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Pan Gu - the Primordial Person of Chinese mythology

Prof. Evgeny Torchinov

Pan Gu (P'an Ku) is a "primordial person" in the Chinese tradition. Though the Pan Gu myth was fixed in the written form in relatively late (III C.E.) there exist some data about the existence of the principal structures of this myth in profound antiquity. Thus some archeologists find the elements of this myth even in the patterns of the pottery of the Neolithic Age in China. The popular in XIX century interpretation of this myth as a borrowing from India (Vedic Virat-Purusha myth) did not find its support. Therefore the cosmogonic myth about Pan Gu can be understood as indigenous Chinese one.

According to this myth, in the primordial space there appeared the cosmic Egg, and Pan Gu, the First Man, was inside it. When he grown up he broke the Egg to leave it. But he was afraid that two halves of the Egg could join again to imprison him again inside the shell. Therefore Pan Gu was trying to make a distance between the halves of the Egg as great as it is possible. in result the upper half of the Egg shell became Heaven and the lower one - Earth.

When Pan Gu died, his left eye became Sun, his right eye became Moon, his hair changed into stars, his flesh was transformed into the ground, his bones were transformed into the mountains and minerals, his blood  - into seas and oceans, and the insects living on his skin became animals, etc.  Therefore the universe is but the transformed body of Pan Gu. This mythologem was interpreted later as the idea of the homogenity and similarity of micro- and macrocosm.

In some texts of the beginning of C.E. (e.g. Laozi bian hua jing - "The Book of the Transformations of Laozi") this function of the "Primordial Person" was ascribed to devinised founder of Daoism (Taoism) Laozi / Lao-tzu known in this case under his title Lord Lao (Laojun / Lao-chun)

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