The East has always been for the Westerners a mysterious and beautiful land, of beautiful places and very diverse and ancient cultures. One of the countries that in this sense has always aroused greater fascination and that in turn has had a greater impact and relationship with Europe throughout history is China, since the time of Marco Polo and even from the Ancient Age.
This country has a millenary culture in which through the ages great myths and traditions have been elaborated. In order to exemplify this wealth and understand a little more of its idiosyncrasy throughout this article we will see several Chinese legends, with their explanation.
5 great Chinese legends
Below we show you a small selection of a dozen well-known Chinese legends.
1. The legend of the Monkey King
One of the great legends of China, and probably one of the best known worldwide, is the legend of the Monkey King. This character has a very broad history, which tells us about the search for immortality.
The Monkey King Sun Wukong was born from a magical stone, coming from chaos, in the Huāguǒ-shān mountains. After joining a clan of apes, Sun Wokong showed his courage by jumping into a waterfall and finding a new home for the monkeys, who named him a king. However, the Monkey King became conscious after the death of a fellow who would one day reach the time, which decided to start in search of immortality, disguising himself in human clothes.
After leaving he would find a great Buddhist teacher, who despite his initial reluctance ends up welcoming him, giving him his name and showing him great skills such as the ability to transform or to give impressive jumps of almost a hundred kilometers.
But one day, and after seeing how the Monkey King used his gifts as a show, the master decided to throw him out of the temple. After completing his training this being made numerous trips in order to achieve immortality. Among them, travel to the Dragon King Palace of the East Sea, from which he would steal the Ru Yi Bang rod that maintained the balance of the seas that will later become his weapon (something that generated serious cataclysms) and with which he forced the great Dragon Kings to give him magical equipment. He also traveled to Inferno to cross out his name and the name of the rest of the monkeys in the book of life and death.
It is then when to try to control him the Jade Emperor decides to take him to grant him a noble title. First it grants him the title of Protector of the Horses of the Imperial Stables, but after a conflict he decides to add him as Keeper of the Garden of the Peach of Immortality. Even so, when he is denied access to a banquet in honor of Empress Sun Wukong, he becomes angry and decides to steal the immortality peaches and immortality pills of Lord Daoist Laozi, also destroying the garden.
Then, the emperor sends one hundred thousand warriors to stop him, but the Monkey King manages to defeat them. Finally he is captured and his execution is ordered, but after consuming the pills and peaches of immortality, nothing could kill him. Sun Wukong was locked in the Oven of the Eight Trigrams, where it burned until the instrument exploded. But that was not enough to finish him off.
The emperor requested the help of Buddha, who challenged the Monkey King and bet with him that he was unable to jump beyond the palm of his hand. If he succeeded, he would be named emperor, and if not, he would be locked up. Sun Wukong accepted the bet and jumped, until what he believed was the end of the Universe in which he could only see five columns. He urinated on them to mark where he had arrived. Upon descending, however, he discovered that these pillars were Buddha’s fingers; He had lost his bet. He tried to escape, but Buddha sealed him on the Mountain of the Five Elements for all eternity.
Centuries later he would be freed by the monk Tang, whom he would help in his journey to recover the sacred scriptures for China (yes, and with the help of a magical band that made the monk could generate great pain in case of need) .
2. The legend of the dragon’s pearl
Dragons are very admired creatures in China. In this country they are usually creatures of great power but also of great wisdom, often linked to the climate. However, you can also find pleasure in material possessions, some of which have been coveted by man. As in this legend.
Legend has it that there was once a dragon that lived on Kinabalu Island, which was generally peaceful and that wanted and played by throwing it into the air and collecting a huge pearl which was its most valuable possession.
This was coveted by many, and there came a time when the emperor wanted to incorporate it into his treasure. For this, he entrusted his firstborn son with the task of taking her, embarking with his crew. The young prince elaborated a plan to take the pearl, asking his men to make him a kite capable of supporting the weight of an adult man and a flashlight.
When the comet was built, the prince waited until it was dark for the dragon to fall asleep and with the help of the comet he could fly to the position of the dragon and exchange the pearl for the lamp. After that it was picked up by the crew. However, the dragon soon woke up and made a future pounced on the prince’s ship in order to claim his possession.
The prince and his sailors, desperate before the attack of the serpent, decided to charge the guns and shoot. With the first shot the dragon thought that they were throwing his pearl, so he ran to catch it, but the weight of the bullet dragged him down, falling into the sea. The prince managed to return to his home with the jewel, which became part of the imperial treasure, and eventually he would become the new emperor.
3. The legend of butterfly lovers
Some of the existing legends in China tell us about a more modern vision of the traditional one for the time in which they were written. They talk about the search for true love over family impositions, as well as the search for knowledge in a population that at that time had not allowed school: women.
Legend has it that there was a young woman named Zhu Yingtai in antiquity who had a deep desire to learn, be educated and gain knowledge. But at that time the woman was not allowed access to education beyond that received in the father’s home, with what the intelligent girl decided to disguise herself as a man to fulfill her dream.
In this way and with the consent of her father, the young woman was able to start her studies. During his training he met another young man, Liang Shanbo, with whom he would share a room for years and with whom he would initiate a friendship that little by little would become more and more profound. So much so, that Zhu Yingtai ended up falling in love.
However one day Zhu Yingtai would receive the news that his father had fallen ill and that he had to return home. The young woman handed one of her trainers a fan so that the moment came she would give it to Liang Shanbo and tell her that she wanted to marry him.
After that, the young woman prepared to return home, and Liang Shanbo accompanied her. Zhu Yingtai tried on the way to make him see who he really was, without success.
Not knowing what to do, the young woman tried to convince him to marry a supposed twin sister. The young man ended up agreeing to meet her later, and after having accompanied Zhu Yingtai for a distance, he separated from her to return to his studies.
Upon arriving home, the young woman saw that her father was recovered. But he also found bad news: his father had arranged a marriage for her. Later Liang Shanbo received the fan and guessed who Zhu Yingtai was, so he came quickly to visit Zhu Yingtai and his family. However, there the young woman told him what happened. Both cried and sworn eternal love, before what the father ended up throwing the young man. Liang Shanbo returned home and after a short time became ill and died.
When the date arrived, Zhu Yingtai had to prepare for their arranged wedding, and while they were taking her in a palanquin to the place where the procession was to be held, she found a grave. A grave with the name of Liang Shanbo. The woman approached and wept for the lost love, but suddenly the grave opened at the same time that a great storm appeared. Zhu Yingtai smiled and launched himself into the pit.
When he had done it the sudden storm subsided, and the members of the bridal party could see how two beautiful butterflies emerged from the tomb, where the souls of Zhu Yingtai and Liang Shanbo lived, and they flew away together forever.
4. The creation of the Universe
One of the types of myths that we can observe in almost all mythologies and cultures refer to something that has awakened the curiosity of humanity since the beginning of it times: how the universe was formed. Chinese mythology offers us in this sense the legend of Pangu or P’an-Ku as a possible explanation.
The legend says that at the beginning there was only chaos, with heaven and earth united and the universe concentrated in a black egg. Within it slept a single being, Pangu or P’an-Ku. When he was awakened he found himself trapped in the egg, and he proceeded to break it. This made part of the egg, the lighter and clearer, the sky farewell and conformity, while the lower and darker part would conform the Earth. The gigantic being would have the head in the Sky and the feet in the Earth, and with the step of the millenia both would go enlarging.
After that, four beings were born: the Dragon, the Feng Huang (similar to the phoenix), the Turtle and the Qilin. By joining forces with Pangu, they formed the seasons and the five elements.
But P’an-Ku was not immortal, and there came a time when he died. His death would give light to a large number of elements of the world: from his breath came the wind and his eyes would become the Sun and the Moon. His beard the stars and his bones the minerals. Its extremities would configure the pillars that separate Heaven and Earth, and its blood the seas.
5. Nüwa and the creation of man
In antiquity China also possessed a series of ancient creative gods, often related to the imperial hierarchy. One of them is Nüwa, the first deity, a feminine entity that among its multiple attributions some legends consider the creator of humanity.
Legend has it that once the universe and stars, seas and mountains, forests and animals were created, the first goddess, Nüwa, was born. It was a being of torso up human and torso down dragon with the ability to transform. This deity traveled the world, astonished at its wonders.
However, the deity considered that the world lacked life, to the point that she herself felt lonely after a while. After standing in front of a river, she could see her reflection on the water and began to think about creating beings similar to herself. He started to extract mud and shape it until he achieved something in a way that he liked. He gave her legs and arms, and when he finally finished his work decided to breathe life. This is how the first human being was born.
The goddess began to create more and more people, but seeing that she would need many to populate the world she decided to place a wicker cane in order to remove the mud, so that when it was extracted small fragments would emerge that in turn would be transformed into other people . Also, and given that I had not given them the gift of immortality, I believe the man and the woman so that they could conceive and generate more beings with whom to populate the world.