Jade Emperor or Yu Huang, and Tian 天 and Jade Emperor were synonymous in Chinese prayers.

Yu Di
(玉皇 or 玉帝 or Jade Emperor), appears in literature after the establishment of Taoism in China, but the position of Yu Huang dates back to beyond the times of Huangdi, Nuwa or Fuxi.

(天, or Heaven), appears in literature probably about 700 BC, or earlier (the dating of these occurrences depends on the date of the Shujing, aka "Book of Documents"). There are no "creation" oriented narratives for 'Heaven', although the role of a creator is a possible interperatation. The qualities of 'Heaven' and Shangdi appear to merge in later literature (and are worshipped as one entity ("皇天上帝") in, for example, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing). The extent of the distinction (if any) between them is debated. The sinologist Herrlee Creel proposes that an analysis of the Shang oracle bones shows Shangdi preceded 'tian' as a deity, and that Zhou Dynasty authors replaced the term Shangdi with tian to cement the claim of their influence.

(女媧), appears in literature no earlier than about 350 BC. Her companion was Fuxi (伏羲), the brother and husband of Nuwa. These two beings are sometimes worshipped as the ultimate ancestor of all humankind. They sometimes believe that Nuwa molded humans from clay for companionship. They are often represented as half-snake, half-human creatures. Nwa was also responsible for repairing the sky after Gong Gong damaged the pillar supporting the heavens (see below).

(盤古), written about 200 AD by the Daoist author Xu Zheng, was a later myth claiming to describe the first sentient being & creator.

Three August Ones and Five Emperors

Following on from the age of Nuwa and Fuxi (or cotemporaneous in some versions) was an age known as the Three August Ones and Five Emperors (三皇五帝). This involves a collection of legendary rulers who ruled between c. 2850 BC to 2205 BC, the time preceding the Xia dynasty.

The list of names comprising the Three August Ones and Five Emperors vary widely between sources (see Three August Ones and Five Emperors for other versions of the list). The version in the widest circulation (and most popularly known) is:

The Three August Ones (Huang):
Fuxi (伏羲) - The companion of Nuwa.
Shennong (神農) - Shennong, literally meaning "Divine Farmer", reputedly taught the ancients agriculture and medicine.
Huang Di (黃帝) - Huang Di, literally meaning, and commonly known as, the "Huang Emperor"(normally "黄" means "yellow", however it doesnt mean "yellow" here. See below for the full explaination of "皇帝"), is often regarded as the first sovereign of the Chinese nation.
(Source: Shangshu (尚書))

The Five Emperors (Di):
Shaohao (少昊) - Leader of the Dongyi or "Eastern Barbarians"; his pyramidal tomb is in present-day Shandong province. [clarification needed]
Zhuanxu (顓頊) - Grandson of the Huang Emperor
Emperor Ku (帝嚳) - Great grandson of the Huang Emperor; nephew of Zhuanxu.
Yao (堯) - The son of Ku. His elder brother succeeded Ku, but abdicated when he was found to be an ineffective ruler.
Shun (舜) - Yao, passing over his own son, made Shun his successor because of Shun's ability and morality.
These rulers were generally regarded as extremely moral and benevolent rulers, examples to be emulated by latter day kings and emperors. When Qin Shi Huang united China in 221 BC, he felt that his achievements had surpassed those of all the rulers who have gone before him. Hence, he combined the ancient titles of Huang (皇) and Di (帝) to create a new title, Huangdi (皇帝), usually translated as Emperor.


Great Flood

Shun passed his place as leader of the Huaxia tribe to Yu the Great (禹). According to legend, the Yellow River was prone to flooding, and erupted in a huge flood in the time of Yao. Yu's father, Gun, was put in charge of flood control by Yao, but failed to alleviate the problem after 9 years. He was executed by Shun, and Yu took his father's place, and led the people in building canals and levees. After thirteen years of toil, flooding problems were solved under Yu's command. Shun enfeoffed Yu in the place of Xia, in present-day Wan County in Henan. On his death, Shun passed the leadership to Yu. The main source for the story of Yu and the Great Flood comes from The Counsels of Yu the Great in the Classic of History (尚書大禹謨). Because of his achievement in resolving the Great Flood, Yu, alone among the mythological rulers, is usually called "Yu the Great" (大禹). Alternatively, he is called Emperor Yu (帝禹), like his predecessors.

Xia Dynasty
from the shang dynasty

Upon Yu's death, his position as leader was passed not to his deputy, but was inherited by his son Qi. Various sources differ as to the process by which Qi rose to this position. Most versions agree that during his lifetime, Yu had designated his deputy, Gaotao (皋陶), to be his successor. When Gaotao died before him, Yu then selected Gaotao's son, Bo Yi (伯益) as successor. One version then says that all the peoples who had submitted to Yu admired Qi more than Bo Yi, and Yu passed power to Qi instead. Another version holds that Bo Yi ceremoniously offered the position to Qi, who accepted, against convention, because he had the support of other leaders. A third version says that Qi killed Bo Yi and usurped his position as leader.

A 4th version, the currently most accepted version in China says, Yu named Bo Yi as successor, because Bo Yi had achieved fame through teaching the People to use fire to drive animals during hunts. Bo Yi had the popular support of the People and Yu could not go against it easily. But Yu gave Bo Yi the empty successor title, without giving Bo Yi more responsibilities. Instead Yu gave his own son all the responsibilities of managing the country. After a few years, Bo Yi lost popularity without additional achievements, and Yu's son Qi became more popular among the People. Then Yu named Qi as the successor. Bo Yi, however, did not lose willingly. Bo Yi challenged Qi for leadership, and a civil war ensued. Qi with great support of the People, managed to defeat Bo Yi's forces, and killed Bo Yi, and solidified his rule.

In any case, Qi's succession broke the previous convention of meritorious succession, and began what is traditionally regarded as the first dynasty in Chinese history. The dynasty is called "Xia" after Yu's centre of power.

The Xia Dynasty is considered at least semi-mythological. The Records of the Grand Historian and the Bamboo Annals record the names of 17 kings of the Xia Dynasty. However, there is no conclusive archaeological evidence of its capital or its existence as a state of any significant size. Archaeological evidence do not point towards a significant urban civilisation until the Shang Dynasty.

Shang Dynasty

Jie, the last king of the Xia Dynasty, is said to be a bloodthirsty despot. Tang of Shang, a tribal leader, revolted against Xia rule and eventually overthrew Jie and established the Shang Dynasty, based in Anyang. In Book 5 of Mozi, Mozi described the end of Xia dynasty and the new Shang dynasty. During the reign of King Jie of Xia, there was a great climactic change. The paths of the sun and moon were different, the seasons were confused and the five grains were dried up. Ghouls were crying in the country and cranes shrieked for ten nights. Heaven ordered Shang Tang to receive the heavenly commission from Xia dynasty. The Xia dynasty have failed morally and Heaven has determined her end. Therefore, Shang Tang was commanded to destroy Xia with the promise of Heaven's help. In the dark, Heaven destroyed the fortress' pool. Shang Tang then gained victory easily.

The Shang Dynasty ruled from ca. 1766 BC to ca. 1050 BC. It came to an end when the last despotic ruler, Zhou of Shang, was overthrown by the new Zhou Dynasty. The end of the Shang Dynasty and the establishment of the Zhou is the subject of the influential mythological fiction, Investitute of the Gods (封神演義). Book 5 of Mozi also described the shift. During the reign of Shang Zhou, Heaven could not endure his morality and his neglect of timely sacrifices. It rained mud for ten days and nights, the nine cauldrons (presumably used in either astronomy or to measure earth movements) shifted positions, pontianaks appeared and ghosts cried at night. There were women who became men, the heaven rained flesh and thorny brambles covered the national highways. A red bird brought a message "Heaven decrees King Wen of Zhou to punish Yin and possess its empire". The Yellow River formed charts and the earth brought forth mythical horses. When King Wu became king, three gods appeared to him in a dream, telling him that they have drowned Shang Zhou in wine and that King Wu was to attack him. On the way back from victory, the heavens gave him the emblem of a yellow bird.

Unlike the preceding Xia Dynasty, there is clear archaeological evidence of a government centre at Yinxu in Anyang, and of an urban civilization in the Shang Dynasty. However, the chronology of the first three dynasties remains an area of active research and controversy.

Creation and the Pantheon

The Jade Emperor is charged with running of the three realms: heaven, hell and that of the living. The Jade Emperor adjudicates and metes out rewards and remedies to actions of saints, the living and the deceased according to a merit system loosely called the Jade Principles Golden Script (玉律金篇, see external links). When judgments proposed were objected to, usually by other saints, the administration would occasionally resort to the counsels of the advisory elders.



The Chinese dragon is one of the most important mythical creatures in Chinese mythology. The Chinese dragon is considered to be the most powerful and divine creature and is believed to be the controller of all waters. The dragon symbolised great power and was very supportive of heroes and gods. One of the most famous dragons in Chinese mythology is Yinglong "Responding Dragon", said to be the god of rain. Many people in different places pray to Yinglong in order to receive rain. In Chinese mythology, dragons are believed to be able to create clouds with their breath. Chinese people sometimes use the term "Descendants of the Dragon" as a sign of their ethnic identity.

For the most part, Chinese myths involve moral issues which inform people of their culture and values.

Religion and mythology

There has been extensive interaction between Chinese mythology and the major belief systems of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.

On the one hand, elements of pre-Han dynasty mythologies such as those in Shan Hai Jing were adapted into these belief systems as they developed (in the case of Taoism), or were assimilated into Chinese culture (in the case of Buddhism). On the other hand, elements from the teachings and beliefs of these systems became incorporated into Chinese mythology. For example, the Taoist belief of a spiritual paradise became incorporated into mythology, as the place where immortals and deities dwell.




Wade-Giles romanization Ma-wang-tui

Archaeological site uncovered in 1963 near Changsha, Hunan province, southeastern China. It is the burial place of a high-ranking official, the marquess of Dai, who lived in the 2nd century bc, and of his immediate family. He was one of many petty nobles who governed small semiautonomous domains under the Han dynasty. The tombs were discovered during the construction of a hospital.

The almost perfectly preserved body of the marquess’s wife was found in tomb number one; it subsequently was placed on exhibit in a specially designed museum in Changsha. In the same tomb, an exquisite banner was discovered in 1972 that shows the noblewoman on her journey to heaven. This banner has become important for the information that it provides about ancient Chinese religious beliefs and practices. Also uncovered at Mawangdui were lacquers and silks that have shed light on artistic styles of the Han period.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Chinese: 馬王堆; pinyin: Mǎwngduī, lit. "Horse King Mound") is an archaeological site located in Changsha, China. The site consists of two saddle-shaped hills and contained the tombs of three people from the western Han Dynasty. The tombs belonged to the first Marquis of Dai, his wife, and a male who is believed to be their son. The site was excavated from 1972 to 1974. Most of the artifacts from Mawangdui are displayed at the Hunan Provincial Museum.

The tombs and occupants

The tombs followed a mixture of Western Han Dynasty and Chu burial practices. The tombs were made of large cypress planks. The outside of the tombs were layered with white clay and charcoal; white clay layering was a practice that originated with Chu burials, while charcoal layering was a practice that was followed during the early western Han Dynasty in the Changsha area. The tombs contained nested lacquered coffins, a Chu burial custom. The tombs also followed the burial practices dictated by Emperor Wen of Han, containing no jade or precious metals.

The eastern tomb, Tomb no. 1, contained the remains of a woman in her fifties (Lady Dai). Her mummified body was so well-preserved that researchers were able to perform an autopsy on her body, which showed that she probably died of a heart attack. Specifically, her diet was too rich in sugars and meats, and she suffered from arterial-coronary problems. Buried with her were skeletons of various food-animals, jujubes, lotus soup, grains and a complete meal including soup, rice and meat skewers on a lacquer set. Researchers found honeydew melon seeds in her stomach, inferring consumption right before death. She outlived the occupants of the other two tombs. Her personal name was Xinzhui (辛追).

Western Han (202 BC - 9 AD) era lacquerwares and lacquer tray unearthed from the 2nd-century-BC Han Tomb No.1 at MawangduiXinzhui's tomb was the best preserved tomb by far of the three tombs. A complete cosmetic set, lacquered pieces and finely woven silk garments with paintings are almost perfectly preserved. Her coffins were painted according to Chu customs and beliefs with whirling clouds interwoven with mystical animals and dragons. The corpse was bound tightly in layers of silk cloth and covered with a wonderfully painted T-shaped tapestry depicting the netherworld, earth and heavens with Chinese mythological characters as well as Xinzhui. There was also a silk painting showing a variety of exercises researchers call the forerunner of Tai ji.

The western tomb, Tomb no. 2, was the burial site of the first Marquis of Dai, Li Cang (利蒼). He died in 186 BC. The Han Dynasty had appointed Li Cang as the chancellor of the Kingdom of Changsha. This tomb had been plundered several times by grave robbers.

Tomb no. 3 was directly south of Tomb no. 1, and contained the tomb of a man in his thirties who died in 168 BC. The occupant is believed to be a relative of Li Cang and his wife. This tomb contained a rich trove of military, medical, and astronomical manuscripts written on silk.



Tombs 1 and 2

One famous artifact type were the lacquered wine-bowls and cosmetic boxes , which showcased the craftsmanship of the regional lacquerware industry. The perfectly preserved 2,000+ year-old corpse of the inhabitant (Marquise of Dai) of Tomb no. 1 is by far a more famous  artifact.

One of the most famous artifacts from Mawangdui were the silk funeral banners; the T-shaped banners were draped on the coffin of Tomb no. 1. The banners depicted the Chinese abstraction of the cosmos and the afterlife at the time of the western Han Dynasty. A silk banner of similar style and function were found in Tomb no. 3 on the coffin of Lady Dai's son.

The T-shaped silk funeral banner in the tomb of the Marquise (tomb no. 1) is called the "name banner" with the written name of the deceased replaced with their portrait. We know the name because the tomb's original inventory is still intact, and this is what it is called on the inventory. The Marquise was buried in four coffins, the silk banner drapes the innermost of the coffins.

On the T-shaped painted silk garment, the uppermost horizontal section of the T represents heaven. The bottom of the vertical section of the T represents the underworld. The middle (the top of the vertical) represents earth. In heaven we can see Chinese deities such as Nuwa and Chang'e, as well as Daoist symbols such as cranes (representing immortality). Between heaven and earth we can see heavenly messengers sent to bring Lady Dai to heaven. Underneath this are Lady Dai's family offering sacrifices to help her journey to heaven. Underneath them is the underworld - two giant sea serpents intertwined.

The contents of Tomb no. 2 were destroyed during various attempts to rob the grave. An excavation report has been published within the last 5 years in Chinese, there has not been a publication of the tomb contents in English yet.

Tombs 3
Tomb no. 3 contained a silk name banner (similar to that of tomb 1) and three maps drawn on silk: a topographic map, a military map and a prefecture map. The maps display the Hunan, Guangdong and Guangxi region and depict the political boundary between the Han Dynasty and Nanyue. The maps are some of the oldest discovered in China. At the time of its discovery, they were the oldest maps yet discovered in China, until 1986 when Qin State maps dating to the 4th century BC were found.

Tomb no. 3 contained a wealth of classical texts. The tomb contained texts on astronomy, which accurately depicted the planetary orbits for Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Saturn and described various comets. The tomb also contained a rich collection of Huang-lao Taoist texts, as well a copy of the Zhan Guo Ce. The tomb also contained various medical texts, including depictions of qigong (tao yin) exercises, as well as a historical text, the Chunqiu shiyu.


The Ten Suns of Heaven

In the beginning, there were ten suns, the sons of Di Jun, Chinese Emperor of the Eastern Heavens, and his wife Xi He, goddess of the sun. They lived in a giant mulberry tree that grew up from the waters of the Heaven Valley - waters that were always boiling hot because the suns all bathed there. Each morning, the suns took it in turns to shine in the sky, leaving the others resting in the tree. But one day, bored with their orderly life, they all rushed up into the sky at once and ran round wildly having fun. Their tenfold strength began to scorch the earth but when their parents told them to behave and come down they would not listen. So Di Jun sent his archer, Hou Yi, to teach his sons a lesson. Yi then shot down nine of the ten suns. Di Jun was devastated and he stripped Yi and his wife Chang E of their immortality and banished them from heaven.






China, second century ВС

This funeral banner divides into four sections. The top rectangle depicts deities in heaven.
The section below, from the heavenly gates to Lady Dai, shows how mortals ascend to heaven
to become immortals. The third section, below the upturned bell, shows the mourning people
who have survived the deceased, and the fourth, below the altars full of food, is a
reproduction of the afterlife.










Chang E Flees to the Moon

Here, Chang E, Hou Yi's wife who lost her immortality when her
husband did, travels up to heaven. After his disgrace, Hou Yi
travelled to the Киn Lun Mountains to bring back a potion of
immortality. There was enough for one person to return to heaven
and live as an immortal, or for two to become immortal. Hou Yi had
planned to share it with Chang E, hut she stole all of it and
floated into the sky to live in the temple of the moon.



Fu Xi

first mythical emperor of China. His miraculous birth, as a divine being with a serpent’s body, is said to have occurred in the 29th century bce. Some representations show him as a leaf-wreathed head growing out of a mountain or as a man clothed with animal skins. Fu Xi is said to have discovered the famous Chinese trigrams (baqua) used in divination (notably in the Yijing) and thus to have contributed, in some uncertain way, to the development of the Chinese writing system. He domesticated animals, taught his people to cook, to fish with nets, and to hunt with weapons made of iron. He likewise instituted marriage and offered the first open-air sacrifice to heaven. A stone tablet dated 160 ce depicts him with N Gua, a frequent companion, who was either his wife or sister.

Pan Gu

central figure in Chinese Daoist legends of creation. Pan Gu, the first man, is said to have come forth from chaos (an egg) with two horns, two tusks, and a hairy body. Some accounts credit him with the separation of heaven and earth, setting the sun, moon, stars, and planets in place, and dividing the four seas. He shaped the earth by chiselling out valleys and stacking up mountains. All this was accomplished from Pan Gu’s knowledge of yinyang, the inescapable principle of duality in all things.

Another legend asserts that the universe derived from Pan Gu’s gigantic corpse. His eyes became the sun and moon, his blood formed rivers, his hair grew into trees and plants, his sweat turned to rivers, and his body became soil. The human race, moreover, evolved from parasites that infested Pan Gu’s body. These creation myths date from the 3rd to the 6th century. Artistic representations frequently depict Pan Gu as a dwarf clothed with leaves.


Pun Gu holds the Yin-Yang symbol.


Pan Gu Creates the World

In the beginning, the universe was contained within an egg, inside which the vital forces of yin (dark, female, and cool) and yang (light, male, and hot) interacted with each other. Inside the egg, Pan Gu, formed from these forces, slept for 18,000 years. When he awoke, he stretched and broke the egg. The heavier elements inside the egg sank to form the earth, and die lighter ones floated to form the sky. Between the earth and the sky was Pan Gu. Every day, for another 18,000 years, the earth and sky separated a little more, and every day Pan Gu grew at the same rate so that he always filled the space in between. At last the earth and sky reached their final positions, and exhausted, Pan Gu lay down to rest. But he was so worn out that he died. His torso and limbs became the mountains. His eyes became the sun and moon, his flesh the land, his hair the trees and plants, and his tears the rivers and seas. His breath became the wind, and his voice the thunder and lightning. Finally, Pan Gu's fleas became humankind.



Nuwa, Chinese creator goddess

Creation myths of NU Wa

Human beings were created by the goddess Nu Wa, either out of mud and water, or with her brother Fu Xi. Wanting the gods' approval, she and Fu Xi lit two bonfires and said, "If Heaven wants us to marry, may the smoke of the two fires mingle; if not, may it drift in separate ways". It mingled, so they married; but Nu Wa was shy and covered her face with a fan - as brides still do today. Nu Wa felt protective towards humanity. When Gong Gong, the Water God, made holes m the sky during a battle with Zhu Rong, the Fire God, and die whole world was unbalanced and ravaged by fire and flood, Nu Wa melted stones to plug the gap and make the sky as good as new. And, to make it extra safe, she killed a giant turtle and used its four legs as pillars to support the four corners of heaven.




From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nwa, Chinese creator goddessNwa (Traditional Chinese: 女媧; Simplified Chinese: 女娲; Pinyin: nǚwā, also N Gua or Ngua) is a goddess in ancient Chinese mythology best known for creating mankind and repairing the wall of heaven. Later traditions attribute mankind's creation to either Pangu or Yu Huang.


Nwa primary sources

Nwa was referred to in many books of songs. Below are some of the common sources that describe Nwa, tabled in chronological order. The list below did not include those of local tribal stories or modern reinterpretations, often adapted for screenplay. (Note: please maintain pattern of date, author, book, chapter, account, and detail for future additions.)

1) (Warring States - early Han) editor: Liu Xiang, book: Shan Hai Jing, chapter 16, account: Nwa's intestines scatter into ten spirits. Not to be confused with Nǚw 女娃 also known as Jingwei.

2) (475 - 221 BC) author: Lie Yukou, book: Liezi, chapter 5: "Questions of Tang" (卷第五 湯問篇), paragraph 1: account: "Nwa repairs the heavens" detail: Describes Nwa repairing the imperfect heaven,. detail: The heaven was imperfect at the beginning, Nwa uses five colored stones to repair the heaven, cut the legs of a tortoise and use them as struts to hold up the sky. But later, Gong Gong bumps into the mountain "buzhou"---- which holds up the sky, so the world inclines again, all river run to the east and stars begin to move.

3) (340 - 278 BC) author: Qu Yuan, book: "Elegies of Chu" (Chuci), chapter 3: "Asking Heaven" (问天, or Wentian), account: "Nwa Mends The Firmament" detail: The name Nwa first appeared here. This story states that Nwa molded figures from the yellow earth, giving them life and the ability to bear children. Demons then fought and broke the pillars of the heavens. Nwa worked unceasingly to repair the damage, melting down the five-coloured stones to mend the heavens.

4) (179 - 122 BC) author: Liu An, book: Huainanzi, chapter 6: Lanmingxun (覽冥訓), account: "Nwa Mended the Sky" detail: In remote antiquity, the four poles of the Universe collapsed, and the world descended into chaos: the firmament was no longer able to cover everything, and the earth was no longer able to support itself; fire burned wild, and waters flooded the land. Fierce beasts ate common people, and ferocious birds attacked the old and the weak. Hence, Nwa tempered the five-colored stone to mend the heavens, cut off the feet of the great turtle to support the four poles, killed the black dragon to help the earth, and gathered the ash of reed to stop the flood. Variation: The four corners of the sky collapsed and the world with its nine regions split open.
Nuwa and Fuxi as depicted from murals of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD)

5) (58 - 147 AD) author: Xu Shen, book: Shuowen Jiezi, entry: Nwa detail: The Shuowen is China's earliest dictionary. In it, Nwa is said to have been both the sister and the wife of Fuxi. Nwa and Fuxi were pictured as having snake like tails interlocked in an Eastern Han dynasty (+25 +220) mural in the Wuliang Temple in Jiaxiang county, Shandong province.

6) (618 - 907 AD) author: Li Rong, book: Duyi Zhi (獨異志); vol 3, account: "opening of the universe" [citation needed] detail: There was a brother and a sister living on the Kunlun Mountain, and there were no ordinary people at that time. The sister's name was Nwa. The brother and sister wished to become husband and wife, but felt shy and guilty about this desire. So the brother took his younger sister to the top of the Kunlun Mounatain and prayed: "If the heavens allow us to be man and wife, please let the smoke before us gather; if not, please let the smoke scatter." The smoke before them gathered together. So Nwa came to live with her elder brother. She made a fan with grass to hide her face. (The present custom of women covering their faces with fans originated from this story.)

7) (618 - 907 AD) author: Lu Tong, book: Yuchuan Ziji (玉川子集), chapter 3 detail: characters: "與馬異結交詩" 也稱 "女媧本是伏羲婦", pinyin: "Yu Mayi Jie Jiao Shi" YeCheng "Nwa ben shi Fuxi fu", English: "NuWa originally is Fuxi wife" (note late date)

8) (618 - 907 AD) author: Sima Zhen, book: Four Branches of Literature Complete Library (Siku Quanshu) , prologue chapter to Sima Qian's Shiji: "Supplemental to the Historic Record – History of the Three August Ones" detail: The three August Ones (San Huang) are: Fuxi, Nwa, Shennong; Fuxi & Nwa have the same last name Feng (風). note: Sima Zhen's commentary in included with the later Siku Quanshu compiled by Ji Yun (紀昀) & Lu Xixiong (陸錫熊).

9) (960 - 1279 AD) author: Li Fang, collection: Songsi Dashu, series: Taiping Anthologies for the Emperor (Taiping Yulan), book: Vol 78, chapter "Customs by Yingshao of the Han Dynasty" detail: States that there were no men when the sky and the earth were separated. Nwa used yellow clay to make people. The clay was not strong enough, so she put ropes into the clay to make the bodies erect. It was also said that she prayed to gods to let her be the goddess of marital affairs.


Nwa in various roles

An ancient painting of Nwa and Fuxi unearthed in Xinjiang.Since Nwa is presented differently in so many myths, it is not accurate to tie her down as a creator, mother, or goddess. Depending on the myth, she is responsible for being a wife, sister, man, tribal leader (or even emperor), creator, maintainer, etc. It is not clear from the evidence which view came first. Regardless of the origins, most myths present Nwa as female in a procreative role after a calamity.

Nwa as a repairer

The earliest literary role seems to be the upkeep and maintenance of the Wall of Heaven, whose collapse would obliterate everything.

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 calamities, such as unending fires, vast floods, and the appearance of fierce man-eating beasts. Nwa 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.

Other versions of the story describe Nwa 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 Nwa as their goddess and some festivals such as the 'Water-Splashing Festival' are in part a tribute to her sacrifices.

Nwa as a creator

The next major role of Nwa is of a creator deity. However, not many stories ascribe to her the creation of everything; they usually confine her to the creation of mankind. It is said  that Nwa existed in the beginning of the world. She felt lonely as there were no animals so she began the creation of animals and humans. On the first day she created chickens. On the second day she created dogs. On the third day she created sheep. On the fourth day she created pigs. On the fifth day she created cows. On the sixth day she created horses. On the seventh day she began creating men from yellow clay, sculpting each one individually, yet after she had created hundreds of figures in this way she still had more to make but had grown tired of the laborious process.

So instead of hand crafting each figure, she dipped a rope in clay and flicked it so blobs of clay landed everywhere; each of these blobs became a common person. Nwa still laboriously crafted some people out of clay, who became nobles.


Nwa as wife or sister

By the Han Dynasty, she is described in literature with her husband Fuxi as the first of the San Huang, and often called the "parents of humankind". However, paintings depicting them joined as half people - half snake or dragon date to the Warring States period.

Nwa as a goddess for Miao people

Nwa is also the traditional divine goddess of the Miao people.


 Nwa in history

Paintings of Nwa, and her consort Fuxi, date to the Warring States period.

Herbert James Allen erroneously translated Tang dynasty historian Sima Zhen's interpolated prologue to the Han dynasty Sima Qian's Shiji. In one of his more serious flaws, Nwa was described as male even though the N (女) in the name means female and the wa (媧) also contains the female radical.

Appearance in Fengshen Yanyi

Nwa is featured within the famed Ming dynasty novel Fengshen Yanyi. As featured within this novel, Nwa is very highly respected since the time of the Xia Dynasty for being the daughter of the Jade Emperor; Nwa is also regularly called the "Snake Goddess". After the Shang Dynasty had been created, Nu Wa created the Five-colored stones to protect the dynasty with occasional seasonal rains and other enhancing qualities. Thus in time, Shang Rong asked King Zhou of Shang to pay her a visit as a sign of deep respect. After King Zhou was completely overcome with lust at the very sight of the beautiful ancient goddess Nwa (who had been sitting behind a light curtain), he would write a small poem on a neighboring wall and take his leave. When Nwa later returned to her temple after visiting the Yellow Emperor, Nwa would see the foulness of King Zhou's words. In her anger, she swore that the Shang Dynasty will end in payment for his foulness. In her rage, Nwa would personally ascend to the palace in an attempt to kill the king, but was suddenly struck back by two large beams of red light.

After Nwa realized that King Zhou was already destined to rule the kingdom for twenty-six more years, Nwa would summon her three subordinates—the Thousand-Year Vixen (later becoming Daji), the Fat-Belly Guitar Jade Pipa, and the Nine-Headed Pheasant. With these words, Nu Wa would bring destined chaos to the Shang Dynasty, "The luck Cheng Tang won six hundred years ago is dimming. I speak to you of a new mandate of heaven which sets the destiny for all. You three are to enter King Zhou's palace, where you are to bewitch him. Whatever you do, do not harm anyone else. If you do my bidding, and do it well, you will be permitted to reincarnate as human beings." Thus, with these words, Nwa would never be heard of again, but would still be a major indirect factor towards the Shang Dynasty's fall.



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