Rocking the Cradle
Anyone who has ever rocked in a rocking chair knows the hypnotic power of the gentle rocking motion, a motion often repeated in the earliest of baby cradles. The gentle to and fro has lulled many young to sleep and even as adults, we can find solace in the swaying. Rock too hard, though, and it can all come crashing down, our balance is offset, and suddenly we are adrift.
Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of mankind living in the second (or third, depending on how one measures) largest land-mass country we call China dating between 250,000 and 2.24 million years ago. There is much debate about the name “China” and its origin. Many believe it dates to an ancient Sanskrit word “chin” and “cine” while others claim it comes from the ruler Qin.
Even Chinese creation myths have some dispute among themselves. The only thing not disputed is that we don’t know the really ancient ones. In 213 BCE, the first emperor of China burned all books that were not specifically about medicine, farming, or prophecy. “Wait a minute…” you might be thinking; “Isn’t mythology a part of prophecy?” The short answer is …No. The long answer is that mythology is a collection of stories about what has already transpired and how it can be used for living in the future. Prophecy has nothing to do with the past and everything to do with the future.
China is often called the cradle of civilization. A cave near what we know as Beijing has yielded fossils that date from 680,000 to 780,000 BCE. Known as the Peking man, these fossils are evidence of ancient man, Home Erectus, and there is proof that this being knew the value and importance of fire. The same site has fossils belonging to Home Sapiens, which carbon-date 18,000 to 11,000 BCE. The Jiahu Chinese symbol is thought to be the earliest Chinese writing which dates to the seventh millennium BCE and most believe their writing included ancient myths.
According to Chinese tradition, the first Chinese dynasty was the Xia somewhere around the timeline of 2100 BCE. It was always considered “just a myth” until excavation was completed in 1959 which boasted evidence of the Bronze Age at Erlitou, Henan. This is of great importance to people interested in mythology because similar findings have verified some of the myths of the Abrahamic religions discussed in August in this series.
These archaeological findings that give truth to some of the world’s most ancient mythologies are often dismissed as coincidence. More people claim they just “muddy the waters” of science with imaginary ramblings of early beings, creating a type of chaos within the academic world. The truth is that knowledge is never stagnant nor is it complete. Life is all about growing and learning. It is the real definition of evolution as well as living.
The Pangu creation myth is considered one of the oldest in Chinese mythology. Pangu is said to have created order out of chaos by separating the heavens and the earth. With his body, he continued separating the earth with the creation of the delineations such as the mountains, the seas, and forest regions. Later a monster deity Gong-gong destroys the natural environment but it is restored by the Mother Goddess known as Nugua.
It is from Chinese mythology that we received two parts of the whole, the yin and the yang of the universe. Yin represents the shaded parts of being while yang is the sunlit areas. Pangu is said to have formed within an egg, an egg which represented the entire universe. As Pangu hatched, the egg broke apart. The yin or female mysterious and dark sections sank and became the earth. The yang or sunlit areas rose and became the heavens. This dichotomy is symbolized throughout Chinese mythologies and spiritualities. Just as male and female unite in beings, so does the sun and the moon or yin join to make one complete day’s cycle.
We also have a dichotomy is our lives, quite a few of them in fact. Things we want to do and things we must do; the bright aspects of our living and the darker, sadder areas of our being; the present with its promise of the future and the past, often which brings a listing of all our shortcomings and misdeeds. The trick is to balance our own personal yin and yang. Just as the first time one sits in a rocking chair, that balance is often hard to find. Just as in the rocking of the chair or cradle, at some point we simply have to have faith and lean into the process of being. We cannot stay rocking back or live only rocking forward.
Our balance completes us, creates order from the chaotic daily grind that we call life. We need both the day and the night, the active and the restful, in order to have a complete living. To fully live also requires a dichotomy of sorts. We must live in moderation in order to live fully. I will end today with a quote from the spiritualist known as Rumi about life and balance, the rocking contrasts of living we all experience. Considered a Persian, with a name that translates as “roman”, Rumi most likely actually lived in what today is a Soviet area, Tajikistan. “Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.”