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How The World Was Created

Source: Han Folk Lore Stories

In the beginning of the world, many, many cycles ago, so long ago, in
fact, that no man knows how long it was, there were no trees, no hills,
no land, nothing but water. The wind blew the waters hither and thither,
sometimes in great waves, sometimes in quiet ripples; the wind blew, the
waves rolled, and that was all.

Now it happened that Gong Gow, the Great Spirit Spider, felt weary with
carrying around her heavy burden of eggs wrapped up so carefully in
their white covering fastened to her waist, therefore she said to

"I would fain place my eggs in a safe place, but know of none where they
can hatch themselves without danger," so she searched through the
universe to find a suitable place, and at last she spied the water that
is now the world, and in it began to spin her web.

Backward and forward, forward and backward, round and round, in and out
she wove, till at last all was done, and full of content she left her
eggs in their web prison nest and journeyed away.

The wind blew and drove the water hither and thither as aforetime, and
soon little pieces of solid substance caught in the meshes of the web,
and behold! as the time passed the solid substance became more solid
till it formed mud and separated itself from the water, and when the mud
had dried, lo! it was the earth.

So the eggs of the great Spirit Spider were safely locked up within the
earth; by and by they hatched, and breaking forth there appeared the
first man, Boo Pau, and the first woman, Myeh Pau, from whom all the
ancient people who belonged to the first race were descended.

Many, many years passed and people lived out their lives, till one day
the great earth caught fire. It burned fiercer than anybody's
imagination can conceive, and it destroyed everything. All the beautiful
forests with their green coverings of moss and leaves, all the cities
which the first race had builded were burned down, till by and by there
was naught more for the fire to consume, and it was then the end of the
hot season; the time of wet came soon after, and the rain fell upon the
burning earth in such torrents that the whole sky was covered with the

Now it happened that in Moeng Hpea, the far-away land where dwell the
powerful spirits whom we call "hsangs," the smell of the steam ascended
and ascended till all the spirits smelled the sweet scent, and said to

"Behold, there appears a sweet smell arising from below, what can it
be?" and there was much marveling at what could cause such
sweet-smelling incense as that then ascending.

And it also happened that in Moeng Hpea were nine spirits, five of them
males and four females, and these being of more adventurous spirit than
their fellows, determined to find out for themselves where the sweet
perfume came from. So they set out on their travels downward. They
descended faster and faster, and the faster they descended the sweeter
became the smell, till at last they landed upon this world of ours, and
bending down to the earth they tore great handfuls of it out and ate it
with the greatest relish.

It was morning time when they descended, and they fed upon the fragrant
earth all day till the sun set and the shades of evening began to
surround them, then the eldest of the spirits looked around upon his
fellows, and said:

"Brethren, oie! it is time that we ascended to our own country," and as
the rest assented they stood up to return, but alas! they could not
rise, they had eaten so much earth it had made them too heavy to soar,
and from that day to the day they died none of them ever found their way
back to the beautiful country of the Hsangs, but had to spend all their
lives upon this earth of ours.

Thus we see that it is earthly desires that keep us from the spirit
country. We see, or we hear, we smell or desire some earthly thing. We
get our desires, but they keep us pinned down to the earth. We cannot go
to the spirit country because of them.

When the spirits discovered that they could not return to the Hsang
country they agreed that they would marry each other and take up their
abode upon this earth of ours. But here arose a difficulty; there were
five male hsangs but only four females! There was chance of a great
quarrel, but the strongest of them, his name was Hsin Kyan, thought
within himself:

"I am stronger than any of my brothers and could easily defeat them and
marry whom I will, but what merit would there be in that? I will ask
them whether they would be willing to make me king and each of them give
me of their daughters when they are old enough, then in time I shall
have wives and power as well." Thus we see it is the man who is willing
to control his desires and wait who becomes great.

Hsin Kyan's brethren were very glad to make the agreement and thus it
was that he became the ruler of them all. When the daughters of the
others were old enough, they brought them to the king, and from that day
it has been the custom for men to offer their daughters to the king.

Now it happened that the universal lord, Sa Kyah, who rules over all
spirits and men looked earthward and saw the new kingdom that was
established; he became jealous and determined to kill Hsin Kyan and take
his kingdom away from him. But Hsin Kyan was very subtle and cunning, so
he tattooed himself with charms of such great strength that even the
mighty lord Sa Kyah could not kill him. For many years they fought.
Great mountains were thrown by each combatant at the other, but Hsin
Kyan could not defeat the lord Sa Kyah, neither could the lord Sa Kyah
kill Hsin Kyan.

Our great ancestor Hsin Kyan had seven daughters, whose names to this
day are remembered among us as they have been given to the different
days of the week, from Nang Ta Nang Nooie, the eldest, after whom we
call the first day of the week Wan Ta Nang Nooie, to Nang Hsa Ne, the
youngest, and when the mighty lord Sa Kyah found that he could not kill
their father, he spoke to these daughters and told them he was searching
for one whom he would make his chief queen, and that if one of them
would kill his enemy, their father, and bring to him his head, he would
choose that one to be his queen and make her joint ruler of the
universe; with him she should govern everything created.

But the charms tattooed upon Hsin Kyan were very potent. Water would not
drown him; fire would not burn him; rope would not strangle him; and he
was invulnerable against thrust of spear and stroke of sword, and
although all seven of his daughters tried to kill him yet they were not
able to do so and six of them gave up the attempt in despair.

One day, however, the youngest, she whom we worship on the seventh day
of the week and because she was the smallest call it Wan Hsa Nae, was
walking in the jungle, and as she was passing under a tree she saw a
bird sitting upon its topmost branch. Now this girl knew how clever
birds are, and so she said to it:

"Brother Bird, oie! can you tell me how I can kill my father?"

Now although this daughter was the youngest, yet she was more lovely
than all her sisters, and the bird was so pleased with her that he said:

"Nang Hsa Nae, you are so beautiful that I will tell you the secret of
your father's charm. Water cannot drown him, fire cannot burn him,
neither can sword or spear wound him, but there is one way in which he
may be killed. Take you, seven strands of a spider's web and twist them
into a cord, then with a piece of white bamboo make a bow; with this you
will be able to cut off the head of your father and take it to the
mighty lord Sa Kyah, and oh!" continued the clever bird, "when you are
his queen, do not forget the good turn I have done you, and the debt of
gratitude you owe me therefor."

Nang Hsa Nae was full of joy when she learned the secret of her father's
charm and she promised the little bird that when she became queen of the
universe she would grant him any desire that he craved.

That night when everybody else was asleep, Nang Hsa Nae crept to her
father's side and with the bow made of the seven twisted strands of a
spider's web killed him and cut off his head.

With great joy she carried it to the universal lord. He was very glad to
find that his enemy was at last dead, but although he had given his word
to her, yet he would not marry Nang Hsa Nae, for, said he, she has
killed her father although I could not conquer him. Were I to marry her,
who will go surety for her that she will not do the same to me? So the
wicked daughter did not gain her ambitious end after all.

Not only that, however, but she and her sisters received a punishment,
one they are even now suffering, and will continue till the world ends.
It is this:

When they found that the lord Sa Kyah would not marry their youngest
sister or even accept their father's head, they said among themselves:

"What shall we do with the head of our father? Where shall we bury it?
Should we place it in the earth the whole world would catch on fire;
should we throw it into the sea, all the seven oceans would immediately
boil; what shall we do?"

In their distress they went to the mighty lord Sa Kyah and in humble
tones begged his lordship to give them advice so that they would be
freed from the terrible trouble to which their wickedness had brought
them. He looked at them and said:

"This is what you must do. You," pointing to the youngest, "must carry
your father's head in your arms all this year, and when the year is
finished you can give it to the sister who is next older than yourself.
She will carry it for a year and thus one of you will ever after bear

And so it is. We know when the year ends because then come the Wan Kyap
or washing days, when the princess who has carried her father's head for
a year gives it to her elder sister and washes the bloodstains from her

From these spirits all the inhabitants of the world are descended, and
so we see the saying of our philosophers is true, "We have all descended
from spirits."

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