The divine birds that overcame obstacles

Vulnerable to the elements and fierce beasts, early humans were inspired by nature to find solutions as they faced troubles when they headed west led by the world's first couple.
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Huahu whittled one end of the trunk into the shape of a fishtail while cutting the other end into a handle.

Though born in the world with God’s blessing as the mythical legends suggest, humans with no fur, tail, wings or claws were still vulnerable in the face of a changeable climate, natural barriers and fierce beasts. Yet, they had the wisdom to learn from what was around them or, in other words, be inspired by nature.

Fuxi and Nuwa, the world’s first couple, led their people by marching westward.

On the way, they saw a lofty mountain from afar, vaguely visible in clouds and mist. As the sun rose and the mist cleared, flowers, fruits, birds and beasts on the mountain came into view. The people were thrilled and rushed toward the mountain, yet a river stopped them.

Mifei, the youngest daughter of the couple, accidentally fell into the water and was swallowed up by the surging waves.

In their grief, the people named the river Luo, which shares the same pronunciation as “fall” in Chinese and worshipped Mifei as the Goddess of Luo.

Fuxi discussed with the people how to conquer the river.

“Look!” a girl named Yuxu shouted, pointing to a hollow tree trunk drifting with the current.

“I have an idea,” said a young man named Gonggu. He grabbed an ax and cut down a big tree, hollowed out its trunk and pushed it into the river.

With a large stride, Gonggu boarded the canoe. Yet, it circled in the water and almost made Gonggu fall in as well.

A girl named Huahu watched fish swimming and asked: “How could fish swim freely in the water?” People around answered: “They use the tail.”

“Right!” Huahu said with excitement. She chopped down a thick branch; whittled one end into the shape of a fishtail while cutting the other end into a handle.

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Yuxu and Gonggu paddled with the oar on the canoe.

She invited Yuxu and Gonggu to board the canoe together and paddled with the oar. It worked. The canoe moved accordingly.

Suddenly, they saw a little giant running from the southeast. He held a long bamboo pole in his hand and carried on his back a bamboo raft tied up with vine.

The giant said: “My name is Panyu. I live on the seaside in the southeast. I was told that Fuxi had trouble, so I come to help.”

He pushed the raft into the river, jumped onto it and pushed against the bank with his bamboo pole. Soon, the raft caught up with the canoe.

With the wooden oar and the bamboo pole moving fast, the canoe and the raft reached the other side of the river quickly and dashed back equally as fast.

Everybody cheered. Fuxi said: “Now I appoint Panyu, Gonggu, Huahu and Yuxu the Masters of Boat. Please organize everybody to make boats and rafts, and thus cross the river.”

When the people reached the mountain, they picked delicious fruits and ate to their content. As night fell, Fuxi tried to set up a fire to warm the people, yet he found the kindling wet when they crossed the river.

Fuxi looked up, yet saw no signs of thunderstorm, from which they usually collected burning branches as kindling.

With a flutter of wings, a flock of birds flew back to their nests on the trees. Inspired by the scene, Fuxi came up with an idea of making houses with branches as shelter just like the birds made their nests.

With a few chirps, a face of an old man appeared from a huge nest, calling: “Come here. Come here.” Then, the old man turned into a huge bird with human face and flew away.

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Tired birds flew back to their nests on the trees.

Fuxi climbed into the nest and found soft and warm hay inside. He fell asleep soon and had a dream.

In this dream, a large bird with a black back and white belly flew from a kingdom named Suiming and pecked a tree with his hard beak. As it pecked, sparks appeared.

Fuxi woke up as dawn broke. He took two branches and drilled the smaller one on the bigger one. Sparks appeared as in the dream. With continuous drilling, smoke came out and a fire was started.

Nuwa kindled a grass stick and lit a big torch. Soon, torches were passed to each tribe. People toasted hunted animals on fires and tasted delicious food.

Fuxi announced: “We are taught how to build houses and make fire through hints from two divine birds. Let’s address the one who taught us to build houses as Youchao Shi (the Lord with tree houses) and the one who taught us to make fire as Suiren Shi (the Lord who knows how to start a fire). Now, everyone start to build houses and make fire. We will live here from generation to generation.”

Though described as two divine birds in the myth, Youchao Shi and Suiren Shi are more widely accepted as two great tribe leaders in ancient times.

Youchao Shi is said to be a tribe leader in the Paleolithic Age dwelling on the lower reaches of the Yellow River. He led his people to build houses in trees, which sheltered them from rain, wind and beasts.

Suiren Shi is recorded as a tribe leader surnamed Feng living in today’s Shangqiu, Henan Province. Rather than fearing fire, as most people at the time did, Suiren Shi discovered that fire can warm people, make meat delicious and can be created by drilling wood.

His tribe was called Suiming Kingdom by later generations. Suiren Shi is said to be buried at Suihuangling (Emperor Sui’s Tomb), southwest to the ancient city of Shangqiu.

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Fuxi used a small branch to drill the bigger one to make fire.

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