Many myths show the creation of the caste system and social hierarchy. We see the creation of a caste system in Hindu mythology with Brahmin being the highest and Shudra being the lowest. In Chinese mythology we see the creation of a social hierarchy with differences between the rich and the poor. In both these traditions, superior beings are responsible for the creation of a social hierarchy.
In Hinduism, the myth of Purusha, the cosmic man, explains the creation of the caste system, and in Chinese mythology, the story of the goddess of creation, Nu Kua, explains the creation of humans and why all humans are different, essentially creating a social structure in the Chinese tradition. The creation myths with Purusha and Nu Kua provide justification for social, religious, and cultural traditions. In the myth of Purusha, we see the creation of the caste system in Hinduism. Purusha was the cosmic man and we see the emergence of the castes from various parts of his body.
The caste system is fairly complicated, but the four main castes come from Purusha’s body. “The head of Puru? a is the Brahmin, the k? atriya his arms; of the lord’s two thighs are born the vaisya, the sudra from his feet” (CHM, 36). The parts where each caste came from gives us an idea of the functions of each caste and their relations to one another. This myth provides justification for social, religious, and cultural traditions because it shows how the various body parts of Purusha go along with the duties and characteristics of each caste.
In current society there are basically three social classes: the poor, the middle class, and the wealthy. People are able to come out of the poor and make their way up, but in the caste system, it is required to remain in the caste system in which you are born into. Brahmins come from the head, and are the intellectual and spiritual leaders. The Kshatriyas come from the arms, and are known as the warrior caste and protectors of society. The Vaishyas come from the thighs, and are the merchants. Shudras come from the feet and are the unskilled laborers.
They do work like farming and work for others. The ideal human body has all these parts of the body in order to function. The head has to have knowledge and thing; the arms have to protect and be active; the thighs give support to get where we need to go; and the feet carry the body and help us move along. It is hard for us to live without one part of the body, and one part may not be able to work without the other. We need these parts of our body in order to be healthy and functional, just like society needs these for castes in order to function at their full potential.
Each caste has its own duties, and these duties seem to go along with the parts of Purusha’s body they were created from. The story of the goddess Nu Kua in Chinese mythology explains the creation of humans. In the story, Nu Kua created humans from yellow earth and mud. “In the Nu Kua myth, humans are polarized into ‘rich aristocrats’ made from yellow earth and ‘poor commoners’ made from mud” (CM, 34). In many portraits of Nu Kua, she is seen holding a builder’s cord. With this cord, Nu Kua created the commoners.
She was originally creating humans by carefully molding them from yellow earth. Realizing this takes to long, she dips the cord in mud and shook it off, and the drops created human beings. The myth of Nu Kua provides justification for social, religious, and cultural traditions because it gives an explanation for the reason as to why there is a social hierarchy in the Chinese tradition. Nu Kua had created the commoners in a quick and somewhat lazy manner, which shows how they may not be as important because they were not created in a careful way.
Those of higher status were carefully molded from yellow earth. This can go along with current society and how these social traditions are carried on. Those born into higher class families usually have more opportunities and resources to succeed than those who are not in a higher class. It is sometimes hard for those who are of lower status to move up the social pyramid than it is for those who are already high up to remain in their position. The way the goddess created humans can also be an explanation for why there are more commoners than there are wealthy people in society.
The mandate of heaven in Chinese tradition is also significant when discussing a social system. Those who were able to govern well and fairly were given the power to be the emperor. The power was given to them by the Gods and heaven. This created a difference in power between the emperor and his people. The myth of Nu Kua creating people also gives an explanation for why there is a difference in the people who are higher up in society compared to those inferior to them. The creation myth with the goddess Nu Kua provide justification for social, religious, and cultural traditions.
The creation myths in both the Hindu and Chinese traditions have many similarities. Many religions put a social hierarchy into use in order to create an organized community and have important roles in society fulfilled. Both the Chinese and Hindu traditions have an established social system which helps maintain stability both socially, and in the cosmic world. In the Chinese we see a social structure which separate the nobles and the peasants, and in Hinduism we see a slightly more detailed social structure with the most knowledgeable at the top, and the unskilled laborers at the bottom.
Both the myths of cosmic being, Purusha, and the goddess of creation, Nu Kua, give an explanation as to why there is a social hierarchy in both these traditions. In current society, these hierarchies may seem slightly outdated, but in a way these hierarchies are still present. In both cultures, those with more knowledge and intellect are seen at the top, while those who are present to do manual labor are seen at the bottom. In Hindu and Chinese traditions, the spiritual leaders were seen at the top of the hierarchy because their roles in the community were of the most importance.
There was a superior being that gave authority and shaped a hierarchy in both cultures. In the Chinese tradition, the mandate of heaven also created somewhat of a social structure. With the mandate of heaven, heaven bestowed power upon the emperor based on weather they can govern well and fairly, which made everyone around him subservient in comparison. The mandate of heaven isn’t exactly responsible for creating a social hierarchy like a caste system, but it still gave a sense of inferiority to the people because they are considered to be below the emperor.
The myths of Purusha, the comic man, and Nu Kua, the goddess of creation, give an explanation for why there is a social hierarchy in both the Hindu and Chinese traditions. The social structures were essentially created by these two beings, and have remained in society to help maintain social stability in the real world, as well as the cosmic world. These creation myths with Purusha and Nu Kua provide justification for social, religious, and cultural traditions.
There are many myths in both the Hindu and Chinese traditions that involve the creation of the world and creation of humans. The myths regarding the creation of humans are significant because thy often depict the creation of a social structure. In the myth of Purusha, his body becoming different people created a social hierarchy. The different parts of his body created a reasonable and logical social hierarchy with the head becoming the people who are the wisest, and the feet becoming those who do unskilled labor and are servants of the higher classes.
The myth of Nu Kua and her creating the humans in two different ways also gives a logical explanation as to why there is a social hierarchy in the Chinese tradition. Those who were carefully molded out of yellow mud by the goddess were those of higher status, such as scholars and many other wise people. Those who were quickly created once the goddess did not have enough strength to finish molding all the humans, were just created through her cord being dipped in mud and the drops becoming the humans.
These humans were simply ordinary poor commoners, because they were not created carefully. The creation of a social structure was important in order to maintain an organized and efficient community. The myths of Purusha and Nu Kua give an explanation for the creation of humans as well as an explanation for why there is a social hierarchy in the Hindu and Chinese traditions, and why this social hierarchy is followed. These two creation myths in the Chinese and Hindu traditions provide justification for social, religious, and cultural traditions.