Human race molded from the earth

Legend has it that human beings multiplied after the first woman saw her reflection in a stream and began to make figures in her image. 

Nuwa made a clay figure according to her reflection in a stream.

Humans have long puzzled over their origins, with many of the world’s ancient civilizations seeming to share similar understandings on that question — before Darwin’s theory of evolution.

In Chinese legend, human beings were said to be made from material that was most easy to get — the earth.

After the sky and the land separated, the sun, the moon and the stars hung in the sky, while flowers, grass, trees and animals lived on the Earth.

The story goes that Fuxi and Nuwa, the first couple, moved from Kunlun Mountain to the east. The Lord of the Heaven gave a task to Fuxi — looking after the light of the sunrise and sunset. Fuxi looked eastward for the first glimmering light of sunrise every dawn and watched the sun fade in the mountains in the west until the last ray had gone.

Fuxi and Nuwa had a few children of their own. The boys played on the grass while the girls danced to the songs of the phoenix.

One day, Nuwa approached a stream after picking fresh fruits in the woods. The stream was so clear that she saw herself mirrored in the water. She smoothed back her waterfall-like hair, and her reflection also smoothed the hair.

Nuwa looked around and realized how quiet the world was except for some birds flying by. It suddenly occurred to her that the world would be much more lively and bustling if there were many more human beings like her.

Nuwa scooped up some clay near the stream and molded little figures according to her reflection in the stream. She was very satisfied with the clay figure she created. She took a pile of earth and molded figures one after another.

Nuwa then saw Fuxi playing the se (a 50-string plucked instrument) and started to mold figures again, this time in Fuxi’s image. Putting the clay figures in a row, Nuwa started to play the sheng (a 13-pipe wind instrument) along with Fuxi’s melody.

Miraculously, the clay figures on the ground blinked, raised their arms and kicked their feet. They all came to life. The figures danced in a circle, surrounded by colorful silk-like clouds. As the pitch of the melodies increased, the spinning clay figures became humans with flesh and blood. They rushed to Fuxi and Nuwa with cheers.

Fuxi waved his hand to them and said: “Go for your home anywhere on the land.”


Every spring, people of all tribes would gather at the place where Nuwa created humans to sing and dance.

Excitedly, Nuwa took a branch of green rattan, dipped it into the mud and then waved it in the air. Thousands of mud drops flew in all directions. Fuxi and Nuwa then rode the green dragon in the sky and blew air toward the flying mud drops.

Amazingly, the mud drops turned into human beings as they landed on the ground. With cheers, they ran in different directions and formed different tribes.

Men and women lived on fruits and flourished. Every spring, people of all tribes would gather at the place where Nuwa had created them, singing and dancing.

At one gathering, three young men fought to dance with one girl. Nuwa stopped the fight and said: “Whoever catches the wild goose will get the chance to dance with her.”

The three young men followed the agile wild goose to the bushes and tree tops, yet failed to catch it. One of them squatted on the ground and pretended to quit in frustration. As the wild goose skimmed over his head, he jumped and grabbed its feet.

Fuxi said: “Give the goose to the girl you love. You are as agile and strong as an eagle. I will call you Zhi (挚, an interchangeable character for 鸷, which means ferocious).”

A red phoenix flew over and hovered over the new couple.

Fuxi smiled: “Look. It is a message from the god. The phoenix will be the totem for your tribe.”

Zhi became one of the “Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors” in ancient China, more widely known by the name Shaohao (少昊).

Yellow-skinned people created from China’s yellow earth multiplied and have lived in the world ever since.


Zhi, one of the “Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors” in ancient China, lived happily with his wife ever since.

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