This story follows the events of The Mother Goddess.

It involves a catastrophic hole that opened up in the sky, one that the mother goddess Nǚwā had to patch up with urgency in order to preserve her mortal children. That hole was the result of a violent battle between two gods: the god of water, Gònggōng, and the god of fire, Zhùróng.

Image: Fist of fire clash against a fist of water

According to this myth, up in heaven, in the abode of the gods, dwelled the prideful and vicious god of water, Gònggōng. The water god had the face of a man and the body of a serpent. Red hair grew from his head, which was filled with violent thoughts. This god, however, was not very clever and is easily provoked, something his sycophantic attendant, the devious spirit, Xiāngliǔ, took full advantage of.

The spirit Xiāngliǔ, like his master the water god, was also a human-headed serpent. He was green from head to tail and possessed nine brains, all of which contrived a constant stream of terrible and malicious ideas.

One day, Xiāngliǔ said to his master.

“Milord, I have just returned from the realm of the mortals and I was alarmed to find that the humans were devout fire-worshipers.”

Gònggōng, the god of water, was incredulous and insulted.

“Milord,” the devious spirit continued. “I believe that, should you vanquish the fire lord Zhùróng, your reputation would exceed his own and the mortals will come to revere you in his stead.”

The water god, foolish, jealous and unable to think for himself, thought his attendant’s words had merit.

“Fire is extinguished by water,” the god thought. “I will teach this upstart fire lord a lesson and his devotees will see my true greatness.” With that, Gònggōng, the god of water, mustered his forces and launched a massive assault on Zhùróng, the god of fire.

The god of water commanded the waves and rainstorms. His forces mercilessly advanced towards the domain of the fire god.

The god of fire was not one to be made a fool of and was no pushover.

On seeing the surprise attack launched by the water god. He unleashed his full fiery fury. The flames burned so fiercely, that no deluge could douse it. The water god sustained heavy losses. Faced with the consequences of his own foolishness, the water good tried to summon his attendant. He was, however, met only with reports that the spirit Xiāngliǔ had abandoned camp and gone into hiding.

The water god was humiliated. Unable to bear his shame, he charged a western mountain and obliterated it in frustration.

That mountain was called Mount Bùzhōu and it was one of the four pillars holding up the sky. Without its support, the heavens tilted westward and as the mountaintop crumbled, a large hole cracked open in the sky. On earth, the great tremor that resulted from the mountain’s collapse caused the land to the south and east to crumble away.

Floodwaters poured from the heavenly crevice and the world became submerged beneath this deadly deluge. As humans become increasingly desperate, they supplicated their mother for protection.

Photo: Thunderstorm and floodwater

The mother goddess Nǚwā, seeing the plight of her creation, sought to take action.

She gathered stones of five different colours from a riverbank and, with heaps of dried reeds, built a massive fire with which she melted the stones into a mortar-like substance. Using this five-coloured mortar, the goddess began painstakingly patching up the hole in the sky. The work was slow and laborious but the goddess managed and her work quelled the raging storm and flood.

Her children were saved.

The destroyed mountain, however, was beyond repair. The heavens slanted westward and the earth tilted eastward. This is why, the ancient Chinese believed, the sun, the moon and most heavenly bodies moved toward and set in the west and why all the major continental East Asian rivers flowed eastward towards the Pacific.

Posted by:Island Folklore

An online repository of Taiwan’s folktales, history, legends, myths and traditions.