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Pangu - The Chinese god of creation. AI image. Source: Superhero Woozie/Adobe Stock

Pangu: Mythological Insights into the Chinese Creation Story

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Pangu is a prominent figure in Chinese creation mythology. To this day, the Zhuang people sing a traditional song about Pangu creating the heavens and Earth. The origin of the Pangu myth has been much debated. Many believe it originated with Xu Zheng, a Chinese author from the 3rd century AD, as he was the first writer known to record it; some propose that it originated in the mythologies of the Miao or Yao people of southern China, while others see a parallel to ancient Hindu mythology of creation.

The Birth and Creation of Pangu: Unraveling the Mythical Genesis of the Universe

According to the Pangu myth, in the beginning the universe was nothing but chaos, and the heavens and the Earth were intermingled—a big black egg being commonly used as an analogy. Pangu was born inside of this egg and slept for 18,000 years, during which time the Yin and Yang balanced as he grew.

When he awoke, he realized he was trapped within it. He cracked the egg and began to push it apart, essentially splitting the Yin and Yang. The upper half of the shell became the sky above him, and the lower half became the earth. The longer he held them apart, the thicker they grew and the taller he became, thus pushing them further apart—by precisely 10 feet (3.04m) per day.

Here versions begin to change. Some claim that a turtle, a qilin, phoenix, and a dragon assisted him in this task. After another 18,000 years Pangu died, his body forming the various parts of the Earth, and the parasites on his body forming humans.

Pangu separated heaven and Earth murals in the Mammon temple, Hohhot city, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, China. (zhang yongxin /Adobe Stock)

Pangu separated heaven and Earth murals in the Mammon temple, Hohhot city, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, China. (zhang yongxin /Adobe Stock)

Pangu's Role in Human Creation: Goddesses, Clay, and Divine Intervention

Another version states that he formed the Earth with a chisel and hammer, while yet another version states that a goddess who later inhabited the Earth formed humans.

According to this myth, Pangu was the first supreme being and the originator of the heavens and the Earth. He is typically depicted as a dwarf—though he was actually a giant—covered in hair or bearskin or leaves, with horns fixed atop his head and either a chisel or a hammer or an egg in his hand. Other tales speak of a Pangu as a creature from heaven that had the head of a dog and the body of a man and directly accredits Pangu as the father of mankind, while another version claims he molded men from clay.

A portrait of Pangu from Sancai Tuhui. (Public Domain)

A portrait of Pangu from Sancai Tuhui. (Public Domain)

The interesting aspects of this tale are its similarities to other myths. For example, the cosmic egg is a common concept that is indicative of the universe before the Big Bang occurred, scientifically speaking. While this may, at first glance, be a very primitive way of describing such an event, one cannot help but notice how very insightful it is. How did various people with no apparent technology or knowledge of the universe, as we modern humans know it, so accurately explain what we now can? Were they made privy to this knowledge somehow?

Assisting Pangu: The Role of Four Mythical Beasts in Creation

Another interesting aspect of the tale is one of the more elusive. Some versions of the Pangu creation myth state that the giant had help from four mythical beasts. Let us take a brief look these beasts one by one.

First, the turtle: the Chinese were not the only ones to use it in their creation myth; various world myths, creation and otherwise, include the turtle for its strength and immortality. The qilin, though indigenous to Asian mythology, is said to have been dragon-like. Of course, dragons are central to Asian mythology—though also found world-wide—as bearers of wisdom and a symbol of power, also connected to the succession of the early emperors. Finally, the phoenix has consistently been a symbol of rebirth. How so many cultures separated by thousands of miles came to describe such similar occurrences and use the same symbology has been a subject of much intrigue over the centuries.


The tale of Pangu's creation stands as a fascinating convergence of cultural narratives, tracing its roots through centuries of mythological interpretation. From the Zhuang people's traditional song to the debated origins recorded by Xu Zheng, Pangu's myth not only elucidates the genesis of the universe but also prompts reflection on the universality of human storytelling, symbolisms, and the enduring quest for understanding the mysteries of existence.

Top image: Pangu - The Chinese god of creation. AI image. Source: Superhero Woozie/Adobe Stock             

By Beth


Crystal, Ellie. Chinese Creation Myths. Available at:

Pan Gu. Myth Encyclopedia Available at:



I believe there are ancient races that once colonized Earth.

The Qirin is sometimes is sometimes called the Asian or Chinese Unicorn. A dragon-esque like creature, usually depicted with hooves. Sometimes scales. Often with 2 deer style antlers, but sometimes a single horn. I wouldn't call the imagery of the creature "uniquely Asian," if you can see past the Asan/Chinese twist; you can see the similarities to the European style Unicorn myth

Frequently Asked Questions

Pangu is a prominent figure in Chinese mythology. He is a creator god who is said to have formed the world out of chaos. According to legend, Pangu emerged from a cosmic egg and stood between yin and yang, the two opposite forces of the universe.

When Pan Gu died, his skull became the top of the sky, his breath became the wind and clouds, his voice the rolling thunder. One eye became the Sun and the other the Moon. His body and limbs turned into five big mountains, and his blood formed the roaring water.

In some versions of the story, Pangu is aided in this task by the Four Holy Beasts, the Turtle, the Qilin, the Phoenix, and the Dragon. In others, Pangu separated heaven and earth, which were already yin and yang, with his axe.

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E.C. Rammel

E.C. Rammel is the author of Two Is Better Than One and The Oyster and the Pearl. She holds her accreditation in English and Intercultural Studies and has worked as an instructor in numerous U.S. institutions. She... Read More

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