The Wei Shu tells us that two thousand years ago, at the time of emperor Yao,
Tangun Wanggom chose Asadal as his capital and founded the state of Chos'circon.
The Old Record notes that in ancient times Hwanin's son, Hwanung, wished to
descend from heaven and live in the world of human beings. Knowing his son's
desire, Hwanin surveyed the three highest mountains and found Mount T'aebaek the
most suitable place for his son to settle and help human beings. Therefore he
gave Hwanung three heavenly seals and dispatched him to rule over the people.
Hwanung descended with three thousand followers to a spot under a tree by the
Holy Altar atop Mount T'aebaek, and he called this place the City of God. He was
the Heavenly King Hwanung. Leading the Earl of Wind, the Master of Rain, and the
Master of Clouds, he took charge of some three hundred and sixty areas of
responsibility, including agriculture, allotted lifespans, illness, punishment,
and good and evil, and brought culture to his people.
At that time a bear and a tiger living in the same cave prayed to Holy
Hwanung to transform them into human beings. The king gave them a bundle of
sacred mugworts and twenty cloves of garlic and said, "If you eat these and shun
the sunlight for one hundred days, you will assume human form." Both animals ate
the spices and avoided the sun. After twenty-one days the bear became a woman,
but the tiger, unable to observe the taboo, remained a tiger. Unable to find a
husband, the bear-woman prayed under the alter tree for a child. Hwanung
metamorphosed himself, lay with her, and begot a son called Tangun Wanggom.
In the fiftieth year of the reign of Emperor Yao, Tangun made the walled city
of P'yongyang the capital and called his country Choson. He then moved his
capital to Asadal on Mount Paegak, a lso named Mount Kunghol, whence he ruled
for fifteen hundred years. When, in the year kimyo [1122 BC], King Wu of Chou
enfeoffed Chi Tzu to Choson, Tangun moved to Changdangyong, but later he
returned and hid in Asadal as a mountain god at the age of one thousand nine
hundred and eight.
The Lay of King Tongmyong
In the third year of Shen-ch'ueh of Han, in early summer, when the Great Bear
Stood in the Serpent, Haemosu came to Korea, a true Son of Heaven. He came down
through the air in a five-dragon chariot, with a retinue of hundreds, robes
streaming, riding on swans. The atmosphere echoed loudly with chiming music, and
banners floated on the tinted clouds. From ancient times men ordained to rule
have come down from Heaven, but in daylight he came from the heart of the sky -
a thing never before seen.
In the mornings he dwelt among men, in the evenings he returned to his
heavenly palace. The ancients have told us that between heaven and earth the
distance is two thousand billion and eighteen thousand seven hundred and eighty
ri. A scaling-ladder could not reach so far, flying pinions could not bear the
strain, yet morning and evening he went and returned at will. By what power
could he do it?
North of the capital was the Green River, where the River Earl's three
beautiful daughters rose from the drake-neck's green waves to play in the Bear's
Heart Pool. Their jade ornaments tinkled, their flowerlike beauty was modest --
they might have been fairies of the Han River banks, or goddesses of the Lo
River islets. The King, out hunting, espied them, was fascinated and lost his
heart, not from lust for girls, but from eager desire for an heir. The three
sisters saw him coming and plunged into the water to flee, so the King prepared
a palace to hide in till they came back:
He traced foundations with a riding whip: A bronze palace suddenly towered,
silk cushions were spread, bright and elegant, golden goblets waited with
fragrant wine. Soon the three maidens came in, and toasted each other until they
were drunk. Then the king emerged from hiding; The startled girls ran, tripped,
and tumbled on to the floor. The oldest was Willow Flower, and it was she whom
the king caught.
The Earl of the River raged in anger, and sent a speedy messenger to demand,
"What rogue are you who dares behave so presumptuously?" "Son of the Heavenly
Emperor," replied Haemosu, "I'm asking for your noble daughter's hand." He
beckoned to heaven: the dragon car came down, and straightaway he moved unto the
Ocean Palace where the River Earl admonished him: "Marriage is a weighty matter,
needing go-betweens and gifts. Why have you done these things? If you are God's
own heir, prove your powers of transmogrification!" Through the rippling,
flowing green waters the River Earl leapt, transforming into a carp; the king
turned at once into an otter that seized the carp before it could flee.
The earl then sprouted wings, flying upward, transformed into a pheasant; but
the king was a golden eagle and struck like a great bird of prey; the Earl sped
away as a stag, the king pursued as wolf. The Earl then confessed that the king
was divine, poured wine, and they drank to the contract. When the king was
drunk, he was put in a leather bag, set beside the girl in his chariot, and set
off with her to rise to Heaven together. But the car had not left the water
before Haemosu woke from his stupor and, seizing the girl's golden hairpin,
pierced the leather and slid out through the hole, alone to mount the car beyond
the crimson clouds. All was quiet; he did not return.
The River Earl punished his daughter by stretching her lips three feet long,
and throwing her into the Ubal stream with only two maidservants. A fisherman
saw them in the eddies, creatures disporting themselves strangely, and reported
the fact to King Komwa. An iron net was set in the torrent, and the woman was
trapped on a rock, a monster of shocking appearance, whose long lips made her
mute. Three times they were trimmed before she could speak. King Komwa
recognized Haemosu's wife, and gave unto her a palace where she might live. The
sun shone in her breast and she bore Chumong in the fourth year of Shen-ch'ueh.
His form was wonderful, his voice of mighty power. He was born from a
pottle-sized egg that frightened all who saw it. The king thought it
inauspicious, monstrous and inhuman, and put it into the horse corral, but the
horses took care not to trample it; it was thrown down steep hills, but the wild
beasts all protected it; its mother retrieved it and nurtured it, till the boy
hatched. His first words were:"The flies are nibbling my eyes, I cannot lie and
sleep in peace." His mother made him a bow and arrows, And he never missed a
Years passed, he grew up, getting cleverer every day, and the crown prince of
the Puyo began to grow jealous, saying, "This fellow Chumong is a redoubtable
warrrior. If we do not act soon, he will become trouble later." So the king sent
Chumong to tend horses, to test his intentions. Chumong meditated, "For heaven's
grandson to be a mere herdsman is an unendurable shame." Searching his heart, he
sought the right way: "I had rather die than live like this. I would go
southward, found a nation, build a city -- but for my mother, whom it is hard to
leave." His mother heard his words and wept; but wiped her glistening tears:
"Never mind about me. Rather I fear for your safety. A knight setting out on
a journey needs a trusty stallion." Together they went to the corral and
thrashed the horses with long whips. The terrified animals milled about, but one
horse, a beautiful bay, leapt over the two-fathom wall, and proved itself best
of the herd. They fixed a needle in his tongue that stung him so he could not
eat; in a day or two he wasted away and looked like a worn out jade.
When the king came around to inspect, he gave this horse to Chumong, who took
it, removed the needle, and fed the horse well, day and night. Then he made a
compact with three friends, friends who were men of wisdom; they set off south
till they reached the Om, but could find no ferry to cross. Chumong raised his
whip to the sky, and uttered a long sad complaint: "Grandson of Heaven, Grandson
of the River, I have come here in flight from danger. Look on my pitiful
orphaned heart: Heaven and Earth, have you cast me off?"
Gripping his bow, he struck the water: Fish and turtles hurried, heads and
tails together, to form a great bridge, which the friends at once traversed.
Suddenly, pursuing troops appeared and mounted the bridge; but it melted away.
A pair of doves brought barley in their bills, messengers sent by his
mysterious mother. He chose a site for his capital amid mountains and streams
and thick-wooded hills. Seating himself on the royal mat as King Tongmyong, he
ordered the ranks of his subjects. Alas for Songyang, king of Piryu, why was he
so undiscerning? Was he a son of the immortal gods, who could not recognize a
scion of Heaven?
He asked Tongmyong to be his vassal, uttering rash demands, but could not hit
the painted deer's navel, and was amazed when Tongmyong split the jade ring; he
found his drum and bugle changed and dared not call them his; he saw Tongmyong's
ancient pillars, then returned home biting his tongue.
Tongmyong went hunting in the west, caught a tall snow-white deer, strung it
up by the hind feet at Haewon, and produced a great malediction: "Let Heaven
pour torrents on Piryu, and wash away his capital. I will not let you go till
you help me vent my wrath."
The deer cried with great sounds so piteous they reached the ears of Heaven.
And from the horrible music of the deer, a great rain fell for seven days,
floods came like Huai joined with Ssu; Songyang was frightened and anxious. He
had thick ropes stretched by the water, knights and peasants struggled to clutch
them, sweating and gaping in fear.
Then Tongmyong took his whip and drew a line at which the waters stopped.
Songyang submitted and thereafter there was no argument. A dark cloud covered
Falcon Pass, the crests of ridges were hidden, and thousands upon thousands of
carpenters were heard hammering there. The king said, "Music from Heaven is for
me preparing a great fortress up yonder." Suddenly the mist dispersed and a
palace stood out high and splendid, where Tongmyong ruled for nineteen years,
till he rose to heaven and forsook his throne.
In the beginning was a huge egg containing chaos and a mixture of yin-yang
(female-male, cold-heat, dark-light, wet-dry, etc). Also within this yin-yang
was Phan Ku who broke forth from the egg as a giant who separated the yin-yang
into many opposites, including earth and sky. With a great chisel and a huge
hammer, Phan Ku carved out the mountains, rivers, valleys, and oceans. He also
made the sun, moon, and stars. When he died, after 18,000 years, it is said that
the fleas in his hair became human beings. In summation, the Chinese say that
everything that is - is Phan Ku and everything that Phan Ku is yin-yang.
In the beginning , the heavens and earth were still one and all was chaos.
The universe was like a big black egg, carrying Pan Gu inside itself. After 18
thousand years Pan Gu woke from a long sleep. He felt suffocated, so he took up
a broadax and wielded it with all his might to crack open the egg. The light,
clear part of it floated up and formed the heavens, the cold, turbid matter
stayed below to form earth. Pan Gu stood in the middle, his head touching the
sky, his feet planted on the earth. The heavens and the earth began to grow at a
rate of ten feet per day, and Pan Gu grew along with them. After another 18
thousand years, the sky was higher, the earth thicker, and Pan Gu stood between
them like a pillar 9 million li in height so that they would never join again.
When Pan Gu died, his breath became the wind and clouds, his voice the
rolling thunder. One eye became the sun and on the moon. His body and limbs
turned to five big mountains and his blood formed the roaring water. His veins
became far-stretching roads and his muscles fertile land. The innumerable stars
in the sky came from his hair and beard, and flowers and trees from his skin and
the fine hairs on his body. His marrow turned to jade and pearls. His sweat
flowed like the good rain and sweet dew that nurtured all things on earth.
According to some versions of the Pan Gu legend, his tears flowed to make rivers
and radiance of his eyes turned into thunder and lighting. When he was happy the
sun shone, but when he was angry black clouds gathered in the sky. One version
of the legend has it that the fleas and lice on his body became the ancestors of
The Pan Gu story has become firmly fixed in Chinese tradition. There is even
an idiom relating to it: "Since Pan Gu created earth and the heavens," meaning
"for a very long time." Nevertheless, it is rather a latecomer to the catalog of
Chinese legends. First mention of it is in a book on Chinese myths written by Xu
Zheng in the Three Kingdoms period (CE 220-265). Some opinions hold that it
originated in south China or southeast Asia.
There are several versions of the Pan Gu story.
Among the Miao, Yao, Li and other nationalities of south China, a legend
concerns Pan Gu the ancestor of all mankind, with a man's body and a dog's head.
It runs like this: Up in Heaven the God in charge of the earth, King Gao Xin,
owned a beautiful spotted dog. He reared him on a plate (pan in Chinese ) inside
a gourd (hu, which is close to the sound gu ), so the dog was known as Pan Gu .
Among the Gods there was great enmity between King Gao Xin and his rival King
Fang. "Whoever can bring me the head of King Fang may marry my daughter, " he
proclaimed, but nobody was willing to try because they were afraid of King
Fang's strong soldiers and sturdy horses.
The dog Pan Gu overheard what was said, and when Gao Xin was sleeping,
slipped out of the palace and ran to King Fang. The latter was glad to see him
standing there wagging his tail. "You see, King Gao Xin is near his end. Even
his dog has left him," Fang said, and held a banquet for the occasion with the
dog at his side.
At midnight when all was quiet and Fang was overcome with drink, Pan Gu
jumped onto the king's bed, bit off his head and ran back to his master with it
. King Gao Xin was overjoyed to see the head of his rival, and gave orders to
bring Pan Gu some fresh meat. But Pan Gu left the meat untouched and curled
himself up in a corner to sleep. For three days he ate nothing and did not stir.
The king was puzzled and asked, "Why don't you eat? Is it because I failed to
keep my promise of marrying a dog?" To his surprise Pan Gu began to speak.
"Don't worry, my King. Just cover me with your golden bell and in seven days and
seven nights I'll become a man." The King did as he said, but on the sixth day,
fearing he would starve to death, out of solicitude the princess peeped under
the bell. Pan Gu's body had already changed into that of a man, but his head was
still that of a dog. However, once the bell was raised, the magic change
stopped, and he had to remain a man with a dog's head.
He married the princess, but she didn't want to be seen with such a man so
they moved to the earth and settled in the remote mountains of south China.
There they lived happily and had four children, three boys and a girl, who
became the ancestors of mankind.
Nuwa is the goddess who separated the heaven from the earth, creating the
Divine Land (China). She is the original ancestor of the Chinese nation.
According to legend, NŸwa was also the younger sister of Emperor Fuxi (said to
have lived during the third millennium BC) and she herself was an empress.
The historical records say:
"Nuwa had the surname Feng; she had the body of a snake, a human head and the
virtue of a divine being. She is also known as Mixi.
The name Nuwa first appears in one of the Elegies of Chu entitled Tian Wen:
Nuwa loved peace and delighted in making things. She moulded figures from the
yellow earth and gave them life and the ability to bear children: this is how
humanity was created. When demons fought a terrible war, they broke the pillars
which held the heavens up. The firmament cracked open and the human world was
put in mortal peril. To save the lives of those she had created, NŸwa worked
unceasingly, melting down the five-coloured stones to mend the breach. When the
firmament was whole again, NŸwa, exhausted by her toil, lay down on the earth
and was transformed into a vast mountain range. In this way, she nurtured the
growth of the Chinese nation by providing a rich and fertile land. This
well-known tale is known as NŸwa Mends The Firmament.
Amongst China's ethnic minorities, another story has survived concerning how
Emperor Fuxi came to take his sister NŸwa as his bride. This tale is known as A
Brother And Sister Marry.
The ferocious God of Thunder was captured by Fuxi's father and imprisoned
deep within a mountain cave. No one was allowed to visit him. Fuxi and NŸwa
could no longer bear to hear the Thunder God's pitiable entreaties for water,
but they dared not bring him any water. Eventually, the two of them shed tears
which the god drank out of their cupped hands. The Thunder God was so
strengthened by the tears that he burst out of his mountain prison. To repay
Fuxi and NŸwa for their part in the rescue, the Thunder God pulled a long canine
tooth from his mouth and gave it to them saying:
"In three days, mankind will suffer a terrible calamity. You may use this
tooth to keep yourselves safe from harm."
Having said this, the Thunder God leaped into the sky and disappeared.
Three days later, the sky was filled with thunder and lightning. A tremendous
storm broke out. Rain fell incessantly and the flood waters rose; huge waves
swept across the earth and the entire human race was destroyed. As the flood
began, the Thunder God's tooth transformed itself into a boat. Safe aboard this
vessel, Fuxi and his sister rode the waves and drifted with the tides. Only when
the waters had subsided did Fuxi and NŸwa realise that they alone had survived
the desolation. When they had grown into adults, Fuxi and NŸwa became husband
and wife in order to bear descendants and establish a new human race.
This second story reflects the custom of intermarriage between blood
relations in ancient China. It also shows why Nuwa is known as the mother of the
It is said that there were no men when the sky and the earth were separated.
It was NŸ Wa who made men by moulding yellow clay. The work was so taxing that
her strength was not equal to it. So she dipped a rope into the mud and then
lifted it. The mud that dripped from the rope also became men. Those made by
moulding yellow clay were rich and noble, while those made by lifting the rope
were poor and low. - from Tai ping yu lan (Taiping Anthologies for the Emperor)
In ancient times, the four corners of the sky collapsed and the world with
its nine regions split open. The sky could not cover all the things under it,
nor could the earth carry all the things on it. A great fire raged and would not
die out; a fierce flood raced about and could not be checked. Savage beasts
devoured innocent people; vicious birds preyed on the weak and old.
Then NŸ Wa melted rocks of five colours and used them to mend the cracks in
the sky. She supported the four corners of the sky with the legs she had cut off
from a giant turtle. She killed the black dragon to save the people of
Jizhou(1), and blocked the flood with the ashes of reeds. Thus the sky was
mended, its four corners lifted, the flood tamed, Jizhou pacified, and harmful
birds and beasts killed, and the innocent people were able to live on the square
earth under the dome of the sky. It was a time when birds, beasts, insects and
snakes no longer used their claws or teeth or poisonous stings, for they did not
want to catch or eat weaker things.
NŸ Wa's deeds benefited the heavens above and the earth below. Her name was
remembered by later generations and her light shone on every creation.
Now she was travelling on a thunder-chariot drawn by a two-winged dragon and
two green hornless dragons, with auspicious objects in her hands and a special
mattress underneath, surrounded by golden clouds, a white dragon leading the way
and a flying snake following behind. Floating freely over the clouds, she took
ghosts and gods to the ninth heaven and had an audience with the Heavenly
Emperor at Lin Men(2), where she rested in peace and dignity under the emperor.
She never boasted of her achievements, nor did she try to win any renown; she
wanted to conceal her virtues, in line with the ways of the universe.
When King Wen decided to go hunting, Bian, his official historian, burnt a
tortoise shell to forecast the result. After reading the cracks he said,
"Hunting on the north side of the Wei River is bound to bring a great gain. It
will not be a dragon or a Chi(1), nor will it be a tiger or a bear. It will be a
wise man sent by Heaven to be your minister and mentor." King Wen got on his
carriage, started the horses, and set out for the place. There he saw Jiang
taigong sitting on the grass and fishing. - From Liu tao (Six Tactics)
Zhou Xibo(2) went hunting and on the north bank of the wei River he met Jiang
Taigong. After talking with him, Xibo was very pleased, saying, "Before he died,
my father had anticipated that Zhou would become prosperous when a sage came to
us. Are you the sage? My father had long expected your arrival!" So he called
him Taigong Wang (Father's Expectation). He returned with Taigong, sharing his
carriage with him, and was to treat him as his mentor. - From Shi ji (Records of
the Grand Historian)
King wen made Taigong the magistrate of Guantan. During the year Taigong was
there, there was never a wind that was strong enough to disturb the leaves of
the trees. Once in his dream, King Wen saw a beautiful woman weeping before his
carriage. When asked the reason, she replied, "I am the daughter of the god of
Mount Taishan and married to the god of the East sea. Now I want to go home, but
the virtuous magistrate of Guantan makes the trip difficult. For my movements
are always accompanied by a violent storm, which damage his good name." After
waking up, the king summoned Taigong to ask what had happened. He was told that
a violent storm with pouring rain had swept areas outside Guantan that day. King
Wen then promoted Taigong to the position of Chief General. - From Sou shen ji
(stories of Immortals)
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