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Chinese legends vs Greek legends (Essay Sample)


Do a cross-cultural comparison paper in which you make use of some non-Chinese legendary material with Chinese legendary materials (for example chinese legends vs Greek/Roman legend/mythology). *I will attach the specific Chinese legend so you do not have to look for them. please compare this story with greek/roman mythology.

Mythology Relating to the Prehistoric Period


a late creation legend:

In the beginning, the great Monad separated into two entities, one yīn 陰 and one yáng 陽. These two entities again separated into greater and lesser parts, and from the interaction of these four, a being known an Pán Gǔ 盤古 was produced.

It was Pán Gǔ who created and shaped the universe. He is protrayed, sometimes, holding a chisel, fashioning great masses of rock as he floats in space.

His labors continued for 18,000 years, and he increased in stature ten feet every day of those 18,000 years; and on each of those days  the sky rose ten feet higher, and the earth grew ten feet thicker.

When his task was completed he died, and in dying animated the whole universe.

His head was transformed into mountains, his breath into winds and clouds, and his voice is heard to this day in the rumblings of thunder.

His left eye shines in the sun, while the moon owes its light to the right. His beard evolved into stars and his four limbs became the four quarters of the world.

His extremities evolved into the Five Sacred Mountains, and his blood irrigated for the rivers. His veins and muscles became the rocky strata of the earth and his flesh turned to soil.

His skin sprouted as vegetation and forests, his teeth and bones formed minerals, and his marrow, pearls and gems.

His sweat descended as rain to produce the crops…

…and humankind sprang from the parisites that had accumulated on his body for 18 millenia of unremitting labor.

He was accompanied in his labors by the four super-intelligent creatures: the dragon, the tiger, the phoenix, and the tortoise. These were the progenitors of the animal kingdom.[1]


The disintegration of Pán Gǔ was followed by an era of giants that lasted another 18,000 years.

The giants were succeeded by two mythical rulers Yǒu-cháo Shì and Suì-rén Shì, who introduced shelter and fire respectively.

Yǒu-cháo Shì is known for a housing program that consisted of building nests in trees as protection against wild beasts (and in fact his name “Yǒu-cháo” means “have nest”; “Shì” means “clan-chief”) This is perhaps a shrewd guess at the arboreal (tree-related) origins of humankind.

The second figure, Suì-rén Shì, used a speculum—a flat shiny mirror-like object to concentrate the rays of the sun on a pile of straw and thus build fires. His name, in fact means “chief of the clan of speculum people.”

We now come to a very prominent couple in Chinese mythology, the semi-divine

                  Nǚguā 女蝸 

                  Fúxī 伏犧

sometimes described as sister and brother, sometimes as wife and husband, and sometimes as both.

Early artistic portrayals of them show them with bodies that end in serpents’ tails that intertwine with each other.

Sometimes Nǚguā, the wife or sister, is credited with the creation of humankind rather than Pángǔ.

“When Heaven and Earth had opened up,” says one source, “but before there were human beings, Nǚguā created the first people by patting yellow earth together. But the work tasked her strength and left her no free time, so then she dragged a string through the mud, thus heaping it up so as to make more people. And so the rich and noble are those made from patted mud, while the poor and lowly—the ordinary people— are the ones made with the cord.

More often, however, Nǚguā is described as repairing the Heavens with many colored stones after a great cataclysm.

This story occurs in the Hán dynasty text Huáinánzi, and goes as follows:

In ancient times, the four pillars at the ends of the earth were broken down, the nine provinces of the habitable world were split apart, Heaven did not wholly cover earth, and earth did not wholly support Heaven. Fires flamed without being extinguished, waters inundated the land without being stopped, fierce beasts ate the people, and birds of prey seized the old and weak in their claws.

Thereupon Nǚguā fused together stones of the five colors with which she patched together the azure Heavens. She cut off the feet of a turtle with which she set up the four pillars once again. She slaughtered the Black Dragon in order to save the region of Jì (Héběi and Shānxī). She collected the ashes of reeds with which to quell the wild waters.”

What was the mythological role of the male figure, the brother- husband that Nǚguā was associated with?

His name Fúxī, may mean “ox-tamer.” Like his two shadowy predecessors, Yŏu-cháo Shì and Suì-rén Shì, Fúxī is supposed to have been some sort of leader of the ancestors of the Chinese.

He is the first in a series of five legendary rulers called the wǔdì or “Five Lords.” (The histories actually list seven rulers for this period, as there are two extra ones at the end, but it is still called the era of the Five Lords.)

Fúxī’s mythical dates of rule in the early third millennium BCE cover a period of 115 years. He is said to have been born miraculously after a gestation period of 12 years in what is now the northwestern province of Shǎnxī (not to be confused with Shānxī).

He taught his people to hunt, fish, tend flocks (inventing fish-nets and the bow and arrow)

invented tools to split wood

introduced music by revealing how to twist silken threads into cords

introduced the 5 musical tones

         (saw a phoenix perched ona wú tóng or paulonia tree, etc.)

introduced a 25-string zither called the by splitting a 50-string zither

         qín: 7 strings; originally, perhaps 5

         koto: (Japanese) 13-stringed version of the qín with bridge and frets.

         zhēng: 13-string descendant of the .

from patterns on tortoise shells he constructed the bā quà 八褂 or 8 trigrams

                           ____   ____          ____   ____                                                                    ____   ____  

                           ___    _____                                      ____    ____                                      ____   ____  

___    ___          ____  _____                                                                   ____   _____        ____   ____  

upon which the 64 hexagrams of the Yìjīng are based (supposed to have been compiled by Zhōu Wénwáng).

invention of rope and cord writing

(he tied knots in ropes to remember things, or perhaps used different kinds of knots for different words)

the calendar

semi-annual sacrifices at the time of the two equinoxes

named all the earthly creatures (like Adam in Genesis)

most interesting to us:

Fú Xī and Nǚguā are described as the joint founders of the institution of marriage.

Specifically Fú Xī is credited with inventing an archaic custom known as lì pí 儷皮 in which animal skins were exchanged as a wedding gift, dowry or mutual guarantee.

Nǚguā, on the other hand is cast in the role of Gāo Méi 高媒 (“lofty matchmaker”) the founder of the institution of matchmaking.

She is also credited with the invention of the 笄, a type of hair pin with which women bound up their hair at the age of 16, indicating that they were of marriageable age.

A  Táng dynasty collection (獨異志 ) has the following story:

"Long ago when the universe had first come into being, there were no people in the world, only Nǚguā and her brother on Mount Kūnlún. They considered becoming man and wife, but were stricken with shame.

And so Fúxī and his sister went up on Kūnlún and performed a sacrifice, vowing "If it is Heaven's wish that the two of us should become married, let these columns of smoke be intertwined. If not, let the smoke scatter. The columns of smoke thereupon intertwined and the sister and brother clove unto each other.

There are various versions of this myth in which Nǚguā and Fúxī are the only people left on earth after a great flood and are faced with the task of repopulating the earth, thus reminding us again of the Noah's ark legend.

(the dragon king, in return for a favor, gives them a magic boat made from a gourd that saves them from the flood).

Fúxī was succeeded by Shén Nóng, supposed to have reigned from 2737 - 2697, a forty-year reign. He is credited with the invention of agriculture.

He invented the plow and hoe and was the initiator of public markets.

He also founded traditional Chinese medicine by tasting 100 different herbs to determine which were beneficial and which harmful.

        (He moved the capital from Henan, where it had been under Fúxī, to Shandong; see Burckhardt IV, 2)

In imperial times, Shén Nóng  was worshipped as the patron of agriculture in a special ceremony that took place every year in the 1st or 2nd month. On this occasion, the emperor would inaugurate the plowing season by personally plowing a six foot furrow in a Sacred Field (where grain was grown to be used in state sacrifices) and by making sacrifices to Shén Nóng and so forth. Sometimes emperors would get enthusiastic and plow up the whole field.

The successor of Shén Nóng 神農 was the most distinguished of the Five Rulers and has traditionally been regarded as the first great Chinese leader, the first figure who through his accomplishments gave the Chinese a sense of identity, a sense of separateness from other peoples.

He is called Huáng Dì 黃帝 or the “Yellow Lord” [“thearch ancestor”] (2697 - 2597: 100 years).

He reportedly fought and won a great battle against a force led by Yán Dì 炎帝 or “Flame Lord” somewhere in modern Shānxī Province, and was afterwards accepted as a national leader by tribes throughout the Yellow river plain.

He also defeated a challenge to his rule launched by a weird and violent being from the south named Chī Yóu 蚩尤 or “Stupid Monster.” Chī Yòu had a human body with six arms, four eyes, and the horns of an ox. He and his 71 brothers had whiskers like swords and spears, and grew horns on their heads. He was to become a god of war during the Qín and Hàn dynasties.

He is said to have come from south of the Yángzi river, where he was said to be the chief of “the many Lí” 黎.”

He is credited with the discovery of metal and is said to have been the first to use metal to make weapons (inventor of the wǔ bīng, “five weapons”). Huáng Dì foiled him by enlisting the aid of the animal kingdom, including elephants and tigers, who responded to his leadership with perfect obedience.

Chī Yóu also threw up mists to confuse his opponents but Huáng Dì foiled him by using chariots equipped with compasses.

In the civil sphere, Huáng Dì is credited with the idea of putting up wooden buildings on the ground,

as well as a wide variety of other technological innovations, such as boats, wheeled vehicles, and ceramics.

He is also associated with the Daoist arts of prolonging life, and with traditional Chinese medicine.

China’s oldest medical text, dating perhaps to the late Warring States period, is entitled Huáng Dì Nèi Jīng Sù Wèn 黃帝內經素問 or “Simple Questions on the Yellow Lord’s Classic of Internal Medicine.”

The grave of Huáng Dì is located at Qiáoshān, “Bridge Mountain” in northern Shǎnxī province. Later rulers of China often went on pilgrimages to this site to sacrifice to him as the primal ancestor of the Chinese nation.

The Yellow Lord is supposed to have had a court historian named Cāng Jié 倉頡, who invented the Chinese writing system by imitating the markings left in the wet sand by birds and other animals (no more rope-tying). He is always portrayed as having two sets of eyes, one above the other.

The Yellow Lord’s consort Lèizǔ 嫘祖 is supposed to have taught the people the art of sericulture—the art of raising silkworms on mulberry leaves to make silk cloth (養蠶治絲).

Later, in imperial times, Lèizǔ came to be worshipped as the patron of sericulture in a special ceremony that took place every year in the third month. On this occasion, the empress would inaugurate the silkworm season by personally collecting a few mulberry leaves for the imperial silkworms.

The fact that two symmetrical ceremonies came into being:

                  the emperor personally plowing a furrow

                  the empress personally collecting leaves

reflects the fact that tilling the soil has always been regarded as a male occupation, while the production of silk has been regarded as women’s work.

The silk ceremony was instituted later than the plowing ceremony—the Hán dynasty ritualists liked symmetry.

Actually Lèizǔ doesn’t get identified as the inventor of sericulture until quite late—

earlier accounts mention various other names, but the inventor is always described as a woman, and there have been lots of popular goddesses of silkworm raising.

One such goddess was known as Mǎtóu niáng 馬頭娘 or “girl with the horse’s head.”

According to the story, Mǎtóu niáng promised her stallion that she would marry him provided that, he, the horse, would find her missing father.

The stallion did so, but when the father returned home and learned of his daughter’s promise, he killed and skinned the stallion.

Soon afterward, the skin jumped up, wrapped itself around the girl, and made off with her.

Some days later, she and the skin were found in the branches of a mulberry tree, where she had been transformed into a silkworm spinning its cocoon.

(this folktale originated in SW China in what is now Sìchuān, and appears in a collection of stories compiled around 350 CE)

Huáng Dì is supposed to have been followed by four rulers whom, in the interest of brevity, we will skip—a few traditions are recorded about them, but they are not often mentioned in writings of a general nature:


Shào Hào  少昊                2597 - 2513       84 years[2]

Zhuān Xù  顓頊               2513 - 2435       78 years

Dì Kù  帝嚳                       2435 - 2365       70 years

Dì Zhì  帝摯                      2365 - 2356         9 years

Then: the three sage kings Yáo, Shùn, and Yǔ the Great (see Coursepak).

[1] The earliest known references to the Pán Gǔ story occur in two post-Han texts: Wǔ Yùn Lìnián Jì 五運歷年記 and Shù Yì Jì 述異記; see Cí Hǎi 辭海, p. 2031 bottom: entry under “Pán Gǔ Shì” 盤古氏.

[2] Shào Hào: also known as Jīn Tiān Shì 金天氏


Chinese legends vs Greek legends
Myths of origin are different in every culture and they attempt to give a comprehensible explanation on the origin of the world. According to the Chinese mythology, there was the great Monad in the beginning who later separated into two entities, one yīn and one yang. Consequently, the two entries separated and when the four parts interacted, they produced a being known as Pán Gǔ. Pán Gǔ is believed to have created and shaped the universe and he is seen floating in the space, holding a chisel and shaping large masses of rocks. On the other hand, the Greek mythology believes that in the beginning, there was a yawning nothingness known as Chaos and from this void, Eurynome, or Gaia (Earth) and other divine beings emerged (Lloyd, 22).
The Chinese believe that after Pán Gǔ finished creating the earth after 18,000 years, he died and animated the whole universe. Since he was growing by ten feet every day for the period he was in existence, he was extremely huge and from his body, different features of the earth emerged. For instance, his head turned into mountains, his eyes turned to the sun and the moon, his voice into thunder and his breath into winds and clouds (Lloyd, 39). The Chinese mythology believes that the world was created while the Greek legends believe that it emerged from nothingness/void. Greek believe that the divine being that emerged include Eros (love), Tarturus (abyss), Erubus (darkness) and Nyx (night). Gaia was a female and she gave birth to the first male known as Oranos (Sky) without the assistance of a man. Later, Oranos fertilized her and she gave birth to six children, the Titans known as Coeus, Cronus, Lapetus, Hyperion and Crius, and six females.
Compared to the Greek mythology, the Chinese believe that humans were not born nor created but emerged from parasites which had accumulated on Pán Gǔ body over the 18,000 years he had lived. Moreover, the predecessors of the animal life who accompanied their god in creating the world are the four super-intelligent animals which include the dragon, the tortoise, the phoenix and the tiger 9Lloyd, 56). According to the Chinese myth, two giants, Yǒu-cháo Shì and Suì-rén Shì emerged and ruled the earth for 18 millenniums. They also introduced fire and shelter. Later, prominent couples, Nǚguā and Fúxī emerged and they were known to be either husband and wife or brother and sister. We also see in the Greek myth that brother and sister intermarry when Cronus marries his sister Rhea.
The union of the two gods in the Greek myth creates a con...
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