Among the countless stories of mythology all over the world, particular emphasis in this paper will be placed on creation myths. Creation myths are the whole thinking and imagination of people in the ancient times about the creation of heaven and earth, the origin and existence of human beings. Creation myths produced by different regions and different space reflects the diverse culture. By comparing the creation myths in Bible, ancient Greece and China, we can have a better understanding of diverse culture.
Biblical creation myths mainly come from the first chapter of Genesis of The Old Testament. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (NIV Gen. 1:1-2) Then God created day and night, sky, land, seas, and living creatures day by day. And on the sixth day, God created mankind on his image. He formed a man from the dust of the ground, breathed into his nostrils to make the man a living being and named him Adam. Adam was the first human being created by God. He lived in the Garden of Eden built by God. At this time, God also created the first woman Eve from Adam’s rib, who becomes the wife of Adam. From then on, they multiplied and thrived.
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In ancient Greek mythology, before the world came into existence, everything was in chaos. There was only a confused and shapeless void. Then the earth and sky were divided into two parts by the horizon; the land and the sea started to be different from each other; and the air of emptiness and turbidity began to separate. The chaos of the world has changed and a stable pattern has been formed. As the creation of human beings, it was Prometheus who created man out of clay and Athene breathed a soul into him.
One creation myth is commonly acknowledged by Chinese people- Pan Gu created the world and Nu Wa produced human beings. Pan Gu’s body transformed into the mountains of the earth, and his eyes became the sun and the moon. All parts of Pan Gu’s body turned into the origin of all things in the world. After Pan Gu created the world, there were sky, sea, sun, moon and stars in the world. Nu Wa, a goddess in Chinese mythology, then used loess to shape people. However, the work was so heavy and the strength was so limited that she beat the mud with ropes, and the splashed mud became countless human beings.
In creation mythology, the Bible has many similarities with ancient Greece and China, such as the state of the pre-creation world, the way in which man was created and its applied meaning.
At the beginning of the creation, whether in Biblical, Greek or Chinese myths, the world was chaotic and invisible. In bible, “The earth was formless, darkness was over the surface of the deep.” (NIV Gen. 1:1-2) In Chinese ancient times, as history recorded, heaven and earth were in chaos as egg white and yolk. Then from the void came all the natural things and elements which are necessary in the world, such as light, day, night, sky, land, sea, etc.
From the creation myths of China and the West, we can see that their creation work is orderly and the world is constructed in a certain order. In Genesis, God first created light to divide day and night, then he created heaven and earth and all living things, and finally created Adam- the representative of human being. China’s creation myths also follow a certain order. Firstly, Pan Gu “opening up the heavens and opening up the earth”. Secondly, Pan Gu’s body changed into thunderbolt, the sun and the moon, mountains, rivers and so on. After all this, it came to the myth of Nu Wa creating human. Only after all of natural elements were prepared, the creation of animals and humankind could later take place. It applied that all living creatures including human cannot live without nature.
Besides, whether it is the God or Chinese Gods, they all have supreme power and can do everything. But they all used dust or mud on the ground, which seems to imply a preliminary reflection on the fact that human beings come from the earth and finally will return to it after death. What’s more the God in Bible and Athene in ancient Greek myths both breathed a soul into him.
In addition to the similarities between the creation myths of Bible, Greece and China, there are also many differences.
First, the Greek creation system constructs a reasonable pedigree origin through a clear reproductive relationship of sexes. It is the combination of sexes that produced all things in the world. The earth gave birth to the sky, mountains and sea; the earth and the sky gave birth to the Titan God, and the Titan God gave birth to the gods and all things. the status and functions of each God in Greek myths are clear. Erebus- the God of darkness, Nyx- the God of night, Eros-the God of love, Gaea-the God of Earth and Tartarus. However, most of the gods in Chinese creation myths accomplish a creation work by themselves. The ability of a god is stronger.
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Second, In the Bible, God is the only one with supreme power, and there is a contractual relationship between him and human. In ancient Greek myths, the position of God was also supreme, and Zeus even once wanted to destroy human beings. However, the creators of Chinese myths not only have Pan Gu, but also Nu Wa. They have a harmonious relationship with nature and human beings. Pan Gu devoted his body to create the world. Then Nu Wa also made man out of clay like a mother.
The differences of creation myths in different region reflect diverse culture, while the similarities imply the common recognition to the world. the The creation myths not only explain the beginning of the world, but also perfectly reflect the daily lives of people, their cultural values and personal perspective on how they view their surroundings.
- Berens et al. The Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome[M]. Shanghai: Shanghai World Publishing Corporation,2009
- The Holy Bible. New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984
- 王佐良等.欧洲文化入门[C]. 外语教学与研究出版社 2017
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