China, one of the longest civilizations the world has ever
witnessed, isn’t only famed for their ancient progression and vast development
but also for the enchantment and mystery of their culture and mythology.
Chinese mythologies, especially, are wonder and amazement blurring the line
between the realities and the mythical, with many myths interlink to history
creating the foundation of many Chinese’s belief today; it can be only said that
Chinese’s mythologies and their gods and goddess making the story was an
inseparable part of China. Particularly, Chinese gods and goddess are fascinating figures
of the ancient China history as they’re central for their survival in
constructing many philosophical and ways of life for the ancient Chinese to
their current generation and possibly the few parts of the Asian region. Hence,
let’s know more about these 10 prominent Chinese gods and Goddess from the
While there are many Chinese wondrous deities, there’s none but one Chinese god portrayed to create the earth but Pan Gu. Also known as P’an Ku or Pangu, he is given the title as the god of creation and the first man. He is as well a central figure for the Taoist teaching (The way which famously recognized with Yin and Yang). According to Chinese mythology, Pan Gu is pictured as a man-sized a dwarf, adorned with horns and tusks, and said to have a hairy body.
It is told that he came out from the egg contained Yin and Yang as the big bang happened and cracked the egg. After he’s born, he cut the darkness which prior filled the universe by raising the Yang upward and making it the sky, while pushing Yin downward and creating the earth. Then, he held it using his hands and feet to keep the Yin and Yang in place. Every day, he lifted the sky a little higher from the earth, which eventually turned him into a giant as the earth was separated far away from the sky. It’s said from the legend, after making the earth and sky; he created other things on earth. He shaped the valleys and mountains, gradually adding details to his creation in balance according to the Yin and Yang principle which bestowed upon him.
It was thousand years for the earth to be perfect before he died. Once he was dead, his breath turned to be air, and the blood turned to be rivers. In addition, the fleas from his body turned to be human and his hair became trees and bushes whilst the eyes become the sun and the moon.
Although, there’s the myth of human is created by the fleas of Pan Gu, the favored version for many people is the myth of goddess Nuwa, the next popular character of Chinese mythologies. Nuwa, also known as Nu Wa or Nugua, is born centuries after the world perfected and said to have the upper body of a human and the lower half of dragon. Nuwa as a goddess is revered for the popular tale of repairing the pillar of heaven and earth which was damaged because of the war between Gonggong and Zhuanxu.
However, Nuwa isn’t only known for that, she is believed to be the goddess of matchmaker, the one who slays all the monster on earth, and above all, she is the mother of the human being. From the mythology, it appears that in her boredom, she created human by molding the mud from the yellow river, making a figure like her and giving the molded figure a life through her breath. Thus, the first human created and Nuwa was delighted as she made more of human beings to accompany her. Yet, making human is quite a job and she found it tiring. Hence, she invented the marriage system, it’s apparently the main reason why she was entitled as the patron of matchmaker in the ancient Chinese’ belief. Nuwa is also regarded for the beautiful palace she built which later became the model of many Chinese buildings.
In the myth of the Ten Legendary Kings, tale about gods who gave the people the beginning, Fuxi is one of the prominent figures in Chinese gods and goddesses universe. He is said to be the husband of Nuwa, and as his wife is pictured, he is often given the body of half human and half dragon in many writings and paintings. He is also regarded to be the bearer of human civilization along with his wife who first molded human beings into existence.
While Nuwa is the one to create human being, Fuxi is the one giving them the knowledge since human was created with no knowledge in the beginning. He was famous as the Chinese god who taught peoples the survival skill, bestowed them the ability to write, cook and do fortune-telling. He also gave human the beautiful gift of culture, art, and music. For the ancient Chinese, Fuxi is the god that gives them thought, so they’re capable of making a decision and knowing the future.
From the pilgrimage mythology, there is the adored goddess of Marcy and Compassion, Guan Yin. Her name itself had the meaning of a person who listens to the cries of suffering in the world. She was a prominent figure in Chinese gods and goddesses universe that also stood as the protector of sailors and fishermen. Guan Yin is pictured as a lady wrapped in elegant white attire, carrying a baby in her arms to symbolize her great compassion and empathy to humanity, and standing on a lotus bud to show her root as once human. In some popular portrayal, instead of a baby, Guan Yin holds a willow branch in one hand and a vase of pure water in the other.
Although she is a goddess adored by young and old people in ancient China, the myth of her life when she was a human didn’t have the same luck. It’s said that she was killed by her father for defying his will to marry by putting her foremost concern to end people suffering in the world which his father thought as ridiculous and he murdered her for that. When she arrived in hell, the kindness held inside her was released, putting a stop of many souls’ sufferings. It angered Yana, the Chinese god of the dead since he couldn’t do his job and so he sent her back to the realm of the living. There, she was given immortally by Buddha for her compassion to always help those who are in needs.
Gonggong, also famous with the name of Kanghui, is one from the many Chinese water gods. However, in comparison of other water gods, his figure is prominent in Chinese mythology and he is notorious for the war he created that broke the pillar which holds heaven. He is portrayed as a figure crowned with red hair, and having the serpent tail which suited his image of war enthusiast highly.
In many myths where he’s presented, Gonggong is responsible to cause numerous of destruction by dangerous flood of his creation. He put a strong battle with other gods and goddesses to own the total dominion of the world which action brought misery upon human and flicked the anger of Nuwa. The famous myth of this notorious water god is circling around his battle with Zhuanxu, the fire god and the prior peaceful ruler of the earth. He was successful in dethroning Zhuanxu from the throne, yet upon his reign, he wasn’t satisfied with the condition of the earth and decided to increase his influence by adding the amount of water to what believed to be today’s world composition, 70% of water and 30% of dry land. To achieve his goal, Gonggong sent a heavy rain that almost destroyed the world itself. Later, he was taken as the criminal and it’s either he’s sentenced to die or thrown to the exile.
While often it’s heard from the western part of the world about the demigod trend, China has once had their own great demigod. Yu the Great is a legendary tale for the ancient Chinese, around the year of 2200 BCE. As a demigod, he had the capability of shape-shifting to anything he wished to be, from the scary dragon to the simple human being. He is regarded as the first one to decent his status as a ruler and is the founder of Xia dynasty. Unfortunately, this Xia dynasty is quite questionable as a real history since there’s not enough archeological evidence and as China has it already, many of their myth legacies are in a blurry line with the real history.
The most reckoned legend of Yu the Great (or also known as Da Yu) is about the way he is born. It began with a man named Gun who was bestowed the position to control the great flood. However, he sneakily took a handful of magic soil from heaven to block the water seeing the flood didn’t cause a good deed to the human being. His sneaking action invited the fury of Shangti who is the King of Heaven, sending him to execution. After three years of Gun’s death, the preserved body of his cracked open and Da Yu came to the world. Da Yu continued the hard work of his previous life, and he’s the one making earth a suitable place for human to inhabit.
There are two main version of Hou Yi legend in which the first one regards him as the mortal who helps the god and the second one regards him as a god. Either way, Hou Yi was a great archer with a good heart to help the people and the husband of the infamous Chang’e. He is said to live around 2436 BCE to 2255 BCE. The tale about Hou Yi was often associated with the population in the southwestern side of China.
Hou Yi, in a description, is heroic. During an eclipse which took him to the meeting with his wife, he saved the moon. He is also believed by many to secure the country from many outbreaks and to be the one to save the country from the burning heat of 10 suns by shooting the 9 suns down and leaving only one. Concerning the myth of his heroic presentation of shooting the sun, in the version where he was originally a god, the God of Eastern Heaven stripped his immortality because Hou Yi killed his sons which were the suns. It continued to his journey to seek help to the Divine Mother of the West. However, in another version, his heroic action had rewarded him the glory and an elixir. Both versions will later relate to his beloved wife Chang’e and the famous and celebrated Chinese Moon Festival.
As the myth of Hou Yi is famous around the Chinese, the story of Chang’e is just as famous and fascinating. Chang’e is another one of the most popular and prominent in Chinese gods and Goddesses sphere. She is also recorded to be the most frequent goddess to be mentioned in Chinese literature. Chang’e, also known as Chang-O in some literature, is the beautiful wife of Hou Yi. She is a figure in many Chinese mythologies, although the most famous is her myth with her husband.
Her myth is a romantic and unfortunate one. After the arc where Hou Yi received the potion to gain immortality, his student tried to stole it when Hou Yi was out to hunt. Fengmeng, the student, broke into the house and faced with the unlucky Chang’e. Without the protection of her husband, Chang’e knew she was no match to him and to save her life and her husband’s potion; she opted to drink the elixir. Once the potion was consumed, her weight disappeared and she floated to heaven, staying in the moon palace without her husband. Yet, there’s also another version which took Chang’e in a different perspective. While she was seen weak and only wished to save the elixir, another side of the myth displayed her as a betrayal figure to her husband.
Nonetheless, the myth of Chang’e and Hou Yi is well remembered by the Chinese until now through the celebration of the Moon Festival which can be seen as a token of the response to the unfortunate tale of Change’s and Hou Yi separation. The festival is celebrated by showing appreciation to the moon, exchanging gift with the beloved ones, and eating mooncakes.
Many of us must have heard of Sun Wukong since it’s a popular myth that has been adopted into many series and movies. He is famously known as the Monkey King from China and one of the most beloved figures of Chinese mythology for his antics. Sun Wukong is often depicted in his fighting attire and holding a gold rod. The widespread myth of Sun Wukong was written by Wu Cheng’en, a government official of ancient China. In the novel entitled ‘The Journey to the West’, it’s said that Sun was come out of a stone egg, a part of the magic rock located in the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers.
Sun Wukong was notably renowned for his mischief and arrogant demeanor. According to the myth created for him, he was eager to take over the world and caused chaos on heaven after he gained great power through the Taoist practice, bravely challenging the gods and goddesses in process. However, his action was stopped by Buddha and he was punished in a magical mountain for 500 years. He was later appointed to escort Xuan Zang in his journey to amend his sins.
In Chinese mythology, he is also the infamous god of mischief which is indeed implanted in his character: undoubtedly mischievous, naughty, and greedy. Yet, he was also joyful and loyal to those he respects. He got the immortality of being a god by tricking the gods to give him the peach which granted anyone the eternal life, very mischievous indeed.
If the unicorn is famously depicted as a house-like creature that has magical power, thy myth of unicorn in China is quite different from the popular culture spread by the west. Chi Lin, the Unicorn, was a myth from the era of Confucius’s teaching. Chi Lin is a sacred animal pictured as a combination of ox, deer, dragon, and horse.
Chi Lin is said to be a peaceful animal which owns the ability of prophecy. Hence, he is deemed as sacred since he bears the information of the far future. In the myth, Chi Lin is described as a bit timid, yet it’ll immediately lose the innocent behavior if angered. This Chinese’s unicorn will create havoc and jab evil people who anger it. Chi Lin is a great significant figure for the ancient Chinese gods and goddesses universe, as well for the human.
Chinese mythologies are with no doubt wondrous and fascinating as it isn’t just a tale forgotten by the generation but instead, it becomes numerous foundations of Chinese teaching and practice, especially Taoist. The gods and Goddesses portrayed in Chinese mythology bring many lessons for the human and teach them wisdom. After all, the ancient China mythological tale is intertwined with the history of the old world and so in them, there’s the truth which should be taken into account by the future generation.
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