Pangu Creation Myth


Informant is a 53 y/o Chinese woman who is a first-generation immigrant to the US and has lived in the US for around 23 years.

Main Piece:

(trans.) “A long time ago, our world had no shape, just an expanse of chaos, which eventually shrinks into a large egg. Inside the egg was a giant named Pangu who was birthed from this egg. When he stood up, he grew taller each day, and was eventually able to separate the egg into the sky and the earth. Many thousands of years pass as Pangu stands with his arms holding up the sky and his feet firmly planted on the ground, and eventually, he passes away. Pangu’s corpse becomes many different things, his eyes are the sun and the moon, his blood is the river, ocean, etc., the details I’ve forgotten, but just like that we now have our world today.”



This conversation took place over the phone. I asked my informant about Chinese creation myths she knows of.


Around the world, myths are few in number—myths are often creation stories with transcendental truths in them that answer why the world is the way it is, exploring the relationship between humans and the cosmos. The belief in myths doesn’t stem from the literal narrative it tells, but rather from the sacred meaning behind it, which is why myths have many different variations, but they generally do not change over time. Myths can be analyzed using Levi-Strauss’ structuralism approach, which takes the smallest components of a myth and how they relate to each other, which is most commonly presented through binary oppositions, and thus come to an understanding about that particular culture’s ways of thinking. In this Chinese creation myth, there are a couple of key symbols. First, the primordial chaos that is contained, specifically, into an egg, the egg is then separated into Earth and Sky, there is then the birth and growth of a giant, who eventually dies, and finally his corpse turning into various celestial and natural elements present in the earth and sky. While extremely simplified, these binaries are all somewhat related to the ideas of recycling and reincarnation, and that nothing is ever truly destroyed—Pangu splits the egg, his body dies but turns into the natural world. 

Either way, it is interesting to think about this creation myth in the context of modern China, which generally doesn’t push for any specific religion, and these myths are now usually found more in written texts rather than passed along by speaking. This myth is generally associated with Daoism, though elements of reincarnation lean more towards Buddhism. 

For another version of the Pangu myth, see Goldin, Paul R. “THE MYTH THAT CHINA HAS NO CREATION MYTH.” Monumenta Serica, vol. 56, 2008, pp. 1–22,