Compare Chinese and Indian Creation Stories
Creation stories or creation myths are narratives that explain how things began; they are usually passed down generations after generations. In almost every culture throughout the whole world there are a variety of versions of creation stories since the desire to know the origin of things around us is a common human instinct. Despite the differences between the cultures and countries, many common themes and elements can be found in their creation stories.
In Both Chinese and Indian creation stories the creators of the earth are both a male human-being like figure with a nonspecific background. A long time ago the whole universe was coalesced into a cosmic egg, inside the egg there was nothing but darkness. Among these “Hundun(?? )” (a term was used to describe a nebulous state in Chinese) there was Pangu(?? ) who was resting for about 18,000 years, finally he woke up and feeling suffocated, so he decided to standup. However; he was wrapped tightly by this egg shell and he couldn’t even stretch his arms and legs.
He pulled off one of his teeth and turned it into a huge axe and broke the egg shell into two parts with a powerful swing, the light part of the egg kept flying and became the sky (Yang) and the heavy part kept sinking and became the earth (Yin). Pangu was worried that the sky and earth would come back and close again. He decided to stand between them with his head supporting the sky and his feet on the earth, as time went by he grew taller and the sky and earth also got thicker each day. Another 18,000 years passed. Pangu used up all his strength and was convinced that the sky and the earth could stay separated forever.
Finally he lay down and suddenly his left eye became the sun, his right eye became the moon; his breath became the wind and voice the thunder; his hair and beard became the shining stars and his arms formed the ground and the mountains; his blood formed the rivers and muscles the soil; his skin became the trees and flowers, teeth and bones turned into gold and minerals… Similar to the Chinese Pangu creation story the Indian Pima’s creation story also started with a human-being like character whose name was Juh-wert-a Mah-Kai (“The Doctor of the Earth”).
He was floating in the empty darkness and eventually decided to create the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars and eventually the world that he was satisfied with. As we can see there are essential elements or parallels between the two creation stories. They both agreed that the world was crafted by an otherworldly being that had the supernatural powers and the creation of the earth both happened upon waking them up. They both invested in the essential elements that existed on earth from themselves, such as the sun, the moon and the stars.
In addition, it is easy to notice that the gender of the creators was male which indicated that in both culture male was the symbol of strength and power. In ancient China this idea was greatly reflected since the male heritage was extremely important as they were the dominated ones in the society. Female characters also played an important role in both Chinese and Indian creation stories. After Pangu separated the sky and the earth, there was a woman Nuwa(?? ) who was the only human-being existing on earth. She was wondering around and trying to find someone to talk to.
However, the fishes and the birds could not understand her. She felt so lonely and as she stopped by a pond where she saw her shadow reflected in the water, suddenly she realized that she needed someone like her on this earth, so she decided to create more human-beings like herself using the yellow clay and mud near the pond. She also made animals out of them such as chicken, dogs, cattle and horses. This kind of mother figure can also be found in the Indian Iroquois creation story where in the upper sky world there was a pregnant woman who gave birth to two twin boys.
Both Nuwa and the Indian sky woman were female creators that created human-beings without another male figure involved since the creation stories were told long before people understand the reproductive process and the humans in these stories were undefined creatures that usually possessed unusual power. More importantly they both emphasized the primary responsibility of women in human society as involved in biological reproduction. It is not hard to notice that there are also some common events which happened in both creation stories, such as floods.
After human-beings were created by Nuwa, they started to reproduce offspring. Among them there were two characters-fire and water. There was a time that fire and water had a war. The four pillars supporting between the sky and the earth collapsed which led to the rising of the oceans and there was fire and floods everywhere. While Nuwa felt helpless that a giant turtle came to her and offered its legs, Nuwa was able to use them to replace the four pillars and put them between the sky and the earth again and everything went back to normal.
However there still were some damages, the sky was slightly ilted towards the northwest side which was the reason why the sun and the moon went back to the west in the end of the day. Also the earth was slightly sunk towards the southeast which explained that all the water and rivers were running and gathering in that direction. In the Indian Puma’s flood story two snakes were made to try to stop the flood and the snakes were lying between the south and west, and after the flood people who were created in the story were settled down in different areas in same region where the Indians were found later on.
The flood stories represented the recreation of the original earth that was created and explained the establishment of the orders of nature and societies. Turtle is also a common creature in both creating stories as we found in the Nuwa’s story and in the Indian Iroquois creation story a large turtle saved the sky woman and the back part of the turtle grew into an island of earth. In Chinese culture turtle is often treated as a magical animal, and it is one of the four guardians of the Chinese compass.
It is commonly used to represent longevity and endurance in many other mythologies from different cultures since it has a long lifespan and the sturdiness of its back which was used as the implication for the origin of the earth. In conclusion, the Chinese and Indian creation stories are very similar in many aspects. They explained how the sky and earth were created from a state of darkness or “Hundun”, and how was everything established and reestablished on earth, and they also tried to explain nature phenomena with a logical sense before any scientific explanations were established.
They served as the foundations of the social structure for each culture and reflected the religions and beliefs in different cultures. They are also used as great sources today for studying the origins of the cultures. Some people today may look at these stories and find them amusing because it contradicts with scientific facts and evidence. In addition, some of these stories have been used for other purposes such as cartoons, novels, and convey the philosophy of life in an acceptable way that plays a vital role in society.