Nuwa Creates People

The world was indeed a sparkling jewel. Sturdy pine trees dotted the mountains, and weeping willows lined the streams. Apple, quince, and plum blossoms burst into bloom and later yielded ripe, heavy fruit.

Birds flitted about in the azure sky, leaving their black, crimson, and iridescent green feathers drifting in the wind. Silverfish and carp splashed gleefully in the waterways. Fierce beasts like tigers and gentle creatures like deer roamed with equal abandon across the rocky hills.

Nuwa, a goddess, stumbled accidentally upon this vibrant world during her travels. The earth was humming and teeming with life. She marveled at its many wondrous creatures. Everywhere she looked, she found a creature more marvelous than the one before.

She saw every type of fur and fin, feather and scale, horn, hoof, and stinger. Creatures lumbered, crawled, and slithered upon the earth. They jumped, darted, and roiled in the sea. Scented flowers like jasmine, hyacinth, and narcissus wrapped the entire world in their warm, strong perfume.

But as she explored its niches and crannies, Nuwa began to feel strangely dissatisfied with the budding world. The goddess found it to be enchanting, but empty. It felt lonely to Nuwa, who sat by a river to ponder her feelings. She gazed at her reflection in the water, and suddenly she knew what was missing: She wanted the world to be filled with thinking, laughing creatures like herself.

The river stretched out before her, its waves slapping the shore. The cloudy green waters left a rim of thick yellow earth along its banks. Nuwa felt its slippery texture with her fingertips and scooped out a ball of clay. The cool, sticky earth deposited by the river was perfect for her task, and she rolled the damp clay into a doll, giving it a head, shoulders, chest, and arms like her own.

For the doll’s lower body, she hesitated. Nuwa considered giving it scales and claws like a lizard, or fins and tails like a fish. Both shapes were quite useful, since the goddess frequently changed the shape of her own lower body to be able to get around the oceans and the heavens quickly. Finally, she decided to attach legs to the new creature so it could both walk on land and paddle about in the sea.

From the many shades of yellow earth, Nuwa made tall dolls and short dolls. She made thin dolls and fat dolls. She made curly-haired dolls and straight-haired dolls. She made dolls with eyes as round and large as cherries, some with eyes as long and narrow as a mosquito’s wing.

She made some with eyes so dark they looked like the midnight sky, others so light they looked like liquid honey. Each creature was different, so the goddess could recognize her creations. Then, as she breathed on each doll, it sprang to life, giggling and hopping about.

Nuwa was so delighted with her handiwork that she wanted to make more. But she needed a quicker method. Along the riverbanks, slender reeds arched their graceful stems over the water. Nuwa rolled up her sleeves, cut a reed, and dipped it into the river mud like a spoon.

Expertly, she flicked her wrist and dropped blobs of mud on the ground. When they dried, she breathed a huge puff of air into each blob, and instantly they became round, smiling creatures. The cheerful laughter of her creatures filled the goddess with happiness and pride.

However, Nuwa was tired. As much as she loved her new creations, she knew she could not watch over these humans every second. What would happen to these creatures when they grew old and died? Nuwa did not relish making repairs, nor did she wish to repeat the tiring task of making new people. She thought and thought. How could these creatures reproduce without her?

With a twist and a poke, she made some of the clay creatures male and some of them female. Then she gathered up all the noisy creatures who were slipping and falling in the mud. In the hubbub, she began to deliver her most important instructions. As Nuwa spoke, the clamor died down to a silent hush. The humans listened solemnly to her words.

She spoke of the importance of marriage and a couple’s obligations to each other. She told them how to make children and how to raise them. She wished them a long and joyful existence on their earth. As the goddess left, she expressed her fervent hope that they would make new people and live happily without her. Then she ascended to the sky seated in a thundering chariot pulled by six winged dragons.

To this day, people continue to marry and have children who brighten the world with their joyous laughter, just as the dancing mud dolls did in the days of Nuwa.

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