Three August Ones and Five Emperors
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The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors were two groups of
mythological Myth is a folklore genre consisting of Narrative, narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or Origin myth, origin myths. Since "myth" is widely used to imply that a story is not Objectivity (philosophy), ...
rulers in ancient north
China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by population, most populous country, with a Population of China, population exceeding 1.4 billion, slig ...
. The Three Sovereigns supposedly lived long before The Five Emperors, who have been assigned dates in a period from 3162 BC to 2070 BC. Today they may be considered
culture hero A culture hero is a mythological hero specific to some group (Culture, cultural, Ethnic group, ethnic, Religion, religious, etc.) who changes the world through invention or Discovery (observation), discovery. Although many culture heroes help with ...
es. The dates of these mythological figures may be fictitious, but according to some accounts and reconstructions, they supposedly preceded the
Xia Dynasty The Xia dynasty () is the first dynasty in traditional Chinese historiography. According to tradition, the Xia dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great, after Emperor Shun, Shun, the last of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, ...
.


Description

The Three Sovereigns, sometimes known as the Three August Ones, were said to be
god-kings God king, or God-King, is a term for a deified ruler or a pagan deity that is venerated in the guise of a king. In particular, it is used to refer to: *the Egyptian Pharaohs *a sacred king in any other polytheistic faithWilfred L. Guerin, ''A Handbo ...
or
demigods A demigod or demigoddess is a part-human and part-divine offspring of a deity A deity or god is a supernatural being who is considered divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as a god In monotheistic thoug ...
who used their divine abilities to improve the lives of the Chinese peoples and gift them essential skills and valuable knowledge. The Five Emperors are portrayed as exemplary ancestral sages who possessed a great moral character and lived to an extremely old age and ruled over a period of great Chinese peace. The Three Sovereigns on the other hand are ascribed various identities in different Chinese historical texts. These high kings are said to have helped introduce the first use of fire, taught people how to build good houses and farm.
Leizu Leizu (), also known as Xi Ling-shi (, Wade–Giles Hsi Ling-shih), was a legendary Chinese empress and wife of the Yellow Emperor. According to tradition, she discovered sericulture, and invented the silk Silk is a natural fiber, nat ...
, wife of Huangdi, is credited with the invention of
silk Silk is a natural fiber, natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be weaving, woven into textiles. The protein fiber of silk is composed mainly of fibroin and is produced by certain insect larvae to form cocoon (silk), cocoons. The be ...
culture. The discovery of medicine, the invention of the calendar and Chinese script are also credited to the 5 Emperors. After their era,
Yu the Great Yu the Great (大禹) was a legendary king in History of China#Ancient China, ancient China who was famed for his introduction of flood control, his establishment of the Xia dynasty which inaugurated Dynasties in Chinese history, dynastic rule in ...
founded the
Xia Dynasty The Xia dynasty () is the first dynasty in traditional Chinese historiography. According to tradition, the Xia dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great, after Emperor Shun, Shun, the last of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, ...
. According to a modern theory with roots in the late 19th century, the
Yellow Emperor The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow Thearch or by his Chinese name Huangdi (), is a deity (''Shen (Chinese religion), shen'') in Chinese folk religion, Chinese religion, one of the legendary Chinese sovereigns and culture heroes inclu ...
is supposedly the ancestor of the
Huaxia ''Huaxia'' (華夏, ) is a historical concept representing the Zhonghua minzu, Chinese nation, and came from the self-awareness of a Genetic relationship (linguistics), common cultural ancestry by the various confederations of pre-Qin ethnic anc ...
people. The
Mausoleum of the Yellow Emperor The Mausoleum of the Yellow Emperor () is the alleged burial site of the legendary Yellow Emperor The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow Thearch or by his Chinese name Huangdi (), is a deity (''Shen (Chinese religion), shen'') in Chine ...
was established in
Shaanxi Province Shaanxi (alternatively Shensi, see #Name, § Name) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of China. Officially part of Northwest China, it borders the province-level divisions of Shanxi (NE, E), Henan (E), Hubei (SE), Chongqing (S), Sichu ...
to commemorate the ancestry legend. The Chinese word for emperor, ''huángdì'' (), derives from this, as the first user of this title
Qin Shi Huang Qin Shi Huang (, ; 259–210 BC) was the founder of the Qin dynasty and the first Emperor of China, emperor of a unified China. Rather than maintain the title of "Chinese king, king" ( ''wáng'') borne by the previous Shang dynasty, Shang an ...
considered his reunion of all of the lands of the former
Kingdom of Zhou The Zhou dynasty ( ; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscri ...
to be greater than even the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors.


Clan

A related concept appears in the legend of the Four Clans (, ''Si Shi'') who took part in creating the world. The four members are
Youchao Youchao (, lit. "Nest-Owner") is the inventor of houses and buildings, according to China's ancient mythology. He is said to have been one of Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, The Three August Ones in ancient China. He is an obscure figure, also ...
-shi (),
Suiren Suiren ( zh, , ''Suìrén'', lit. "Flint Man") appears in Chinese mythology and some works which draw upon it. He is credited as a culture hero who introduced humans to the production of fire and its use for cooking. He was included on some ...
-shi (),
Fuxi Fuxi or Fu Hsi (伏羲 ~ 伏犧 ~ 伏戲) is a culture hero in Chinese legend and Chinese mythology, mythology, credited along with his sister and wife Nüwa with List of protoplasts, creating humanity and the invention of music, hunting, fishin ...
-shi (), and
Shennong Shennong (), variously translated as "Divine Farmer" or "Divine Husbandman", born Jiang Shinian (), was a mythological Chinese sovereign, Chinese ruler known as the first Yan Emperor who has become a deity in Chinese folk religion, Chinese an ...
-shi (). The list sometimes extends to one more member being
Nüwa Nüwa, also read Nügua, is the mother goddess A mother goddess is a goddess who represents a personified deification of motherhood, fertility goddess, fertility, Creation myth, creation, natural disasters, destruction, or the earth godde ...
-shi (), making Five Clans (, ''Wu 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 Suiren ( zh, , ''Suìrén'', lit. "Flint Man") appears in Chinese mythology and some works which draw upon it. He is credited as a culture hero who introduced humans to the production of fire and its use for cooking. He was included on some ...
-shi (),
Youchao Youchao (, lit. "Nest-Owner") is the inventor of houses and buildings, according to China's ancient mythology. He is said to have been one of Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, The Three August Ones in ancient China. He is an obscure figure, also ...
-shi (), and
Shennong Shennong (), variously translated as "Divine Farmer" or "Divine Husbandman", born Jiang Shinian (), was a mythological Chinese sovereign, Chinese ruler known as the first Yan Emperor who has become a deity in Chinese folk religion, Chinese an ...
-shi (). The
Suiren Suiren ( zh, , ''Suìrén'', lit. "Flint Man") appears in Chinese mythology and some works which draw upon it. He is credited as a culture hero who introduced humans to the production of fire and its use for cooking. He was included on some ...
taught people to drill wood for fire so people could easily migrate. The
Youchao Youchao (, lit. "Nest-Owner") is the inventor of houses and buildings, according to China's ancient mythology. He is said to have been one of Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, The Three August Ones in ancient China. He is an obscure figure, also ...
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 Shennong (), variously translated as "Divine Farmer" or "Divine Husbandman", born Jiang Shinian (), was a mythological Chinese sovereign, Chinese ruler known as the first Yan Emperor who has become a deity in Chinese folk religion, Chinese an ...
tried a variety of grasses to find suitable herbs to solve people's food problems. The tribes also used the sovereigns' respective contributions as the name of the tribes.


Variations

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 Fuxi or Fu Hsi (伏羲 ~ 伏犧 ~ 伏戲) is a culture hero in Chinese legend and Chinese mythology, mythology, credited along with his sister and wife Nüwa with List of protoplasts, creating humanity and the invention of music, hunting, fishin ...
(),
Nüwa Nüwa, also read Nügua, is the mother goddess A mother goddess is a goddess who represents a personified deification of motherhood, fertility goddess, fertility, Creation myth, creation, natural disasters, destruction, or the earth godde ...
(),
Shennong Shennong (), variously translated as "Divine Farmer" or "Divine Husbandman", born Jiang Shinian (), was a mythological Chinese sovereign, Chinese ruler known as the first Yan Emperor who has become a deity in Chinese folk religion, Chinese an ...
(),
Suiren Suiren ( zh, , ''Suìrén'', lit. "Flint Man") appears in Chinese mythology and some works which draw upon it. He is credited as a culture hero who introduced humans to the production of fire and its use for cooking. He was included on some ...
(),
Zhurong Zhurong (), also known as Chongli (), is an important personage in Chinese mythology and Chinese folk religion. According to the ''Huainanzi'' and the philosophical texts of Mozi and his followers, Zhurong is a god of fire and of the south. The ...
(),
Gong Gong Gonggong () is a Chinese water god who is depicted in Chinese mythology Chinese mythology () is mythology Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or or ...
(),
Heavenly Sovereign The Heavenly sovereign () was the first China, Chinese legendary king after Pangu’s era. According to ''Yiwen Leiju'', he was the first of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, Three Sovereigns. Name The book Lushi (book), Lushi from the S ...
(),
Earthly Sovereign The Earthly Sovereign () was the second China, Chinese legendary king after Pangu's era. According to ''Yiwen Leiju'', he was the second of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, Three Sovereigns. Biography According to the "Basic Annals of the ...
(), Tai Sovereign (), Human Sovereign (), and even the
Yellow Emperor The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow Thearch or by his Chinese name Huangdi (), is a deity (''Shen (Chinese religion), shen'') in Chinese folk religion, Chinese religion, one of the legendary Chinese sovereigns and culture heroes inclu ...
(). The following appear in different groupings of the Five Emperors:
Fuxi Fuxi or Fu Hsi (伏羲 ~ 伏犧 ~ 伏戲) is a culture hero in Chinese legend and Chinese mythology, mythology, credited along with his sister and wife Nüwa with List of protoplasts, creating humanity and the invention of music, hunting, fishin ...
(Taihao/),
Yan Emperor The Yan Emperor () or the Flame Emperor was a legendary ancient Chinese ruler in pre-dynastic times. Modern scholarship has identified the Sheep's Head Mountains (''Yángtóu Shān'') just north of Baoji in Shaanxi Province as his homeland and ...
(),
Yellow Emperor The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow Thearch or by his Chinese name Huangdi (), is a deity (''Shen (Chinese religion), shen'') in Chinese folk religion, Chinese religion, one of the legendary Chinese sovereigns and culture heroes inclu ...
(),
Shaohao Shaohao or Shao Hao ( "Lesser Brightness"), also known Jin Tian (金天), was a legendary China, Chinese sovereign. Shaohao is usually identified as a son of the Yellow Emperor. According to some traditions (for example the ''Book of Documents''), ...
(),
Zhuanxu Zhuanxu ( Chinese:  trad. , simp. , pinyin Hanyu Pinyin (), often shortened to just pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in China, and to some extent, in Singapore and ...
(),
Emperor Ku Kù (, variant graph ), usually referred to as Dì Kù (), also known as Gaoxin or Gāoxīn Shì () or Qūn (), was a descendant of the Yellow Emperor The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow Thearch or by his Chinese name Huangdi (), is ...
(),
Emperor Yao Emperor Yao (; traditionally c. 2356 – 2255 BCE) was a legendary Chinese ruler, according to various sources, one of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors. Ancestry and early life Yao's ancestral name is Yi Qi () or Qi (), clan name ...
(),
Emperor Shun Emperor Shun () was a legendary leader of ancient China, regarded by some sources as one of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors being the last of the Five Emperors. Tradition holds that he lived sometime between 2294 and 2184 BC. Tradition al ...
().


Lineage of the Five Emperors


Gallery

File:NuwaFuxi1.JPG,
Fuxi Fuxi or Fu Hsi (伏羲 ~ 伏犧 ~ 伏戲) is a culture hero in Chinese legend and Chinese mythology, mythology, credited along with his sister and wife Nüwa with List of protoplasts, creating humanity and the invention of music, hunting, fishin ...
and
Nüwa Nüwa, also read Nügua, is the mother goddess A mother goddess is a goddess who represents a personified deification of motherhood, fertility goddess, fertility, Creation myth, creation, natural disasters, destruction, or the earth godde ...
File:Anonymous-Fuxi and Nüwa3.jpg, Another depiction of
Fuxi Fuxi or Fu Hsi (伏羲 ~ 伏犧 ~ 伏戲) is a culture hero in Chinese legend and Chinese mythology, mythology, credited along with his sister and wife Nüwa with List of protoplasts, creating humanity and the invention of music, hunting, fishin ...
and
Nüwa Nüwa, also read Nügua, is the mother goddess A mother goddess is a goddess who represents a personified deification of motherhood, fertility goddess, fertility, Creation myth, creation, natural disasters, destruction, or the earth godde ...
File:Shennong2.jpg,
Shennong Shennong (), variously translated as "Divine Farmer" or "Divine Husbandman", born Jiang Shinian (), was a mythological Chinese sovereign, Chinese ruler known as the first Yan Emperor who has become a deity in Chinese folk religion, Chinese an ...
File:Yellowemperor.jpg,
Yellow Emperor The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow Thearch or by his Chinese name Huangdi (), is a deity (''Shen (Chinese religion), shen'') in Chinese folk religion, Chinese religion, one of the legendary Chinese sovereigns and culture heroes inclu ...
File:EmperorZhuanxu.jpg,
Zhuanxu Zhuanxu ( Chinese:  trad. , simp. , pinyin Hanyu Pinyin (), often shortened to just pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in China, and to some extent, in Singapore and ...
File:Diku.jpg,
Emperor Ku Kù (, variant graph ), usually referred to as Dì Kù (), also known as Gaoxin or Gāoxīn Shì () or Qūn (), was a descendant of the Yellow Emperor The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow Thearch or by his Chinese name Huangdi (), is ...
File:EmperorYao.jpg,
Emperor Yao Emperor Yao (; traditionally c. 2356 – 2255 BCE) was a legendary Chinese ruler, according to various sources, one of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors. Ancestry and early life Yao's ancestral name is Yi Qi () or Qi (), clan name ...
File:EmperorShun.jpg,
Emperor Shun Emperor Shun () was a legendary leader of ancient China, regarded by some sources as one of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors being the last of the Five Emperors. Tradition holds that he lived sometime between 2294 and 2184 BC. Tradition al ...
File:Chi You.gif, Chi You


See also

*
Wufang Shangdi The Wǔfāng Shàngdì ( "Five Regions' Highest Deities" or "Highest Deities of the Five Regions"), or simply Wǔdì ( "Five Deities") or Wǔshén ( "Five Gods") are, in Chinese classics, Chinese canonical texts and common Chinese folk religion, ...
, the Five Emperors *
List of Neolithic cultures of China This is a list of Neolithic cultures of China that have been unearthed by archaeologists. They are sorted in chronological order from earliest to latest and are followed by a schematic visualization of these cultures. It would seem that the defin ...
**
Dawenkou culture The Dawenkou culture was a Chinese Neolithic culture primarily located in the eastern province of Shandong, but also appearing in Anhui, Henan and Jiangsu. The culture existed from 4300 to 2600 BC, and co-existed with the Yangshao culture. Turquoi ...
**
Liangzhu culture The Liangzhu culture (; 3300–2300 BC) was the last Neolithic Chinese jade, jade culture in the Yangtze River Delta of China. The culture was highly stratified, as jade, silk, ivory and lacquer artifacts were found exclusively in elite burials, ...
**
Majiayao culture The Majiayao culture was a group of neolithic The Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, is an Old World archaeological period and the final division of the Stone Age. It saw the Neolithic Revolution, a wide-ranging set of developments that ...
**
Qujialing culture The Qujialing culture (3400–2600 BC) was a Neolithic The Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, is an Old World archaeological period and the final division of the Stone Age. It saw the Neolithic Revolution, a wide-ranging set of developmen ...
**
Longshan culture The Longshan (or Lung-shan) culture, also sometimes referred to as the Black Pottery Culture, was a late Neolithic culture in the middle and lower Yellow River valley areas of northern China from about 3000 to 1900 BC. The first archaeology, arch ...
** Baodun culture **
Shijiahe culture The Shijiahe culture (2500–2000 BC) was a late Neolithic culture centered on the middle Yangtze River region in Shijiahe, Tianmen, Shijiahe Town, Tianmen, Hubei Province, China. It succeeded the Qujialing culture in the same region and inherite ...
*
Emperor of China ''Huangdi'' (), translated into English as Emperor, was the superlative title held by Chinese sovereign, monarchs of China who ruled various History of China#Imperial China, imperial regimes in Chinese history. In traditional Chinese political th ...


Notes


References


Further reading

* * {{DEFAULTSORT:Three Sovereigns And Five Emperors History of ancient China 3rd millennium BC 3rd-millennium BC establishments in China 29th-century BC establishments