In the beginning there was nothing except chaos. For the next 18,000 years, out of this chaos was formed an egg. Within the egg were two opposing forces, yin (the female force) and yang (the male force), and their interaction brought about the birth of Pangu. Pangu stayed in the egg until he had grown so big that his feet and arms broke the eggshell.

Yang (the lighter element) rose to become the sky while yin (the darker element), became earth. So they would not join again, Pangu stood between them, his hands supporting the sky and his feet firmly on the ground. Every day, Pangu would grow ten feet taller; the sky would rise ten feet higher, and the earth would become ten feet thick. It took 18,000 years for the separation of the earth and sky to be completed. At the end of this time, Pangu laid down to rest and his body dissolved to become the world around us.

Wind was formed from his breath and his voice became thunder. His left eye became the sun; his right eye, the moon; his body turned into mountains; his beard became the stars. Rivers were formed from his blood while fertile land were formed from his muscles. Precious stones and metals metals were formed from his teeth and bones His hair became the trees and forests and his sweat fell as rain. Even the insects crawling over his body were scattered to become human beings.


NuwaNuwa takes the form of a beautiful woman with the lower body of a snake. She is the creator of mankind and often called the “mother of humankind”.

Creation of Man

The earth was a beautiful place with blossoming trees and flowers, and full of animals, birds, fish and all living creatures. But as she wandered about it Nuwa felt very lonely. She bent down and took up a handful of earth, mixed it with water and molded a figure in her likeness. As she kneaded it the figure came alive - the first human being. Nuwa was so pleased with her creation that she went on making more figures both men and women. They danced around her cheerily and loneliness was dispelled.

Since this process was too tedious and time-consuming, she dipped a rope into the mud and then swung it about her. Soon the earth around her was covered the lumps of mud.

The handmade figurines became the wealthy and the noble; those that arose from the splashes of mud were the poor and the common.

Nuwa Patches up the Sky

Two deities, Gong Gong (a God of Water) and Zhu Rong (the God of Fire) were in battle. They fought all the way from Heaven to earth, causing turmoil everywhere. The God of Fire won, and in anger the God of Water struck his head against Buzhou Mountain (a peak to the northwest of the Kunlun range in southern Xinjiang). The mountain collapsed and down came the big pillar that held heaven from earth. Half the sky fell in, leaving a great hole. The earth cracked open, forests went up in flames, floodwaters sprouted from beneath the earth and dragons, snakes and fierce animals leaped out at the people. Many were drowned and more were burned or devoured. It was an unprecedented disaster.

Nuwa was grieved that mankind, which she had created, should undergo such suffering. She decided to mend the sky and end this catastrophe. She melted together the five colored stones and with the molten mixture patched up the sky. Then she killed a giant turtle and used its four legs as four pillars to support the fallen part of the sky. She caught and killed a dragon and this scared the other beasts away from the land of Cathay. Then she gathered and burned a huge quantity of reeds and with the ashes stopped the flood from spreading, so that the people could live happily again.

The only trace left of the disaster, the legend says, was that the sky slanted to the northwest and the earth to the southeast, and so, since then, the sun, the moon and all the stars turn towards the west and all the rivers run southeast.

The Peaches of Immortality

Charming and luxuriant the full blossom;
Every tree weighed down with fruit.
The fruit−laden branches bend like carding−bows;
The blossoming trees are covered with powder and rouge.
Always blossoming, always in fruit, they are ripe for a thousand years;
They know no summer or winter, but linger for ever.
The early ripeners
Look red−faced and tipsy;
The ones still growing
Are green in stalk and skin.
When the dew forms, their flesh has a touch of blue,
While the sun picks out their vermilion beauty.
Below the trees exotic flowers grow,
Bright and unfading throughout the year.
On either side stand towers and pavilions,
And a rainbow always arches the sky.
These are not the common breeds of the Dark Earth Capital,
But are tended by the Queen Mother of the Jade Pool.
- Journey to the West

Accompanied by the phoenix, symbol of eternal life, Xi Wangmu is the Keeper of the Peaches of Immortality. Xi Wangmu is the mother of the divine Jade Emperor, and is also known as Queen Mother of the West. She ensures the gods' everlasting existence by feeding them the peaches of immortality This rare fruit grows on the heavenly trees which put forth leaves every 3,000 years and it takes 3,000 years for the fruit to ripen. In the orchard grow 3600 peach trees, each putting forth its fruit of a difference ripeness so that just one tree may be harvested annually.

Each year all the Immortals gather to renew their immortality at the sacred feast, the birthday of the Queen Mother. This the heavenly celebration is reflected by the mortal of Cathay in the Pantaohui (Feast of Peaches), celebrated annually. The celestial celebration takes place on Kunlun mountain in a lofty and magnificent palace surrounded by gold walls and containing twelve blocks of jade structures covering some 300 miles. This palace is the abode of the Immortals and the paradise to which the faithful practitioners of the spiritual way may attain.

The Garden in the East

There are deer of long life and magic foxes in the woods;
Miraculous birds and black cranes in the trees.
There are flowers of jade and strange plants that wither not;
Green pine and bluish cypress ever in leaf,
Magic peaches always in fruit.
Clouds gather round the tall bamboo.
The wisteria grows thick around the mountain brook
And the banks around are newly−coloured with flowers.
It is the Heaven−supporting pillar where all the rivers meet,
The Earth's root, unchanged through a myriad aeons.
- Journey to the West

According to Shan Hai Jing, the mountain on Penglai is said to be on an island in the eastern end of Bohai Sea, along with four other islands where the immortals lived, called Fangzhang (方丈), Yingzhou (瀛州), Daiyu (岱輿), and Yuanjiao (員嬌).

The mountain is said to be the base for the Eight Immortals, or at least where they travel to have a banquet. Everything on the mountain seems white, while its palaces are made from gold and platinum, and jewellery grow on trees.

There is no pain and no winter; there are rice bowls and wine glasses that never become empty no matter how much people eat or drink from them; and there are magical fruits growing in Horai that can heal any disease, grant eternal youth, and even raise the dead.

Historically, Qin Shi Huang, in search of the elixir of life, made several attempts to find the island where the mountain is located, to no avail. Legends tell that Xu Fu, one servant sent to find the island, found Japan instead.

The Celestial Bureaucracy

The least gods in Cathay are those of hearth and home, those these are generally those most frequently venerated since they are close to the individual lives of those the monitor and protect. Above them are set the gods of towns and cities and provinces. Each year, on Cathayan New Year's Eve, the Jade Emperor summons all the lesser spirits of humanity to a great conclave in Heaven (Tian) at which they report to him the actions and righteousness of their wards. On this day incense is burned in the home and offerings are made to the Jade Emperor and also to the Zao Jun, the gods of hearth and kitchen who reports to the Emperor.

The Peace Absolving, Central August Spirit Exalted, Ancient Buddha, Most Pious and Honourable, His Highness the Jade Emperor, Xuanling High Sovereign is at the pinnacle of the Celestial Bureaucracy and administers all of Tian, Earth and Di Yu. He once a mortal man but by cultivating all that was good within himself, strengthening his Tao, he ascended to the ranks of the gods and with many million more years of study became worthy of the rank of Emperor of Heaven. His chief function is to distribute justice. For mortals he does so through the court system of Di Yu where evil deeds and thoughts are punished in his name by the Yama-Kings.

Beneath the Jade Emperor come the Three Pure Ones, and less than those are the Eight Immortals. The Three Pure Ones act only occasionally but chiefly exist as examples of righteousness, paths by which good men and women may steer their lives. The Eight Immortals are examples of great saints upon the Earth who have been granted immortality and a place in Heaven that they may continue to bless those who remain below. For example Zhongli Quan was once a general serving the Han Dynasty and remains a patron to the soldiers of Cathay.

Heaven itself teems with millions of deities of varying power and interest in mortals. They labour within the Celestial Bureaucracy and see that all that happens in Tian and upon the Earth happens at the appointed time and in the proper way. The theurges of Cathay act within the Celestial Bureaucracy, becoming friends with agents of Heaven and ensuring that reports are favourable or unfavourable as they ought to be and that the actions that are taken in the great planning committees are as they desire.

All of these great gods, save the spirits of home and place, dwell within Tian. This is a great city filled with scholars, administrators, entertainers and soldiers. The Imperial City of Beijing is the closest place on Earth to the wonders of Tian, though even that great city and the Forbidden Palace within it is but the least shadow of the wonders and bounty of Heaven.

bonus.cathayan_mythology.txt · Last modified: 2008/03/20 10:00 by ivan