Who’s who in Chinese mythology
Sun Wukong (孙悟空) is better known as the Monkey King, the main character in the epic Journey to the West. When Sun was born from a mythical stone back in Huaguo Mountain, his hometown, he didn’t have any magical powers. But then he served an apprenticeship under Taoist Patriarch Bodhi and learned to make 72 different transformations into animals and objects, not to mention perform tricks like cloud-somersaults, which propelled him 108,000 li (54,000km) at a time. He also carried the Ruyi Jingu Bang, a weapon that weighed 13,500 jin (6,500kg) but could be shrunk to the size of a sewing needle when not being used. With these super powers, Sun Wukong wrought havoc in both inferno and heaven and stole several peaches of immortality from the Empress Wang Mu. To punish Sun Wukong, the Buddha sealed him under a mountain. The Monkey King wasn’t released for five centuries.
Cao Chong (曹冲), one of the 25 sons of the Warlord Cao Cao in the Three Kingdoms period, was well known as an infant prodigy. He was as smart as an adult when he was just 5 or 6 years old, and the story of how he weighed an elephant has been passed down through the generations. When Cao Chong’s father received an elephant as a gift, he demanded to know the animal’s weight, but no one knew how to figure this out. Cao Chong had the elephant loaded onto a boat, then marked the new water level on the boat. He then unloaded the elephant and had small pieces of weighable stones placed in the boat until the boat sank to the same water level mark as when the elephant was on it, thus making it possible to calculate the creature’s weight.
Hua Mulan (花木兰) was a heroine famed for piety to her elderly father. In order to protect her elderly father from fighting in the army, Mulan disguised herself as a man and took her father’s place in the army. She spent 12 years on the battlfield, performing amazing military exploits. Afterwards, the emperor asked her to take the role of defense minister, but Mulan turned down the position because she wanted to return to her family. It wasn’t until Mulan’s old comrades in the army stopped by her hometown that they realized their former general was a woman.
Nezha (哪吒), one of the most distinguished deities from Chinese Taoism, is often depicted as a teenager with a wheel of fire under each foot, a spear in hands and a golden hoop, called a “cosmic ring,” around his shoulders. Nezha’s origin was a violent one, however. His mother was pregnant with him for three and a half years, until she at last gave birth to a ball of flesh. Upon seeing his son, Nezha’s father was so angry that he split the ball of flesh with his sword, causing Nezha to jump out and grow into a teenage boy. Later, Nezha killed a son of the East Sea Dragon King Ao Guang, which caused Au Guang to take Nezha’s parents hostage. To save his parents, Nezha killed himself. But he was revived by a Taoist master who reconstructed a body out of lotus blossoms for Nezha.