According to Chinese mythology, Chinese people were created by goddess Nuwa (女娲) with yellow clay.

Nuwa and Fuxi, Yin and Yang

Nuwa commonly appears in classic Chinese painting or carving with Fuxi (伏羲), the creator of Chinese culture, including scripts, agriculture and the original Eight Trigrams that is designed to decode the structure and the rules of the universe.

A format of the original I Ching said to be formulated by Fuxi

A carving illustration of Nuwa and Fuxi unearthed from a 2,000-year-old Han Dynasty tomb in Shandong Province

In a way, Nuwa was like an architect who built Chinese houses for spirits to inhabit while Fuxi played the role as an interior designer who decorated the house with furniture and furnishing to make it a civilised dwelling.

In another analogy, we can say Nuwa produced the hardware while Fuxi installed the software and together they developed a fully-fledged Chinese civilisation.

A 2,000-year-old Han Dynasty brick carving of Nuwa and Fuxi and Chinese people

Compass, Square and Double Helix

When Nuwa and Fux appear together in a classic Chinese artwork, they were always in a mating position with Nuwa holding a compass and Fuxi carrying a square.

This more than a thousand years old portrait of Nuwa and Fuxi was painted on a 184x85x75cm fabric and unearthed from a Tang Dynasty tomb along the Silk Road in today’s Xinjiang Province.

In the painting, the sun is on the top and the moon at the bottom with the Big Dipper and other major constellations scattered around.

Such arrangement reflects the order of the universe and becomes the standard presentation in Chinese society: Nuwa stands for heaven with a round compass and Fuxi symbolises earth with a square ruler; male as the yang on the left and female as the yin on the right; the sun as the yang at the top and the moon as the yin in the bottom.

As for the entangled tails of the couple, they look uncannily like the double helix of DNA which was only discovered in 1958.

Nuwa’s Unfinished Business

As the legend goes, after the militant marine warrior Gonggong (共工) lost a power struggle, he launched a suicide attack by knocking his head against Mt. Buzhou (不周山), causing the northwest corner of the heaven to collapse while the southeast land became inundated.

Nuwa thus used five-coloured precious stones to mend the hole in the sky and constructed dams to contain the flood.

Some ancient Chinese reference

Questions to Heaven, the Warring States Period: Nuwa has a woman’s head and a snake’s body. (楚辞·天问:女娲人头蛇身)

The Explanation of the Words (说文解字), the 2nd century, Han Dynasty Chinese dictionary: Nuwa, an ancient goddess, the creator of the things in the world.  (娲 古之神圣女 化万物者也)

The Wild West from Classics of Mountains and Seas (山海经·大荒西经), the Han Dynasty: Nuwa, an ancient goddess with a human face and snake body who can transform her appearance 70 times in a day. (女娲,古神女而帝者,人面蛇身,一日中七十变).

Readings of the Taiping Era (太平御览), the 10th century: When the heaven and earth parted, there was no man in between, so Nuwa baked the yellow clay figurines to make people. (俗说天地开辟,未有人民,女娲抟黄土作人,剧务力不暇供,乃引绳于泥中,举以为人)


laura tanase
Who are the two personages?

All Things Chinese
Left and right, male and female, yang and yin.

Eric Horrobin
Is this like our version of Adam and Eve? As in the Adam and Eve were the original human couple where all humanity came from. ? (of course, Eve was created from a rib bone from Adam.)

All Things Chinese
According to Chinese mythology, Chinese people were created by Nuwa alone, while her male counterpart created Chinese culture.

They are not equivalent to Adam and Eve. Nuwa was never part of Fuxi. She was more like God Yahweh who created Jewish people in Jewish mythology. However, the world was not created by her but evolved naturally. She was just a maintenance worker and repaired the sky damaged by an angry Gonggong. She then decorated the world by producing mobile clay sculptures which were the first group of Chinese people.

Yet it was Fuxi who enriched the lives of mobile human sculptures with the culture so they transformed into a civilised people.

In this sense, Nuwa is like a mother and Fuxi is like a teacher.

11 thought on “Nuwa and Fuxi in Chinese Mythology”
  1. Fascinating, China tells the same story of early creation all other indigenous believe, in their own way, which dates back thousands of years…thankyou so much

  2. Hi,
    Thank you so much for this information, and the high quality images.
    Could you please tell me where Han Dynasty brick carvings and all the above could be seen?
    Surely they are in museums now. Any literature about the myth would be highly interesting too.
    And keep publishing 🙂

    1. Hi Janet, sorry for late reply.
      This is one of the 72 images carved on bricks in an ancient bomb dating back to the 3rd century. The tomb, discovered in the 1950s, is located in Yinan County (沂南县) in Shandong Province (山东省) in China’s east. A museum known as Beizhai Han Dynasty Stone Carve Tomb Museum (北寨汉画像石墓博物馆) has been built on the site and is open to the public.

    2. If you seek a reference book look up the author Aurel Stein. He published a 3 volume work called “Innermost Asia”. Vol. 2:663-66 covers the archaeological information on the Nuwa/Fuxi mural. Vol. 3: plate CIX contains the same illustration of Nuwa/Fuxi. You will find this information for free at http://www.internet

      For an esoteric understanding I recommend researching the sacred geometry of the circle and the square.

  3. I think dna similarity is more than just coincidence especially so if you consider the tool we use today to manuplate genes, which are crispr(sybolised with a scissor) and cas9(usually as an L shaped protein) so these two mythical characters were probably genetic engineers much like the halfsnake halfhuman deity of Sumerian pantheon(i guess he was called ea or enlil). Also the pearl neclace might be illustrating a corrupted version of aminoacids(with tho major stones as telomeres). The pearl neclace motiff might even have something to do with Scandinavian mythos, as it somehow resembles Odin(sound dissipates harder in water than in air thus travels faster in water, thus even slower/almost none in space which would mean energy expands into space at an instant, dyn,dynn means noise in most Scandinavian languages)…

    Many older Fuxi and Nüwa paintings included crows and ravens at corners which also have a resemblence with Norse myths. Ancient Fin and Icelanding creation myths talk about a person called Siki/Sigi who was cast out to east by his people and godess Freyja. Middle Asian runes have many similarities with Hitite letters(with different pronounciations yet same meanings) and Scandinavian runes have similar in both pronounciation and writing as well as meaning eg: Algiz runes. Finally Sigi/Siki character is considered by many scholars as golden emperor (possibly a blond man) who found China. Mythological symbologies are usually have similar patterns with biological/astronomical facts(horus eye and brains inner structure/third ventricle-glands, fuxi nüwa with dna, and letter of huns/u letter of Hittites, Timur’s flag’s similarity to Mars and his three sons, proxima centauri star system etc) learn a few languages(especially modern Turkish, Japanese and perhaps English still oracle bone script, ancient greek and hieroglyphs help alot) a dozen alphabets, study all around and try to think how an oyster and a planus oak thinks(yeah sounds weird, not so much if you have the proper protocol though) (adding some biology/especially histology n microbial physiology, astronomy, geology, particle physics/chemistry and all around mythology into labyrinth philology to build some new doors and windows, as sadly knowledge/records of past is all but corrupted or hidden)

    1. There is, in fact, no such thing as coincidence in the entire universe. I agree with you.
      Further, most communication between individuals and nations and worlds does not use language, oral or written. And the most effective persuasion does not target people’s minds but their subconsciousness.

You are welcome to share your thoughts here