Chinese Mythology

Chinese mythology is cultural history, folktales, and religions that have been passed down either orally or in writing. Chinese mythology started in the 12th century B.C. Chinese mythology has a sence of humor in its stories. "The writing of such stories began in the Wei and Jin Dynasties (220-420), when various writers, influenced by the alchemist's ideas and Taoist and Buddhist superstitions, were interested in inventing stories about gods and ghosts. Some of them show their unusual imagination and mastery of the written language. This practice was continued in the next period, the period of Southern and Northern Dynasties. "Chinese mythology has been influenced by a fear of outsiders. It has also been shaped, sometimes deliberately, by religious faiths and philosophies. Some myths even demonstrate the conflict between them, as in the story of the Monkey King, which reflects the conflict between Taoists and Buddhists."
Several common themes appear throughout much of Chinese mythology. Among the most significant are the creation of the world out of chaos, the importance of nature, and reverence for ancestors.


A central quest within Taoist practices is the search for immortality - literal, physical immortality. The sense of an interplay between natural law and the abstract laws prevailing in the cosmos, is held in common by shamanism and Taoism. Taoism searched for balance within these forces and enshrined the concept that change cannot be forced, only experienced and assimilated.


Confucius lived in the sixth century BCE, a time of considerable political unrest and feuding. He taught the virtues of order, structure and correct behaviour, which was underpinned by a rigid notion of hierarchy, involving strict filial devotion. Confucian notions of hierarchy are evident in the bureaucratic pantheon of Chinese myths.


Buddhism was introduced to China in the first century CE and has been adapted by the Chinese so that the mythologies of the indigenous faiths and the imported are intertwined. Early Buddhism consciously created a mythology to give meaning to its practices and beliefs.

Even the advent of Buddhism is mythologized in the tale of the Emperor Ming. His dream of a golden man who could fly led him to dispatch messengers to Afghanistan to bring back the Buddhist scriptures.

The Cosmic Egg
Myths of a ‘cosmic egg’ are common to many cultures, signifying the origins of conscious life. In some versions the egg is produced by a mother figure of some description, and even where this is absent, it is present by implication. At one level it merely dramatizes the experience of every individual, starting existence in the egg-shape of the womb, which is at first a container and a totality. Conscious, separate existence is achieved when the container is breached, but ends at death, when the constituents of the body return to the earth to become part of the cycle of life.
The myth of Pangu on this small level gives meaning to each individual life, and may be a way of processing the idea that the world existed long before we did and will continue long after death. Creation myths embody the internal process of increasing consciousness of the world.external image Buddha.jpg

The chinese believed that there was twleve moons just like there are twelve months in a year. They also believed that the moons were made of water. The name "mother of moons" is associated with that of Heng-o. This image shows the detail of an eighteen-century embroidered emperor's robe including a white hare, which was believed to have lived in the moon.
external image moon_china_med.jpgThe Jade Emperor is charged with running of the three realms: heaven, hell and that of the living. The Jade Emperor adjudicates and metes out rewards and remedies to actions of saints, the living and the deceased according to a merit system loosely called the Jade Principles Golden Scrip. When judgments proposed were objected to, usually by other saints, the administration would occasionally resort to the counsels of the advisory elders.


This is the Chinese bodhisattva that childless women go to for help. external image guan-yin.jpgChina's history has been traced for more than 4,000 years. The Xia dominated the northern part of china in 1500 B.C. The Xia worshiped the snake. The snake changed into the dragon, which became one of the most enduring symbols of Chinese culture and mythology. China was ruled by the shang dynasty in 1500 to 1066 B.C. The people at that time worshipped many dieties, including natural forces and elements such as rain, clouds, rivers, mountains, the sun, the moon, and the earth. When a new dynasty, the Zhou, came to power in China in 1066 B . C ., significant changes took place in religion. People still worshiped the old gods, but ancestor worship became increasingly important. Confucianism and Taoism appeared near the end of the Zhou dynasty. These two religious traditions had an enormous influence on the development of the most basic and lasting principles of Chinese culture.

"Lady White Snake: A Tale From Chinese Opera," is a story of a white snake that gets turned into a beautiful women to search for love. She vitits the West Lake in Hangzhou and meets a handsome man. The man is an orphan without prospects. The women and the man get married and live happy until a jelous monk tries to ruin them. She has to fight for her marriage and her freedom becuase the monk tells her husband that she used to be a white snake.
external image LadyWhiteSnake2.jpg"Lady White Snake: A Tale From Chinese Opera," retold by Aaron Shepard, illustrated by Song Nan Zhang, Pan Asian Publications, Union City, California, 2001.