Fu Xi was the first ruler of this world in the Chinese myth legend. He was demigod. He lived among the people and taught life skills to early humans. These skills include using fire, fishing, hunting, writing, and fortunetelling. Some scholars believe he is an actual monarch who lived sometime remote ancient times.
Fu Xi statue
Fu Xi Temple
In the Chinese myth legend, the earliest humans did not have the supernatural powers of gods, the strength of tigers, or the speed of leopards. They did not have the protective armor of turtles, the leathery hide of water buffaloes, or the thick fur of foxes. People had thin skin, soft flesh, sparse hair, and moved about rather slowly. They had good hearts and cheerful laughter, but they were easily frightened and discouraged.
Fu Xi decided to help the new humans. First, Fu Xi taught people how to twist plant fibers together to form ropes of all widths and lengths. With the thinner ropes, he wove fishing lines and nets so people could plunge the water’s depths to find food. With the thicker ropes, he braided strong bridges, then strung them across high chasms so people could cross from one mountain peak to another in search of food.
When lightning set trees on fire, as so often happened, the people trembled and hid in caves. To entice the people to come out, Fu Xi twirled together two willow sticks to start a fire. He showed the humans how cooked meat and fish were more digestible and tempting than raw meat and fish. The people soon discovered that fire could also keep them safe and snug throughout the chilly nights. Ferocious animals feared its licking flames, and biting insects avoided its sooty smoke.
Fu Xi shaped young branches over an open fire in the spring, then cooled them into curvy bows. He scraped, smoothed, and dried slender sticks into arrow shafts. Then Fu Xi led the people on hunts for deer, wild boar, and migrant birds. He guided them in gathering up black mushrooms of the forests, wild grasses of the plains, and bitter cresses growing along the banks of trickling streams. He taught them how to raise sheep, goats, geese, and ducks. Fu Xi warned people only to take what they needed and never to waste food or kill senselessly.
To keep track of the food they grew and exchanged, people tied fancy knots shaped like butterflies, flowers, and diamonds. But they often forgot what each knot meant and argued and fought among themselves, so Fu Xi invented a writing system by carving small pictures and numbers onto bones and tortoise shells. Each picture stood for a word. This is the earliest Chinese characters. We name it “The inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells” now.
The inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells
Fu Xi knew that he could not stay on earth forever to help the people make up their minds whenever they were in trouble. When they did not know which path to take or which way to turn, Fu Xi taught them how to consult the oracle. So Fu Xi invented the Eight Diagrams.
And then Fu Xi showed people how to use these diagrams. The Eight Diagrams can be changed into a lot of patterns. Some patterns might mean the people were safe; others might warn them of impending danger. Some patterns advised them to stay in place; others advised them to move. Some urged them to attack, and some urged them to yield in battle. By reading the patterns of the sticks, the people could unlock their fortunes and make choices about their actions.
The people were delighted with their knowledge and felt ready to populate the earth. But Fu Xi knew better. He realized that finding food, making tools, raising animals, keeping records, and making choices were not enough.
The Fu Xi Eight Diagrams
He worried that the people would become boastful and selfish. Fu Xi wanted them to stay humble and learn from their past, to remember their successes and failures by telling stories. To help the storytellers, and to touch their hearts, he gave them his last gift, the gift of music.
Fu Xi taught the people how to make a Pi Pa (known as Chinese lute). Its melodic notes were a pleasure to hear, and its beautiful curves were a joy to behold. The Pi Pa could mimic the sound of wind blowing against trees, water flowing over rocks, and horses’ hooves clopping forward in battle. Fu Xi taught the people how to use the Pi Pa to tell unforgettable stories.
Each time the people plucked a tune, the still air in the sound box of the Pi Pa sprang to life. Each time they strummed the strings, sleeping emotions and silent thoughts welled up in their hearts and minds. Playing the Pi Pa filled the people’s bodies with joy, calmed their most savage feelings, and eased their deepest sorrows.
When his time on earth was over, Fu Xi bade goodbye to his people and ascended to the heavens, hoping that they would share their wisdom with each other and continue to live in peace.
Chinese classical musical instrument — Pi Pa