During my study in the World Civilizations class, it occurred to me that although many ancient civilizations established far apart and independent from each other, yet somehow we can trace tremendous evidences showing us that their cultures, beliefs, world views, traditions are somewhat similar to one another. I am very interested in discover more details about when those ancient civilizations was formed, the people at that time did not have effective transportations or contact methods like us today, so why there are so many similar myth? For many cultures they even praise the same God. Could this mean that there is really a ‘God’ there who was present at that time to different group of people? Or was it true that some stories said it was the aliens who fled to earth and taught wisdom to people from all parts of the world?
Since in order to figure this out, we need to dig deep in to history of mankind, and it will take whole lot more than 8 pages to discuss. So today I will only focus on the mythology and stories from one of the oldest ancient civilization—ancient China, and perhaps lightly compare them with similar myth of other societies. I believe after anyone who read this, they will be amazed on the similarities old civilizations share on their beliefs.
Quite different from other ancient civilizations, China didn’t really have its own religion beliefs. This you can specifically compare to the Indians who have more than one thousand religions. The Indians have major religions such as Hinduism, or as I heard before that in India, Buddhism was only one of the minor religions among thousands. China is also unlike the Mayans who cherish the sun. From what I know about Chinese history, the only systematic religion that came directly from Chinese people is Daoism. And from my point of view, this is not even a real religion, it is more like a philosophy theory, for that the whole concept of Daoism never involved about any ‘God’ or any specific figure to praise to. Today, Buddhism is the largest religion in China, but Buddhism wasn’t established originally from China and it didn’t spread to China until the East Han Dynasty. So what did ancient Chinese people actually believed in before East Han Dynasty? Well, to explain this could be complicated, unlike the Greek mythology which is very clear and organized, most of ancient Chinese myths and stories were spread from one to another by word, cave painting, and Oracle, and these myths could trace way back to even 20,000 years ago. Too many different myths and stories about Gods, mankind, and animals existed, from all the way back and kept spreading until today. Therefore to classify ancient Chinese mythology is hard, so I will only focus my discussion on a few top known myths.
In Chinese mythology, it is not like the Christianity beliefs; instead, ancient Chinese believed that there were more than one creators who made all these happen. In the major stream of myths, they divided the creators in to three major categories and periods. There was a creator of all and there were the ‘Three Sovereigns and Five Emperor’. I will discuss how they divided below:
In the beginning of time, it was Pan-Gu who opened up the sky and the land, this is a most known myth about the creator, the story goes like this: In the beginning there was nothing in the universe except a formless chaos. However this chaos coalesced into a cosmic egg, inside the egg laid a giant named Pan-Gu, he attempted to extricate himself from this egg using his ax, and after 18,000 years of work day by day, he finally broke the egg in to half, which the top part of the egg became the sky and the bottom part became the land1. Does this story remind you of the Bible Genesis chapter 1? Except that the main character here is not God but Pan-Gu, and it seems interesting to me that neither one of the story explained where our ‘creators’ came from. The earliest official recording of Pan-Gu appeared in the book San Wu Li...
References: 1. http://baike.baidu.com/view/13547.htm
3. Department of Asian Art. "Neolithic Period in China". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/cneo/hd_cneo.htm (October 2004)
4. China 's ancient Zoological Museum Peking Man collection information #1
5. (2002) Chinese civilization in a new light. Commercial press publishing. ISBN 962-07-5314-3, p. 142.
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