The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors were two groups of mythological rulers or deities in ancient northern China. The Three Sovereigns lived before The Five Emperors, who have been assigned dates in a period from circa 2852 BCE to 2070 BCE. Today they may be considered culture heroes. The dates of these mythological figures may be fictitious, but according to some accounts and reconstructions, they preceded the Xia Dynasty.


The Three Sovereigns, sometimes known as the Three August Ones, were said to be god-kings, demigods or god emperors who used their abilities to improve the lives of their people and impart to them essential skills and knowledge. The Five Emperors are portrayed as exemplary sages who possessed great moral character and lived to a great age and ruled over a period of great peace. The Three Sovereigns are ascribed various identities in different Chinese historical texts. These kings are said to have helped introduce the use of fire, taught people how to build houses and invented farming. The Yellow Emperor's wife is credited with the invention of silk culture. The discovery of medicine, the invention of the calendar and Chinese script are also credited to the kings. After their era, Yu the Great founded the Xia Dynasty. According to a modern theory with roots in the late 19th century, the Yellow Emperor is supposedly the ancestor of the Huaxia people. The Mausoleum of the Yellow Emperor was established in Shaanxi Province to commemorate the ancestry legend. The Chinese word for emperor, ''huángdì'' (), derives from this, as the first user of this title Qin Shi Huang considered his reunion of all of the lands of the former Kingdom of Zhou to be greater than even the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors.


A related concept appears in the legend of the Four shi () who took part in creating the world. The four members are Youchao-shi (), Suiren-shi (), Fuxi-shi (), and Shennong-shi (). The list sometimes extends to one more member being Nüwa-shi (), making Five shi (). Four of these five names appear in different lists of the Three Sovereigns. Shi (氏) means clan or family, so none of them are a single person in prehistoric times. There is a saying that the Three Sovereigns are Suiren-shi (), Youchao-shi (), Shennong-shi (). The Suiren taught people to drill wood for fire so people could easily migrate. The Youchao taught people to build houses out of wood, so that people could leave caves to expand into the plains. After the number of people grew, Shennong tried a variety of grasses to find suitable cereals to solve people's food problems. The tribes also used the sovereigns' respective contributions as the name of the tribes.


Depending on the source, there are many variations of who classifies as the Three Sovereigns or the Five Emperors. There are at least six to seven known variations. Many of the sources listed below were written in much later periods, centuries and even millennia after the supposed existence of these figures, and instead of historical fact, they may reflect a desire in later time periods to create a fictitious ancestry traceable to ancient culture heroes. The Emperors were asserted as ancestors of the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties. The following appear in different groupings of the Three Sovereigns: Fuxi (), Nüwa (), Shennong (), Suiren (), Zhurong (), Gong Gong (), Heavenly Sovereign (), Earthly Sovereign (), Tai Sovereign (), Human Sovereign (), and even the Yellow Emperor (). The following appear in different groupings of the Five Emperors: Yellow Emperor (), Zhuanxu (), Emperor Ku (), Emperor Yao (), Emperor Shun (), Shaohao (), Taihao (), and Yan Emperor ().

Family tree of ancient Five Emperors


File:NuwaFuxi1.JPG|Fuxi and Nüwa File:Anonymous-Fuxi and Nüwa3.jpg|Another depiction of Fuxi and Nüwa File:Shennong2.jpg|Shennong File:Yellowemperor.jpg|Yellow Emperor File:EmperorZhuanxu.jpg|Zhuanxu File:Diku.jpg|Emperor Ku File:EmperorYao.jpg|Emperor Yao File:EmperorShun.jpg|Emperor Shun File:Chi You.gif|Chi You

See also

*List of Neolithic cultures of China **Dawenkou culture **Liangzhu culture **Majiayao culture **Qujialing culture **Longshan culture **Baodun culture **Shijiahe culture *Emperor of China


Further reading

* * {{DEFAULTSORT:Three Sovereigns And Five Emperors Category:Dynasties in Chinese history Category:History of ancient China Category:Chinese mythology Category:Legendary rulers Category:3rd millennium BC Category:3rd-millennium BC establishments in China Category:29th-century BC establishments