1, 2, 3 – the Legend of Pangu

We are excited to be sponsoring the Great Lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo. The lanterns feature Chinese and Scottish myths and legends.  Some amazing Chinese myths are set out in an ancient book called “The Classics of Mountains and Seas”.  The Chinese name of this book is Shan Hai Jing山海经. One of the most famous stories in Shan Hai Jing is about Pangu who created the world.

Do you know how to write 1, 2, 3 in Chinese? It’s simply 一, 二, 三. What is the connection between these characters and the Pangu creation myth? According to legend, at the beginning, there was nothing in the universe except a formless chaos known as 一 (one line), the beginning and the whole. Then Pangu, the primitive giant, awoke from the chaos. He separated the Earth and the Sky with his axe so we have 二 (two lines),the world Pangu created. To keep the Earth and the Sky separated, our giant stood between them and pushed up the Sky, then we have 三 (three lines) which marks the Earth, the Sky and the human.

After Pangu died, his breath became the wind, the mist and the clouds: his blood became the rivers, land and lakes; his eyes turned into the sun and the moon. This is a romantic story of China.