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Nu Wa (女娲)

Chinese dragon-goddess, who –according to one myth– created mankind from yellow clay, and –in another story– repaired the Wall of Heaven, by cutting off the legs of a tortoise to use them as struts to hold up a pillar that initially supported the sky but which collapsed and caused the sky to tilt. Thus, she prevented total obliteration of everything and gave her the role of repairer and maintainer. The latter account is reminiscent of the Indian creation legend of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk, in which the creator-god Vishnu incarnated as a tortoise to support a mountain with its shell, to prevent it from sinking in the soft mud of the sea floor (fig.). In another account, it is described that Nu Wa's intestines scattered into ten spirits, which reminds of yet another Chinese creation myth, in which Pan Gu, also described as creator of all and the first living being, died and decomposed, after which his intestinal worms became the Chinese human race. Some sources also describe that Nu Wa emerged from the heavens to see the remains of Pan Gu. Nu Wa is sometimes depicted with the body of a serpent and ox-horns, or with the head of an ox, possibly because she purportedly once tamed a dangerous giant called King-of-Oxen, by running a rope through his nose, hence she is said to have brought civilization, by taming wild animals, as well as by teaching humans irrigation. Additionally, Nu Wa is also presented in a historically doubtful role as the first ever sovereign of pre-Imperial China, in the Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors Period, next to some other –equally unlikely– candidates from mythology, such as her brother and husband Fu Xi (fig.); the god of agriculture and founder of Chinese herbal medicine Shen Nong (fig.); and the legendary Yellow Emperor Huang Di (fig.). Sometimes transcribed Nuwa and also pronounced Nu Gua (Nugua) or Nu Kua (Nukua). In Pinyin, her name is transliterated Nǚ Wā. See also LIST OF CHINESE RULERS