Nü Wa, "the Mother," "Creator of Mankind," is highly regarded in Chinese culture. She is said to have come in to existence after the death of the giant God, Pan Gu 盘古 (pán gǔ), when his essence, spirit and Qi left his body to form the Three Emporers (三皇 sān huáng) - Nü Wa, Fu Xi (伏羲 fú xī) and Shen Nong (神农 shén nóng).

Nü Wa is most commonly depicted as half snake, half woman.

As Nü Wa roamed the Earth, beautiful as nature was, she couldn't help but feel lonely. So on the first day of the Lunar Year she created chickens. On the second day she created dogs. On the third day she created sheep. On the fourth day she created pigs. On the fifth day she created cows. On the sixth day she created horses. And on the seventh day, as she knelt down by a river, she noticed her own reflection. She smiled and it smiled back. She frowned and it frowned back. In that moment she decided to create a being in her likeness.

She picked up some yellow clay from the riverbed and began moulding a figure, and to her delight, as she placed it on the ground, it came to life and called her “mummy.” It then began dancing and singing joyously around her for it had been given the gift of life. Nü Wa named her creation “human” (人 rén), and as she created more humans, her loneliness ebbed.

(This is why mankind’s birthday is on the 7th day of the Lunar Calendar (初七 chū qī).)


Nü Wa 女娲 (nǚ wā)
Status: God/Deity
Gender: Female
Pronunciation: (audio file coming soon)
Best known for: Creating humans in her likeness

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The next day she awoke and decided that she wanted the entire Earth to be populated by humans. So she dipped a rope in the wet clay and swung it around her. As each drop of clay hit the floor, they too formed in to humans. It is said that the humans she handcrafted became wealthy aristocrats, and those that arose from the drops of clay became the poor common folk.

Soon realising that her beloved humans would eventually die, she decided to separate them in to male and female, and for them to have the ability to create their own offspring. This way, mankind – her children – could continue on forever.

Nü Wa Mends the Sky

To understand how this story begins, we must first discuss how the Chinese conecpt of Heaven works. 

In Chinese mythology, Heaven is highly bureaucratic. Just like Earth, there are ranks, titles, jobs and processes that must be respected and adhered to if one does not wish to feel the wrath of the Jade Emporer (玉帝 yù dì) and his army of celestial warriors. A great example of this can be found in the Monkey King's (孙悟空 sūn wù kōng) story.

So with that in mind, may I introduce Gong Gong (共工 gōng gòng), the Water God, a powerful dragon-deity who was unhappy with his title and the way things were being run in Heaven. When he could no longer take it, Gong Gong rebelled against the Jade Emperor in an effort to usurp control of heaven. He allied with Xiang Liu (相柳 xiāng liǔ), a giant poisonous snake with nine human heads, causing great destruction and terrible floods wherever they went.

Learning of this, Zhu Rong (祝融 zhù róng), the Fire God, challenged Gong Gong to a duel, one that would literally rock the world. They fought for days, eventually falling from Heaven and crashing down to Earth. In the end, Zhu Rong proved too much for Gong Gong. Zhu Rong returned to Heaven victorious, and Gong Gong, wrought with humiliation, hurled himself at Bu Zhou Mountain (不周山 bù zhōu shān), one of the eight pillars that held up the sky, causing great damage to it. The result was a tear in the Heavens. "Fires blazed out of control and could not be extinguished; water flooded in great expanses and would not recede; ferocious animals ate blameless people; predatory birds snatched the elderly and the weak."

Seeing that her children were suffering, Nu Wa took it upon herself to fix the damage that had been done. She sought out Ao (鳌 áo), a giant turtle, who agreed to have his four legs chopped off to replace the damaged pillar. She then smelted Five-Coloured Stones (五色石 wǔ sè shí) (one colour for each element) to patch up the sky.

And so, with great efforts, the sky was mended, the pillar was erect again, the floods receded, and peace was restored.

In some versions of the story, she then kills Gong Gong for his crimes, in other versions Gong Gong died as a result of his collision with the pillar, or he snuck away, never to be seen again. Either way, Nü Wa was unable to right all the wrongs Gong Gong had brought upon the world. To this day, the Heavens tilt to the northwest, the Sun and Moon move across the sky from east to west, and the stars drift with the seasons. 

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