After PAN-GU formed the Universe, the primitive Earth was full of endless mud, upon which roamed depressingly dumb animals. In short, the place was extremely dull.
Stifling her yawns, NU-GUA decided to liven things up a bit by creating an exciting new species. There was plenty of raw material available, even if most of it consisted of brown mud, black mud and yellow mud.
Using her own body as a guide, she fashioned new beings from the earth. But they didn’t look right with a huge snaky tail, so she gave them legs instead.
These little people took ages to make, but looked beautiful. They ran around worshipping her in a delightful manner and quite touched her heart. But there weren’t nearly enough of them to populate an entire planet, so NU-GUA decided to speed up production by cutting a few corners with the next batch.
Dipping a vine into a particularly foul patch of sloppy mud, she swung it around her head and covered the earth in dollops of humanity for miles around. Okay, so they were ugly, crude and unseemly, but what they lacked in refinement they made up for in quantity. "Don’t worry," she said to the beautiful first batch, "they can be the peasants and do all the work."
Having established the human race and also the class system, NU-GUA then invented sex and marriage, for which everyone was very grateful. It certainly saved her from spending the rest of her existence playing with mud.
As one of the famous Three Sovereigns (SAN-HUANG), her husband FU-XI became first ruler and teacher of mankind, and all was going well. Until monstrous rivals GONG-GONG and ZHU-RONG got into a fight and caused the first Great Flood. Water poured from the Heavens and her human creations were devastated by the devastation.
To restore cosmic harmony, NU-GUA took some brightly colored stones from a river bank, melted them down and used them to repair the hole in the sky. (Although nowhere stated, we imagine this is a reference to the first rainbow.) She then propped up the Heavens as best she could using the legs of a turtle. (See DA-YU for a slightly less weird version of events.)
In some accounts NU-GUA is snaky, in others she is known as Snail Woman with woman’s torso and head. And why not? Our own Holy Snail™ remains inscrutable on the subject and refuses to leave his shell.