PureInsight | April 21, 2003
I-5 Archaeological Studies and Myths
[Pureinsight.org] Do you still remember the myths about God making humans, the Chinese legend of Nuwa making humans and Pangu opening the sky, as well the story of Noah's Arc? When the theory of "man evolving from apes" took over the view of gods making humans, these myths were either gradually forgotten or regarded as ancient human beings' fantasies from their lack of scientific understanding of nature. But what is the nature of a myth? Many unearthed relics and ancient books show that, no matter whether East or West, ancient human beings believed in and adored gods. They followed the principles taught by gods (myths) to behave and handle matters, and passed them down generation after generation. Later, however, human beings could not comprehend the inner meanings of myths, and gradually started to think that myths were something from early fuzzy imaginations. Recently, more and more scholars have begun researching ancient myths, and have found credible research evidence, which differs from previous ideas. Let's take a look.
Shan Hai Jing (The Book of Mountain and Sea)
In China, there is a very ancient book called Shan Hai Jing (The Book of Mountains and Seas). The author and its age have not been traceable, although it is generally attributed to Da Yu and Bo Yi in the time of Emperor Yao and Emperor Shun (2357-2205 B.C). The information about ancient ages recorded in the book is very rich, and it includes the records of five hundred and fifty names of mountains, three hundred names of rivers, four hundred fifty gods, over one hundred historical figures, over one hundred countries and over one hundred eighty species of animals and plants. The book is divided into five sections, "Wu Zang Shang Jing" (The Book of Five Hidden Mountains) in the Book of Mountain portion, "Hai Wai Si Jing" (The Book of Lands beyond the Sea), "Hai Nei Si Jing" (The Book of Land within the Sea), "Da Huang Si Jing" (The Book of Uncultivated Land) in the Book of Sea portion, and "Hai Nei Jing" (short articles from the Book of Land within the Sea) in the appendix.
When modern people talk about Shan Hai Jing, they generally categorize it into incomprehensible myths. But from an historic point of view, ancient people thought very differently from us, and regarded it as something with a high value. For example, the book Han Shu (Record of the Han Dynasty) regards it as a work of geographical natural science. When Wang Jing was given the task to regulate rivers and watercourses during the Eastern Han Dynasty, Emperor Ming gave him a copy of Shan Hai Jing, which shows that the book was considered tp have practical value. In the book Sui Shu (Record of the Sui Dynasty), Shan Hai Jing was listed in the category of geography, which was then filed under the history category.
It seems very likely that Shan Hai Jing is not something created by ancient people's fantasies but contains much wisdom. Only because we have found it more and more difficult to understand its inner meanings have we regarded it as the product of the imagination of ancient people. If we could understand it, perhaps we would be able to see an extremely broad picture, just like modern scholars Wang Hongqi and Sun Xiaoqin have done in their collaborative illustrations, "The Emperor Yu's Mountain and River" (4.5 meters high, 7.8 meters wide).
Wang Hongqi was an atomic physicist. He came across Shan Hai Jing by chance in the mid-1970s, and was immediately drawn to it. But, at the same time, he had a lot of questions about the contents as well. After twenty years of concentrated studies, he gradually found some clues, especially in the part of "Wu Zang Shan Jing." He holds that in the Dayu time, four or five thousand years ago, there was a large scale geographical inspection mapping project, and not only a map was drawn, but a report was also written. "Wu Zang Shan Jing" was that inspection report, but the map was lost.
From the distance between east and west in "Wu Zang Shan Jing," what's in the Yang, and what's in the Yin, what water will flow to where, as well as actual figures of the distance marked, Wang Hongqi claims that the text itself in the book discloses the nature of a geographic inspection report. He achieved the breakthrough he needed to decipher the book when he suddenly realized that the author's location was very likely to be today's Hua Mountain and Tongguan area. From there, he was able to gradually extrapolate the location of the twenty six mountains mentioned in the book based on their relative distance to each other as stated in the book. Based on this, he and his wife Sun Xiaoqin finished a duplicate map of mountains of C bit by bit. In the duplicate map, we see Shandong peninsula was cut by seawater, part of Huabei Plain was submerged under seawater, and Dongting Lake was a much bigger water swamp than it is today. These all reflected the impact on the earth during the Ice Age. Coordinated with natural science research, he also pointed out that about seven thousand years ago, because of the rising global temperature, which sped up glacial melting, seawater had advanced to the foot of today's Taihang Mountain, which is now the Jingguan railway area. And "Wu Zang Shan Jing" precisely reflected the later period of the land being submerged under seawater.
This story reminded us that if we change our inherent way of thinking, and revaluate the inherited knowledge from ancient times, we can make a leap forward in our thinking. Just like the efforts put out by Wang Hongqi, we would not only be able to understand Chinese geographical mapping in ancient times, but we would also be provided with more opportunities to do research in coordination with new scientific discoveries.
The bible says, "After the six hundred years of Noah's age, in the seventeenth day of the second month, in that ensuing eon the springs of the abyss gushed forth with great force and the streams of heaven were broken loose. And there was rain on the earth forty days and forty nights. In that age Noah, Shem, Kham, Japeth, the sons of Noah, and the wife of Noah and the three women of his sons, entered with Noah into the ark…"
"And there was a flood for forty Days on the earth, and the waters swelled and lifted the ark and it floated above the earth. And the waters permeated the earth completely and rose above it, setting off the ark over the surface of the waters…" "And the waters covered the earth completely for one hundred and fifty days…" "And the ark settled down in the seventh month, by the seventeenth of the month, on the Mountains of the Apes."
"And the waters went down and receded until the tenth month, by the first day of the tenth month, the heads of the mountains could be seen…" "And he remained seven more days and then went back and sent the pigeon from the ark. And the pigeon came to him in the evening and there was an olive leaf held in its beak…" "And it was in the six-hundredth and first year, on the first of the first month, that the waters dried off the earth, and Noah crossed the threshold of the cover to the ark, and he looked out and saw that the surface of the earth was dry. And in the second month, on the twenty-seventh of the month, the earth was dry…" "And there went out Noah and his sons and his wife, and the women of his sons with them. And all the creatures and all the animals, all the birds and all that crawled on earth, according to their kind, exited from the ark."
This recording in bible shows that, to reconstruct the world, God ordered his disciple Noah to build a huge ark, and take in pairs of males and females of all animals and plants on earth, by categories, into the ark before the big flood came. Afterwards, the flood submerged everything on the ground except the ark floating above the water. In the end the ark landed on the only land that emerged out of water.
In the modern age, except for persons who have religious beliefs the require them to accept the authenticity of Noah's story, most people do not treat this as if it occurred in actual history. However, the September1960 issue of "Life" magazine published a satellite picture taken from 10,000 feet above the earth by a Turkish scout plane, in which one can easily see a boat-shaped relic near Mount Ararat in Turkey. After it was published, it attracted a lot of scientific exploration. Although further research is needed to find out if the relic is indeed Noah's Arc, this scientific discovery provided a clue for us to ponder the authenticity of this myth, and think about the reason for this big flood, and why God picked Noah and allowed him to escape this big catastrophe!
Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2003/3/23/20953.html