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Chaojie Gonzalez American Literature

9-11-10 Period 4

Three Meals a Day


A Chinese Myth

Throughout the history of the world, mankind had shared stories about the
creation of the world and other things that couldn’t be explained due to the lack of
scientific proof, or evidence, at the time. These stories, which have come to be known as
myths, were passed down from generation to generation, and therefore, myths often
reflect upon the culture in which they originated from. Myths tend to be different, yet
many share similar qualities and characteristics. The following Chinese myth attempts to
explain why farmers domesticated cows to help them on their farms.

The Chinese myth “Three Meals a Day” begins in the heavens. The Chinese
people strongly believed that there was an unseen “heaven” in the skies, and that divine
beings made their homes there. God, who is referred to as the Heavenly King, sits on his
throne and watches all the men in China work on their farms. Although these men
worked so hard every day, their labor could only produce enough food for one meal a
day. The men were always exhausted, and when it came time to eat, their families made
sure to treasure the meal.
The Heavenly King pitied the men, for he somehow felt their suffering and pain.
He decided that he would reward the men and their families with three meals a day for
their hard work. He called upon the Great Bull Star from the corner of the constellation.
The Heavenly King ordered the Great Bull to tell the men of China that they would now
be allowed to eat three times a day, but they had to continue to work hard every day of
the week and never give up.
The Great Bull did as he was told, and he transformed himself into the shape of a
bull. He gathered all the farmers and their families to share the message from the
Heavenly King. The Great Bull told them that they would be allowed to eat three meals a
day with the food the heavens provided them with. However, he forgot to mention one
thing – to continue to work hard despite the reward they have been given. Not knowing
the mistake he had made, the Great Bull went off to celebrate with the people of China.
The Great Bull returned to the Heavenly King after three days of celebration,
proud of completing the task. The King, however, was not happy. Instead of praising
him, he threw a stick at the head of the bull. The Great Bull asked why he threw the stick
at him, and the King told him he was disappointed that he only told the men half of his
message. The Great Bull then realized that he had been completely ignorant. As a
punishment, the Heavenly King sent the Great Bull down to earth to help the farmers
work in the fields. That is how farmers began to use oxen to aid them in their work, and
to afford three meals a day.

The text from this myth contains characteristics of Chinese culture, and it can be
inferred that in ancient China, agriculture was an important part of life. Most Chinese
Chaojie Gonzalez American Literature
9-11-10 Period 4
myths are based on commoners and their interactions with the heavens, like this story. It
can be inferred that the hardworking men in China depended on the heavens and nature to
help them with work. “Yin and Yang”, although not mentioned in the myth, seems to be
implied. Yin and Yang stresses the important of balance in one’s life. The Heavenly God
said that he would provide the men of China with enough food for three meals a day, but
the people misunderstood and thought that they did not have to work anymore. The
Heavenly God did not want the men to work too much and eat too little, and he did not
want them to eat too much and work too little as well. This myth seems to be telling us
that things in life need to be balanced in order to attain harmony. There cannot be too
much of something, and too little of something else.