primordial chaotic fireworks

The chaotic explosion of fireworks is something you get used to, living in China.

The Chinese invented fireworks sometime back in the Tang dynasty – around 700AD.

混沌 hundun  is the Chinese word for chaos. Literally, it means blended or muddle, and confused.

Image of fireworks from Ming dynasty novel. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

混沌 hundun or Chaos also has a philosophical meaning. It stems from ancient Daoist texts and refers to the primordial unformed mass before creation.


Many years back, Fritjof Capra wrote a book called The Tao of Physics, the first of its kind to compare the theories of Eastern Religion, particularly Dao ( Tao), with modern quantum mechanics.

Nowadays, Chinese physicists have applied quantum technology to instant information exchange via satellites and the principles of entanglement , along with and animation computer technology.

In the Chinese creation myth, 盘古开天 Pangu kai tian, Pangu opens the sky. The primordial egg – which had no shape or form –  and was the unformed chaotic mass, 混沌 hundun existed before the formation of the Universe. Pangu was either born, or simply found himself asleep inside this chaos. After 800,000 years ( a touch longer than 7 days 🙂 )he woke up, finding himself in darkness. He grew slowly, then quickly, bursting out of the 混沌 hundun  until he formed the myriad things. The first written record of Pangu stems from the Three Kingdoms period, about 220 – 280AD.

The 淮南子Huainanzi - a classic text from the Han dynasty, probably dated around 131 BC, is styled in the form of debates amongst scholar officials and is a mix of philsophpy, geography and history in Pre-Han thought. Of our 混沌 hundun, it says “cavernous and undifferentiated Heaven and Earth, chaotic and inchoate 混沌 hundun, the Uncarved Block, not yet fashioned and created into things, this we call 太一 tai yi, the Grand One. (Wang, 2012, p 43)

A similiar sounding word is 馄炖 hun dun, or wonton, as in the soup.

Then there is 馄蛋,hun dan, a swear word meaning ‘bastard’. ( literally, blended egg)

So just be careful how you pronounce the words, okay?

Pangu myth source:

Wang, Robin, (2012)  Yinyang,The Way of Heaven and Earth in Chinese Thought and Culture, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge).

Fritjof Capra’s classic text the Tao of Physics can be read online here