Flood Myths - Asia


The Andaman Islanders talk of their Supreme Being, Puluga, who lives in the sky. It was Puluga who created the world and man. However, when man began to forget his creator, Puluga became annoyed and sent a flood which covered the whole earth and wiped out the race. Four people escaped and so Puluga had mercy on them.


Manu, the first human, saved a small fish from the jaws of a larger fish. After hearing the smaller one beg for protection, Manu kept the fish safe, transferring it to larger and larger containers as it grew, finally returning it to the ocean.

Because of this kindness, the fish returned to warn Manu about an imminent flood and told him to build a boat, stocking it with samples of every species. After the flood waters rose, Manu tied a rope to the fish's horn. The fish led him to a mountain and told Manu to fasten the ship's rope to a tree so that it would not drift. He stayed on the mountain (known as Manu's Descent) while the flood swept away all living creatures. Manu alone survived.

Jino (China)

From the time of creation, people's lives were happy and peaceful, but one year a great flood came. The parents of Mahei and Maniu, twin brother and sister, felled a big tree, hollowed it out, and covered both ends with cowhide. They attached brass bells to the outside, and inside they put grain and seed, the two children, and a knife and cake of beeswax. They instructed the children not to come out until the flood had gone down. The flood came, and the children floated for an undeterminable period. Mahei got impatient and cut a small hole with the knife. He saw muddy waves surging and dead bodies everywhere, and he closed the hole with wax. Later, Maniu cut a hole and saw nothing but water; she likewise filled the hole. Finally, they heard the bells ringing, indicating they had touched ground, and they left the drum. They were the only survivors. When they got old, they realized that there would be no people left if they died. Mahei suggested marriage, but his sister was ashamed to marry her brother. Mahei suggested she consult the magic tree. Maniu went there, but Mahei took a shortcut and hid behind the tree. Disguising his voice, he answered Maniu that she should marry her brother. They did so, but by then they were too old to have children. The sole gourd seed they had carried in the wooden drum had grown profusely, and although most of the fruits dried and rotted, one stayed ripe. They had hung it in their shed. One day, they heard faint voices coming from the gourd. They heated their fire tongs red hot to burn a hole in the gourd, but each time they tried, a voice said "Don't burn me!" Finally, one voice, calling herself Grandma Apierer, said to burn her or none could get out. They burnt a hole in the navel on the gourd's bottom. First out was Apo, ancestor of the Konge people; his skin was darkened by the soot around the hole. The next out, in order, were Han, Dai, and last of all Jino (which literally means "last squeeze"); they became ancestors of their people. Since then, rice offerings have been made to Apierer, who gave her life so that the Jino might live.

Kabadi (New Guinea)

Lohero and his brother were angry with their neighbors, so they put a human bone into a small stream. Soon a great flood came forth, and the people had to retreat to the highest peaks until the sea receded. Some people descended, and others made their homes on the ridges.

Kammu (Thailand)

A brother and sister, warned of the upcoming flood by a mouse, sealed themselves inside a drum, and emerged again after the flood receded. They looked far and wide for mates, but they were the only survivors. A malcoha cuckoo sang to them, "Brother and sister should embrace one another." They slept together. After seven years, the child was born as a gourd. A little later, hearing noises from the gourd, they burnt a hole in its shell, and people of the different races came out, first Rumeet, then Kammu, Thai, Westerner, and Chinese.

Lisu (northwest Yunnan, China, and neighboring areas)

After death came into the world as a result of a macaque's curse, sky and earth longed for human souls and bones. That is how the flood began. An orphaned brother and sister lived in squalor in a village. A pair of golden birds flew down to them one day, warned them that a huge wave would flood the earth, and told them to take shelter in a gourd and not to come out until they heard the birds again. The two children warned their neighbors, but the people didn't believe them. The children sawed off the top of a gourd and went inside. For ninety-nine days, there was no wind or rain, and the earth became parched. Then torrents of rain fell, and the resulting flood washed everything away. The brother and sister occasionally could hear the gourd bump against the bottom of heaven. After long waiting, they heard the birds calling, left the gourd, and found they had landed atop a mountain, and the flood had receded. But now there were nine suns and seven moons in the sky, and they scorched the earth during the day. The two golden birds returned with a golden hammer and silver tongs and instructed the children how to use them to get the dragon king's bow and arrows. Brother and sister went to the dragon pond and struck the reef-home of the dragon king with the hammer. This raised such a racket that the dragon king sent his servants (various fish) to investigate. The children grabbed the fish with the tongs and threw them on the bank. At last, the dragon king himself came to investigate and had to give his bow and arrows when he was likewise caught. With these, brother and sister shot down all but the brightest sun and moon. Brother and sister then went in search of other people, exploring north and south respectively. They found nobody else, and the golden birds appeared again and urged them to marry. They refused, but the birds told them it was the will of heaven. After divinations in the form of several improbable events (tortoise shells landing a certain way, a broken millstone came together, and the brother shooting an arrow through a needle's eye--all happening three times), they consented. They had six sons and six daughters which traveled different directions and became the ancestors of different races.


The Miao and Yao people of the Guizhou province of South China relate the story of Fu Xi and his sister Nu Gua (meaning melon). They befriended the Thunder God who gave them a gourd seed. As the deluge began, the two survived inside the gourd, the only two survivors. They later married and bore a ball of flesh which they sliced into several pieces. The wind carried the pieces all over the globe to reestablish humanity everywhere.

Santal (Bengal)

When Pilchu Haram and Pilchu Budhi, the first man and woman, reached adolescence, fire-rain fell for seven days. They took refuge in a stone cave and emerged unharmed when the flood was over. Jaher-era asked them where they had been, and they replied that they had been under a rock. [Frazer, p. 197]

When social distinctions were assigned to the various tribes, the Marndis were overlooked. Ambir Singh and Bir Singh, two members of that tribe from Mount Here, were incensed at this slight, and they prayed for fire from heaven to destroy the other tribes. Fire fell and devastated the country, destroying half the population. The home of Ambir Singh and Bir Singh was stone, so they escaped unhurt. Kisku Raj heard what had happened and was told that Ambir Singh and Bir Singh were responsible. He ordered them to explain themselves, and they told of their being overlooked in the distribution of distinctions. Kisku Raj told them not to act thus, and they would receive an office. They stopped the fire-rain, and the Marndi were appointed stewards over the property of kings and nobles and over all rice.

Shan (Burma)

Long ago, the middle world, of many worlds beneath the sky, had no race of kings (the Shan). Animals emerged from bamboos which cracked open and went to live in deep forests. Hpi-pok and Hpi-mot came from heaven to Möng-hi on the Cambodia river and became the ancestors of the Shan. But a time came when they offered no sacrifices to their gods. Ling-lawn, the storm god, sent large cranes to devour the people, but there were too many people to eat all of them. He sent lions, but they could not eat all of the people either. He send snakes, but the people attacked and killed them. A great drought came for the first four months of the new year, and many people died of thirst and famine. But the storm-god had not finished his battle. Sitting in his palace beneath a beautiful umbrella, he called his counsellors. Kaw-hpa, Hseng-kio, old Lao-hki, Tai-long, Bak-long, the smooth-talker Ya-hseng-hpa, and others came and bowed down to worship. Speaking in the language of men (Shan), they decided to destroy the human race. They sent for Hkang-hkak, god of streams and ponds, of alligators and water animals, and bade him descend with the clouds and report to the distinguished sage Lip-long. Lip-long had seen ill omens while auguring with chicken bones and knew a calamity was coming, so he was not surprised to hear the water-god tell him that Ling-lawn, the storm god, would soon flood the earth and destroy everything on it. Hkang-hkak told the sage to build a strong raft and take a cow on it, but not to warn anyone else, not even his wife or children. Lip-long sorrowfully bent to his task while even his family mocked his seemingly futile work. Fearing the gods, he heeded the order not to warn anyone. A few days after he finished the raft, the flood came, rushing violently. Only Lip-long and the cow survived on the waters. He grieved to see the bodies of his family. Thus the race of Shans perished. Their spirits went to the mansions of heaven, were refreshed by a meal of cold crab, and found the spirit land a festive and charming place. Meanwhile, the stench of corpses filled the earth. Ling-lawn sent serpents to devour them, but there were too many to eat. In anger he wanted to destroy the snakes, but they escaped into a cave. He sent 999,000 tigers, but they couldn't eat all the corpses, either. More angry now, he hurled thunderbolts at the tigers, but they too escaped into caves. Then he sent Hsen-htam and Hpa-hpai, the gods of fire, who descended on their horses to one of only three elevations of land. They sent a great conflagration of fire over the entire earth. When he saw the fire coming, Lip-long killed the cow with a stick, cut it open with his sword, and crawled in its belly. There he found a gourd seed. The fire swept over the cow, and Lip-long came out. He asked Hkang-hkak what to do, and the water god told him to plant the gourd seed on a level plot of ground. He did so. One gourd vine grew up a mountain and was scorched by the sun. One vine ran downward and rotted and died from soaking in the water from the flood. A third vine twined around bushes and trees. Ling-lawn sent his gardener to care for it, and it bore great fruit. Then Ling-lawn sent Sao-pang, god of the clear sky, to prepare the earth for humans. Sao-pang dried what remained of the flood with waves of heat. Ling-lawn broke open a gourd with a thunderbolt, and people emerged from it to till the land. Another bolt broke open a gourd. The Shans therein asked god what to do, and he told them to go and rule many lands. Other gourds were broken open to release all kinds of animals, rivers, and plants.

Tamil (southern India)

Half of the land mass Kumari Kandam, which was south of India, sank in a great flood, destroying the first Tamil Sangam (literary academy). The people moved to the other half and established the second Tamil Sangam there, but the rest of Kumari too sank beneath the sea. The lone survivor was a Tamil prince named Thirumaaran, who managed to rescue some Tamil literary classics and swim with them to present-day Tamil Nadu.


Tibet was almost totally inundated, until the god Gya took compassion on the survivors, drew off the waters through Bengal, and sent teachers to civilize the people, who until then had been little better than monkeys. Those people repopulated the land.