At the beginning of heaven and earth, before chaos was divided, I think there were only two things—fire and water—and the sediment of the water formed the earth. When one ascends a height and looks down, the crowd of hills resemble the waves of the sea in appearance; the water just flowed like this. I know not at what period it coagulated. At first it was very soft, but afterward coagulated and became hard. One asked whether it resembled sand thrown up by the tide? He replied, just so; the coarsest sediment of the water became earth and the purest portion of the fire became wind, thunder, lightning, sun and stars. . . . Before chaos was divided the Yin-yang, or light-dark, air was mixed up and dark, and when it divided the center formed an enormous and most brilliant opening, and the two principles were established. Shao Kang-tsieh considers one hundred and twenty-nine thousand six hundred years to be a yuen, or Tcalpa; then, before this period of one hundred and twenty-nine thousand six hundred years there was another opening and spreading out of the world; and before that again there was another like the present; so that motion and rest, light and darkness, have no beginning. . . .
There is nothing outside heaven and earth, and hence their form has limits, while their air has no limit. Because the air is extremely condensed, therefore it can support the earth; if it were not so, the earth would fall down.
Chu Hi's theory considers the world to be a plane surface—straight, square and large—measuring each way about 1,500 miles and bounded on the four sides by the four seas. The sun, moon and stars revolve around it at the uniform distance of 4,000 miles. Estimates of the long mythological periods antecedent to the appearance of Fuh-hi (the monarch of "highest antiquity," 2852 b.c., according to Chinese annals) vary from 45,000 to 500,000 years.
These ancient Chinese writings are a curious mixture of sense and nonsense, partially laying the foundation of a just argument and ending with a tremendous non-sequitur, apparently satisfactory to themselves, but showing pretty conclusively how little pains they took to gather facts and discuss their bearings. One thing is to be observed concerning them, which is characteristic to-day, viz., there is no hierarchy of gods brought in to rule and inhabit the world they made; no transfer of human love and hate, passions and hopes, to the powers above, as in the Greek or Egyptian mythology; all here is represented as moving on in quiet order, the work of disembodied agencies or principles. "There is no religion, no imagination; all is impassible, passionless, uninteresting."
Perhaps the most sensible and orderly account of the creation to be found in these writings is the following: