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Chinese Myths

MAİDE UYGUR
141024022
Chinese mythology is as varied and multi-levelled as the country from
which it springs. China contains many different cultural groupings, who
speak a number of different languages. However, it has had a literate
cultural élite for thousands of years, and myths which were originally
regional have spread by means of a pictographic script which
transcended language barriers. Their evolution has not been entirely oral.
Much Chinese mythology is based on animism, which sees the land
itself as alive. It contains many therianthropic creatures, who are both
animal and human, and demonstrates the playfulness of the gods.
Strands of Chinese belief

● Chinese mythology has been influenced by a


fear of outsiders. It has also been shaped,
sometimes deliberately, by religious faiths and
philosophies. Some myths even demonstrate
the conflict between them, as in the story of
the Monkey King, which reflects the conflict
between Taoists and Buddhists.
Taoism
A central quest within Taoist practices is the
search for immortality - literal, physical immortality.
The sense of an interplay between natural law and
the abstract laws prevailing in the cosmos, is held
in common by shamanism and Taoism. Taoism
searched for balance within these forces and
enshrined the concept that change cannot be
forced, only experienced and assimilated.
Confucianism
Confucius lived in the sixth century BCE, a time of considerable
political unrest and feuding. He taught the virtues of order, structure
and correct behaviour, which was underpinned by a rigid notion of
hierarchy, involving strict filial devotion. Confucian notions of hierarchy
are evident in the bureaucratic pantheon of Chinese myths.
Buddhism
Buddhism was introduced to China in the first century
CE and has been adapted by the Chinese so that the
mythologies of the indigenous faiths and the imported
are intertwined. Early Buddhism consciously created a
mythology to give meaning to its practices and beliefs.
Even the advent of Buddhism is mythologized in the
tale of the Emperor Ming. His dream of a golden man
who could fly led him to dispatch messengers to
Afghanistan to bring back the Buddhist scriptures.
Pangu and the Creation of the
World
This myth is similar to many creation myths worldwide, in
which the world is formed out of the body of a primal being.
In the beginning there was darkness everywhere, and
Chaos ruled. PanguWithin the darkness there formed an
egg, and inside the egg the giant Pangu came into being.
For aeons, safely inside the egg, Pangu slept and grew.
When he had grown to gigantic size he stretched his huge
limbs and in so doing broke the egg. The lighter parts of the
egg floated upwards to form the heavens and the denser
parts sank downwards, to become the earth. And so was
formed earth and sky, Yin and Yang.
Pangu saw what had happened and he was
pleased. But he feared that heaven and earth
might meld together again, so he placed himself
between them, his head holding up the sky and
his feet firmly upon the earth. Pangu continued
to grow at a rate of ten feet a day for 18,000
years, so increasing the distance between
heaven and earth, until they seemed fixed and
secure, 30,000 miles apart. Now exhausted,
Pangu went back to sleep and never woke up.
Pangu died, and his body went to make the world and all its elements.
The wind and clouds were formed from his breath, his voice was thunder
and lightning, his eyes became the sun and moon, his arms and his legs
became the four directions of the compass and his trunk became the
mountains. His flesh turned into the soil and the trees that grow on it, his
blood into the rivers that flow and his veins into paths men travel. His
body hair became the grass and herbs, and his skin the same, while
precious stones and minerals were formed from his bones and teeth. His
sweat became the dew and the hair of his head became the stars that
trail throughout heaven. As for the parasites on his body, these became
the divers races of humankind.
Although Pangu is dead, some say he is still responsible for the weather,
which fluctuates according to his moods.
Commentary
Despite the fact that this tale is accepted as a
legacy of ancient China, it is probable that is
was imported from South East Asia However,
it is usually ascribed to Ko Hung, Taoist writer
of the fourth century CE, who also wrote on
the preparation of an elixir of life, and similar
subjects. He also wrote Biographies of Spirits
and Immortals, which is a prime source of
mythological material.
The Cosmic Egg
Myths of a ‘cosmic egg’ are common to many cultures,
signifying the origins of conscious life. In some versions the
egg is produced by a mother figure of some description,
and even where this is absent, it is present by implication.
At one level it merely dramatizes the experience of every
individual, starting existence in the egg-shape of the womb,
which is at first a container and a totality. Conscious,
separate existence is achieved when the container is
breached, but ends at death, when the constituents of the
body return to the earth to become part of the cycle of life.
The myth of Pangu on this small level gives
meaning to each individual life, and may be a
way of processing the idea that the world
existed long before we did and will continue
long after death. Creation myths embody the
internal process of increasing consciousness of
the world.
The creation motif
On a larger scale, creation myths are a way for the
conscious mind to attempt to explain the infinite and to
make sense of a boundless universe. The conscious
mind cannot truly conceive of something that has no
beginning. However, creation myths of this sort have
factors in common with modern scientific theory. The
cracking open of the egg itself echoes the theme of the
Big Bang, while the shape of the egg connects with
Einstein's theory of curved space.
According to the Big Bang theory, all matter was at first
compressed into an unimaginably dense single point. A
reaction took place which caused this to explode and expand
into the stars and galaxies. Steve Eddy and Nicholas
Campion in The New Astrology (Bloomsbury, 1999) write:
The myth of Pangu also reflects an animistic view of the world,
prevalent in so-called primitive cultures, in which everything is
seen as alive, even rocks and soil. It is a vibrant view of
creation, and conveys an instinctual respect, a willingness to
work with a living earth, rather than an intention to subdue inert
matter.
Human beings, in the myth, have a fairly lowly position. Rather than
standing at the centre of the cosmos they are fairly insignificant, taking
their place in the natural order. This perspective is echoed in Chinese
paintings, where tiny figures are dwarfed by the sweeping vistas of
natural features, mountains and waterfalls on varying levels. The
development of a spiritual consciousness confers humility and balance.
References

http://www.livingmyths.com/Chinese.htm
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