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Pangu Creates the World

Once, the world was a mass of swirling darkness. There was no heaven. There was no earth. All the forces of the universe were trapped inside a small egg, tumbling and spinning in utter chaos. Inside the egg was a tiny creature named Pangu. He slept soundly, unbothered by the disorder around him. As he slept, Pangu grew, and the egg also grew around him.  For eighteen thousand years Pangu slumbered peacefully, until he had developed into a well-formed, muscular giant whose body spanned ninety thousand li. In perfect harmony with Pangu’s body, the eggshell also stretched, straining to hold both the expanding giant and the turbulent gases of the world inside its boundaries.

One day when the universe was especially unstable, Pangu woke up. All around, he saw nothing but darkness and confusion. At first, he was intrigued by the irregular rhythms of the world. He watched, fascinated, as whirling particles burst and scattered around him. Quickly, he learned to dodge exploding gases by nimbly jumping from side to side.

After a while, however, he became tired of all the noise and confusion. The constant commotion jangled his nerves. The din produced a ringing in his ears that made him extremely irritable. The longer he watched the chaos of the universe, the more he longed for the tranquility of his deep sleep. The chaos bothered him, but even more important, Pangu realized that the fragile shell of the universe might rupture at any moment.  Pangu knew he would have to take action, so he waited until the world was in a state of uneasy calm, then grabbed a long meteor. He picked it up like an ax and swung it down with every ounce of his strength. It crashed upon the exact center of the egg with a huge sonic boom. The sound reverberated throughout the world and split all the particles and gases of the universe in two. The light, pure forces of the world drifted up and formed the blue heavens. The heavy, dark forces of the universe sank down and formed the fertile earth.

Pangu was delighted with his new world. It had beauty, order, and peace. To preserve these conditions, he propped up the sky with his strong arms, wedging his body between heaven and earth. Each day, the sky rose ten li as Pangu stretched and shoved it higher and higher. For eons, he held up the sky without complaint, determined that the world should not dissolve back into chaos. As time passed, however, he became weary as his cramped muscles tightened from the weight of the world. For centuries, Pangu pushed in agony with every sinew, muscle, and bone of his body. He cried out for help, but his voice just echoed in the emptiness. No other living creature was around to hear him. Each day he longed for relief; each day he received none. He struggled for tens of thousands of years until heaven and earth each lost its memory of the other—and were forever separated into the forces of yin, the dark, and yang, the light.

When the sky was firmly attached to the heavens and the earth was soundly anchored below, Pangu finally lost his resolve. Slowly, he grew weaker and older. His body gradually shrank and wrinkled. His muscles loosened, and his breath became faint. After centuries of stretching and straining, the reliable giant fell to the ground, exhausted and drained.

His massive, withered body covered the earth gently like a carpet. His flesh crumbled and spread rich, dark nutrients and sweet smelling soil upon the barren ground. His beads of sweat sprinkled droplets of rain and dew on the soft fertile earth. The tangled hair on his head and beard became the stiff branches of trees and bushes. The hair on his arms turned into tiny leaves, trailing vines, and delicate flowers. His teeth and bones broke into bits of shiny metals—gold, silver, and copper—which embedded themselves deep in the earth. His bone marrow hardened into creamy, translucent jade in colors of lavender, green, and white. His blood trickled over the land to create large pools and swift rivers. His voice, even in its weakness, produced rolling thunder and crackling lightning. His dying breath formed blowing winds and puffy clouds. Finally, released from his suffering, Pangu sobbed tears of gratitude which fell and created glittering, vast bodies of water that became the oceans.

Finally his work was over, and Pangu, the creator, was dead. In his place, he left a world that sparkled and twinkled with splashes of bright blues, vibrant greens, dusky browns, and clear, cold rushing waters.

(Chinese Mythology, by Irene Dea Collier)

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