On last week’s Ancient Aliens, John DeSalvo mentioned in passing that “ancient Chinese kings” claimed that beings came “down from the sky” to give them various texts and information. As I mentioned in my review of the episode, I was not familiar enough with Chinese mythology to know what the heck he was talking about. I’ve been doing some research into this undeveloped claim to try to figure out what he was talking about, and I think I know.
He seems to be referring to the myth of Fu Xi (or Fuxi), the Chinese culture hero who, like Oannes and Osiris and the Fallen Angels, taught culture to the benighted peasantry. Fu Xi specifically was thought to have taught writing, fishing, and trapping.
According to myth, after a great flood (a story possibly influenced by Near Eastern tales, which we’ve discussed before) destroyed all humanity, Fu Xi and his wife Nüwa climbed a mountain and prayed to the Jade Emperor to bless their union so they could procreate and repopulate the world. This Jade Emperor, I suppose, must be the sky being DeSalvo was thinking of. He was a being who lived a prolonged but mortal life before attaining immortality following a meditation that lasted three million years. Upon completing his meditation, he ascended to heaven where he defeated an evil demon then sitting upon the heavenly throne, becoming the king of the gods. Obviously, this is a cryogenically frozen alien awakening to defeat an invasive species on the mother ship.
Anyway, in Fu Xi’s time, the Jade Emperor was long-established as the divine king, and he didn’t come “down from the sky” to visit Fu Xi. The human, however, did receive some supernatural texts, according to tradition. In a story Helena Blavatsky later borrowed as the mythic origin for her Book of Dzyan and inspired Lovecraft’s Pnakotic Manuscripts, Fu Xi allegedly received a pre-human text from the spirit realm, the I Ching (Yijing), through supernatural channeling. However, the aliens didn’t simply deliver a book to him; instead, in one version of the story Fu Xi allegedly discovered the I Ching’s 64 hexagrams in the markings on the back of a turtle or a dragon-horse. (This is because turtle shells were used for divination in ancient China.) However, other versions of the story merely make Fu Xi the inventor of the hexagrams.
And how alien are we to take a figure like Fu Xi, the first of the Three Sovereigns, who was conceived when his mother became pregnant by stepping in the footprint of a giant (apparently a common means of Chinese mythic conception), and he was thus born with a snake’s tail? Here’s how he was described in one of China’s oldest histories, Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian (109-91 BCE):
T‘aihao (Great Brilliant), or P‘aohsi, of the surname Fêng (wind), superseding Suijên (fire producer), succeeded Heaven as King. His mother, named Huahsü, trod in the footprint of a giant at Thunder lake, and bore P‘aohsi at Ch‘êngchi. He had a serpent's body, a man's head, and the virtue of a sage. 'Looking up he contemplated the forms exhibited in the heavens, and looking down he observed the patterns shown on the earth: he observed also around him the ornamental markings of the birds and beasts, and the different suitabilities of the soil. As to what was near he found things for consideration in his own person, and as to the remote things in general. He first delineated the eight Trigrams in order to show fully the virtus of the gods, and to classify the qualities of the myriads of things. He worked out a system of recording by tablets in lieu of knotted cords,' and marriage rites were then first instituted, a pair of skins being given as wedding presents. 'He made nets to teach men how to snare animals and to fish,' and so he was called Fuhsi (hidden victim). He kept beasts for sacrificial purposes in his kitchen, and so he was called P‘aohsi (kitchen victims). There being a dragon omen, he enrolled dragons among his officers, and they were styled dragon leaders. He made the thirty-five-stringed lute. Ruling under the influence of the element Wood, he directed his thoughts to the season of spring; thus the Book of Changes says 'The god came forth from Orient brightness, and made (the year begin with) the first month of spring.' This god was Great Brilliant. His capital was in Ch‘ên. In the East he built a fêng monument on Mount T‘ai. Having reigned eleven years he died. […]
Some various other early Chinese mythic figures have been accused of being aliens on the grounds that any mention of “the stars” or “the sky” in a myth demands us to accept that the being in question must have been an extraterrestrial; however, I can’t find any other stories where a space being is specifically credited with delivering “information” or texts to human beings. There are a group of (human) heroes credited with the origin of various inventions. For example, Shennong, the legendary Divine Farmer, was an early sovereign of China who taught agriculture and alchemy. But he is not described as a space being but rather a human who became a god after his death.
As with all traditional stories, there are many variants of all of these, so it is not possible to state very much definitively about any of these characters. Looking at the early sections of Sima Qian’s text, we see something else: There is almost no mention of the early Chinese rulers going to or coming from the sky. All of these events very clearly seem to be happening on the earth, with only occasional, largely symbolic, references to Heaven.
In any case, none of the myths seem to agree with John DeSalvo. The “gods” did not visit ancient Chinese “kings” (emperors) but were instead themselves the ancient Chinese leaders. This is mostly clearly shown in the case of the Yellow Emperor, a figure Henri Maspero and Marcel Granet persuasively argued in Danses et légendes de la Chine ancienne in the 1920s was originally a god who had been historicized in later myth, much the way the Greeks and the Norse rationalized their gods as allegedly real ancient human kings mistakenly worshipped by later generations. Many of the early Chinese mythic kings and emperors were apparently originally gods.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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