Nuwa and Fuxi in Chinese Mythology
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 constellation 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 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 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)
COMMENTS FROM GOOGLE PLUS
Who are the two personages?
All Things Chinese
Left and right, female and male, yin and yang.
Is this like our version of Adam and Eve? As in they 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.