Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SANZUWU: The three-legged crow


Artwork credits: Larry Vienneau (internet source)
The mythology of the three-legged crow can be found in various cultures in the Asia Minor, Asia, and North Africa regions. One of its possible origins comes from early Neolithic pottery art dating back to the Han Dynasty in China (202BC-220AD).

The three-legged crow in Chinese culture was called “Sanzuwu”. It was told in legends that this mythological bird was responsible for the Sun's passage through the sky each and everyday. It was once said in folklore that there used to be ten sun crows, each crow would have a responsibility to fly out and draw a sun out across the skies of earth. The crow’s favorite food consisted of two types of grass only found on earth, thus some of the crows would fly down and eat them, distorting the flight pattern of the sun.

Xihe, the ‘mother’ of the ten crows did not like this, thus she blinded all of them by covering their eyes so that they would not fly down to eat their grass. However, one day, all ten crows decided to fly out and caused the world to burn. Another god named Houyi, a celestial archer shot down all but one of the crows left, thus the world was left with one three legged crow.

It is interesting to see that crows described in mythology like this are not depicted as evil, sinister, or a trickster as we associate with today. It was intriguing to see that a crow was bestowed with such an important responsibility and serving a positive role for mankind and not a bad sign or omen.

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