An ancient painting of Nüwa and Fuxi unearthed in Xinjiang, holding the tools of creation - compass and square.
Hugh Nibley gave a lecture in 1975 on “Sacred Vestments” which was later transcribed and included in the collected works volume Temple and Cosmos (pgs. 91-132). The entire paper is fascinating, and highly recommended reading. One of the things he wrote about were certain Chinese artifacts which had been found depicting two mythological gods, Nüwa and Fuxi, and the tools they hold:
Most challenging are the veils from Taoist-Buddhist tombs at Astana, in Central Asia, originally Nestorian (Christian) country, discovered by Sir Aurel Stein in 1925… We see the king and queen embracing at their wedding, the king holding the square on high, the queen a compass. As it is explained, the instruments are taking the measurements of the universe, at the founding of a new world and a new age. Above the couple’s head is the sun surrounded by twelve disks, meaning the circle of the year or the navel of the universe. Among the stars depicted, Stein and his assistant identified the Big Dipper alone as clearly discernable. As noted above, the garment draped over the coffin and the veil hung on the wall had the same marks; they were placed on the garment as reminders of personal commitment, while on the veil they represent man’s place in the cosmos. (pg. 111-12)
Nibley included drawings of this depiction found on veils in the Astana Tombs in Xinjiang, China, with a caption that reads:
In the underground tomb of Fan Yen-Shih, d. A.D. 689, two painted silk veils show the First Ancestors of the Chinese, their entwined serpect bodies rotating around the invisible vertical axis mundi. Fu Hsi holds the set-square and plumb bob … as he rules the four-cornered earth, while his sister-wife Nü-wa holds the compass pointing up, as she rules the circling heavens. The phrase kuci chü is used by modern Chinese to signify “the way things should be, the moral standard”; it literally means the compass and the square. (pg. 115)
See the photos at the end of the post for more examples of this icon. The veil redrawn in Temple and Cosmos is shown photographed in the second row, fourth from the left. [Read more…]