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Xirang (Chinese: 息壤; pinyin: xīrǎng) (also known as Swelling Earth) is a magical substance in Chinese Mythology, according to which it had an a self-expanding ability to continuously grow, which made it particularly effective for use by Gun and Yu in fighting the rising waters of the Great Flood.[1] This Chinese word compounds xi "breathe; cease; rest; grow; multiply" and rang "soil; earth". Noting similarities with Earth-diver creation myths, Anne Birrell translates xirang as "self-renewing soil", and compares other translations of "breathing earth" (Wolfram Eberhard), "swelling mold" (Derk Bodde), "idle soil" (Roger Greatrex), and "living earth" or "breathing earth" (Rémi Mathieu).[2]

In some versions of the myths, Gun stole the Xirang from Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor, who sent Zhurong to execute him in punishment, on Feather Mountain (Yushan).[3] Yu, on the other hand (according to some accounts) went up to Heaven; then, after begging Huangdi he received from him a gift of as much Xirang as his magical black tortoise could carry on its back: thus allowing Yu to successfully block up the 233,559 springs, which were sources of the flood waters.[4] In other versions of these myths, Xirang was stolen or obtained from the Supreme Divinity, or Gun's executioner was other than Zhurong.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yang, 218
  2. ^ Birrell, 80.
  3. ^ Christie, 87
  4. ^ Christie, 87-88
  5. ^ Yang, 127 and 237


  • Birrell, Anne (1993), Chinese Mythology: An Introduction, Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Christie, Anthony (1973). Chinese mythology. ISBN 978-0-600-00637-4. 
  • Yang, Lihui; An, Deming (2008). Handbook of Chinese Mythology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-533263-6.