盤古傳說 The Legend of Pangu
Inscribed list: National List, Second Batch
Inventory no.: I-57
Nominating unit(s): Henan Province, Tongbai County, BiYang County
The Legend of Pangu is a creation myth of the Chinese culture, and tells how the giant Pangu created heaven and earth.
As the story goes, a long time ago, the universe was a giant egg. Inside was chaos, with no air, life, or land. Pangu was born within the egg, and remained dormant for 18,000 years. The opposing principles of Yin and Yang became balanced during that time, and Pangu awoke. Feeling trapped within the egg, he took an axe and started chopping things apart. Elements that rose to the air would become the sky, and those that sunk to the bottom would form the earth.
Feeling unsatisfied and worried that the sky and earth may combine again, Pangu decided to use his arms to separate them further for more light to be shed on earth. Using his strong body, he acted as a pillar by standing and pushing the skies and ground further apart, around 10 feet per day.
In some versions, Pangu died after a thousand years, and in others, after another 19,000 years. With the last ounce of energy used, Pangu collapsed to his eternal sleep. His last breath created clouds and winds, his final voice turned into thunder. The sun was created from his left eye while the other one formed the moon, stars and rain were created from his beard and his sweat respectively. While his body formed the mountains and peaks, his blood turned into rivers and seas. Roads and paths were formed out of his arteries and veins, as his muscles turned into fields. His hair contributed the creation of flora and fauna, his skin became forestry, and his bones and teeth became precious minerals and gems.
The earliest record of the Legend of Pangu was detailed in the Three Kingdoms period literature, Sanwu Liji (三五曆記), written by Xu Zheng (徐整). In the text, Xu also mentions that a temple dedicated to Pangu was constructed by Yu the Great and his workers, during their work to control the frequent floods that plagued the country. The temple was later renovated in the Yuan Dynasty and Ming Dynasty, but was destroyed in a flood during the Qing Dynasty. The temple was relocated and reconstructed, but continued to undergo multiple destructions and reconstructions until recent years. Today, several temples dedicated to Pangu have been built in China.
Other literature that cite the Three Kingdoms text on Pangu include Yiwen Leiju (藝文類聚) from the Tang Dynasty, and Taiping Yulan (太平御覽) from the Song Dynasty. Another Tang dynasty literature, Wuyunli Nianji (五運歷年記) included a variant of the legend, describing Pangu as a creature with a dragon’s head and a snake’s body.
Tongbai County of Henan is considered as the origin of the Pangu culture. The Tongbai version of a Pangu statue has a pair of dragon antlers on its head, matching the legend variant that describes Pangu as a creature with a dragon head. Residents in Tongbai refrain from working from the first day of the first lunar month until after the tenth day, as a sign of respect to Pangu, whose birthday is on the first day of the year. They also refer to him as Grandpa Pangu instead of King or Emperor Pangu. Folklorists have also discovered that the residents of Tongbai County have created other legends about Pangu, details of which most locals are able to recall.
Interestingly, the Henan version of Pangu legends depict Pangu as not only the creator, but also as a tribal leader. He married his sister and later had 8 sons, who were named after the directions of a compass. After the death of their sons, the couple created humans using soil, eventually forming a small tribe in the mountains named “PanguShan” (Mount Pangu), located at the Biyang County of Henan.
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Image of Pangu from Sancai Tuhui