My wife and I are newcomers to the Middle Kingdom, and after our expat
community church service the other day the question of traditional China's
take on the Creationism debate came up. Please edify, entertain and
enlighten in your inimitable fashion.
Ma and Pa Procreation
Dear Ma and Pa,
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the
face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from
And God called the light Day and the darkness Night. And the evening
and the morning were the first day."
We all know this is how you proselytizing foreigners believe the world
came into being. However, we Chinese have a creation myth of our own.
Long, long ago, heaven and earth were
united, a chaotic mass in the pervading gloom, in the shape of a huge
egg. Somewhere within the celestial omelette slept a giant, gargantuan
in stature and strength. Pan Gu, forefather of the human race, was born
in the midst of the egg, wherein he grew up and slumbered soundly for
One day, Pan-man awoke suddenly. Opening his eyes, he found himself
engulfed in a suffocating blackness, devoid of any light. He was not
Exasperated at the annoying situation, Pan snatched a broad axe from
somewhere within the scrambled mass and wielded it with great violence,
swinging away in the darkness. The axe split the air, striking nothing,
until THWACK! With an ear-splitting explosion, the colossal 'egg' had
cracked, the light, clear 'white' of which rose to become heaven, while
the heavy and cloudy substance fell to become earth, sunny-side up.
Despite the breach, heaven was still linked to earth, leaving the two
parts in a state of Chaos Benedict. Eager to remedy the situation and
crazed like a berserker, Pan Gu, chisel in his left hand and broad axe
in his right, cleaved and chipped away with preternatural might and
Under the relentless onslaught, heaven and earth finally came apart
and the state of chaos ceased to exist.
Fearing a nasty, Sex Pistols-esque reunion tour, Pan Gu stood in between
with his head against the heavens and his feet on the earth. As the
two evolved and morphed, Pan changed his shape several times daily in
an effort to keep them apart.
Each day, just as the heavens went up a zhang higher and the earth became
a zhang (a unit of measure approximately equal to a cubit) thicker,
Pan Gu grew taller in the same measure to keep pace. Some 18,000 years
later, the heavens were to become immensely thick and Pan Gu phenomenally
How tall was Pan Gu? He was speculated to be 90,000 li (about 45 kilometers)
in height. Like a never-ending column, this heaven-kissing
colossus stood erect between heaven and earth, leaving the two no chance
of meeting again.
There stood Pan Gu in loneliness, engaging himself in such laborious
work. After endless ages passed and heaven and earth solidified, Pan
Gu, no longer worried about the two coming together again, said to himself,
"My work is done here." Completely fatigued and exhausted, he felt a
great urge for a comfortable respite and, like other mortals, dropped
As he breathed his last, a dramatic change came over Pan's whole body.
Pan's breath became winds and clouds, and his voice, roaring thunder;
his left eye was turned into the sun and his right one into the moon;
his upper and lower extremities and his trunk were transformed into
the ends of the universe and the five famous mountains (the five mountains
were said to be the sacred abodes of mountain gods and were deified
and worshiped by emperors and kings of past dynasties. They now refer
to: Tai Mountain in Shandong Province, Heng Mountain in Hunan Province,
Hua Mountain in Shaanxi Province, Heng Mountain in Shanxi Province and
Song Mountain in Henan Province). Pan's blood was metamorphosed into
rivers and streams; his tendons and veins into mountains and plains;
his flesh into the fields; his hair and beard into the multitudinous
stars that dot the sky; the skin and the fine hair on his body into
grass and trees; his teeth and bones into metallic minerals and rocks;
his semen and marrow into pearls and jade; even his very perspiration
was transmogrified into the rain and dew that moistened all in the universe.
By sacrificing his body, Pan Gu, the earliest ancestor of human beings,
gave beauty and splendor to the newly-born world and to his descendants,
who now seem bent on destroying everything he created.