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Chinese Occultism, by Paul Carus, [1907], at


The basic idea of the yih philosophy was so convincing that it almost obliterated the Taoist cosmogony of P‘an-Ku who is said to have chiseled the world out of the rocks of eternity. Though the legend is not held in high honor by the literati, it contains some features of interest which have not as yet been pointed out and deserve at least an incidental comment.

P‘an-Ku is written in two ways: one 8 means in literal translations, "basin ancient," the other "basin solid." 9 Both are homophones, i.e., they are pronounced the same way; and the former may be preferred as the original and correct spelling. Obviously the name means "aboriginal abyss," or in the terser German, Urgrund, and we have reason to believe it to be a translation of the Babylonian Tiamat, "the Deep."

The Chinese legend tells us that P‘an-Ku's bones changed to rocks; his flesh to earth; his marrow, teeth and nails to metals; his hair to herbs and trees; his veins to rivers; his breath to wind; and his four limbs became pillars marking the four corners of the world,—which is a Chinese version not only of the Norse myth of the Giant Ymir, but also of the Babylonian story of Tiamat.

p. 41

Illustrations of P‘an-Ku represent him in the company of supernatural animals that symbolise old age or immortality, viz., the tortoise and the crane; sometimes also the dragon, the emblem of power, and the phenix, the emblem of bliss.

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When the earth had thus been shaped from the body of P‘an-Ku, we are told that three great rulers successively governed the world: first the celestial, then the terrestrial, and finally the human sovereign. They were followed by Yung-Ch‘eng and Sui-Jen (i.e., fire-man) the latter being the Chinese Prometheus, who brought the fire down from heaven and taught man its various uses.

The Prometheus myth is not indigenous to Greece, where it received the artistically classical form under which it is best known to us. The name, which by an ingenious afterthought is explained as "the fore thinker," is originally the Sanskrit pramantha 10 and means "twirler" or "fire-stick," being the rod of hard wood which produced fire by rapid rotation in a piece of soft wood.

We cannot deny that the myth must have been known also in Mesopotamia, the main center of civilisation between India and Greece, and it becomes probable that the figure Sui-Jen has been derived from the same prototype as the Greek Prometheus.




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