Zhuanxu (Chinese: trad. 顓頊, simp. 颛顼,
pinyin Zhuānxū), also known as Gao Yang (t 高陽,
s 高阳, p Gāoyáng), was a mythological emperor of
In the traditional account recorded by Sima Qian,
Zhuanxu was a
grandson of the
Yellow Emperor who led the Shi clan in an eastward
migration to present-day Shandong, where intermarriages with the
Dongyi clan enlarged and augmented their tribal influences. At age
twenty, he became their sovereign, going on to rule for seventy-eight
years until his death.
5 Potential Connection with Longshan Culture?
Zhuanxu was the grandson of the
Yellow Emperor and his wife
way of his father Changyi. His mother was named Changtsu according to
Sima Qian, Niuqu according to the Bamboo Annals.
Zhuanxu was subsequently claimed as an ancestor by many of the
dynasties of Chinese history, including the Mi of Chu and Yue, the
Yíng of Qin, and the Cao of Wei.
Zhuanxu was held by many sources to be one of the Five Emperors.
According to Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian, upon the
passing of the Yellow Emperor, Zhuanxu's uncle
Shaohao never actually
reigned as king, as in other reports. Rather, Gaoyang was chosen as
the tribe's new leader, with the regnal name Zhuanxu, in preference to
his father and all his uncles.
Zhuanxu defeated Gonggong, a
descendant of the Emperor Yan.
However, the account in the
Bamboo Annals states that
an assistant to his uncle, Emperor Shaohao, at the age of ten, and
became king in his own right at age 20.
He made contributions to a unified calendar, astrology, religion
reforms to oppose shamanism, upheld the patriarchal (as opposed to the
previous matriarchal) system, and forbade close-kin marriage. The
Bamboo Annals also credit him with composing one of the earliest
pieces of music, known as "The Answer to the Clouds".
Zhuanxu was succeeded by his cousin, Shaohao's son, Ku. In the Shiji,
he criticized one of his sons for being a dullard. Since only two sons
were named, it might have been Gun, father of
Yu the Great
Yu the Great or
Qiongchan, the ancestor of Shun. Yao had also criticized Gun for being
incompetent and ruinous. The
Shiji labelled Qiongchan an insignificant
commoner though it does not mention how he fell from grace. He also
had eight unnamed sons of good repute that later worked for Shun.
Bamboo Annals record that in his 13th year of reign, Zhuanxu
"invented calendric calculations and delineations of the heavenly
Zhuanxu was claimed as a founder of the Qin dynasty, his name
was taken for inauguration of the new calendar system[clarification
needed] by Shi Huangdi.
Zhuanxu is also mentioned as a god of the Pole Star[clarification
needed] and as the father of Taowu.[who?]
Potential Connection with Longshan Culture?
Zhuanxu is commonly associated with the extremely important myth of
the separation of the Heaven from Earth. According to the Lu Xing
chapter of Shang Shu
"We are told that the Miao ... created oppressive punishments which
the people into disorder. Shang Di, the Lord on High ... surveyed the
people and found them lacking in virtue. Out of pity for those who
were innocent, the August Lord .. had the Miao exterminated. 'Then he
charged Chong and Li to cut the communication between Heaven and Earth
so that there would be no descending and ascending." After this had
been done, order was restored and the people returned to virtue." 
Several Chinese mythologists interpreted this myth as a representation
or symbolization of the increasing social stratification occurring.
Before the 'separation of Earth and Heaven', in Yangshao culture, it
was open to every household that had or could hire a shaman. However,
during Longshan culture, shamans could only be hired by a few people,
suggesting a monopoly of the ability to ascend to and descend from
Heaven. In this sense, this myth marks the start of social
stratification on China's rise to civilization.
According to Samguk Sagi, the king of Goguryeo regarded themselves as
a descendant of Chinese heroes because he called his surname "Go"
(Hanja: 高) as they were the descendant of Gao Yang (Hanja: 高陽)
who was a grandchild of the
Yellow Emperor and
Gaoxin (Hanja: 高辛)
who was a great-grandchild of Yellow Emperor.
^ Howard L. Goodman (1998). Ts'ao P'i Transcendent: the Political
Culture of Dynasty-Founding in China at the End of the Han
(illustrated ed.). Psychology Press. p. 70. ISBN 0966630009.
Retrieved 1 Apr 2012.
^ House of Chinn. "History".
^ This last claim was made by the
Wei Shu and Tung Pa but attacked by
Chiang Chi, who claimed the Tian (田) were descended from Zhuanxu
^ Asiapac Editorial (2006). Great Chinese emperors: tales of wise and
benevolent rule (revised ed.). Asiapac Books Pte Ltd. p. 9.
ISBN 9812294511. Retrieved 4-1-2012. Check date values in:
^ B. (1985). Myths of ancient China. Singapore: Asiapac.
^ @book loewe1999cambridge, title= The Cambridge History of Ancient
China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 BC , author= Loewe, M.
and Shaughnessy, E.L. , isbn= 9780521470308 , lccn= 97033203 , series=
Cambridge histories online , url=
https://books.google.ca/books?id=cHA7Ey0-pbEC , year= 1999 ,
publisher= Cambridge University Press
^ National Institute of Korean History. 三國史記 卷第二十八
百濟本紀 第六. National Institute of Korean
^ National Institute of Korean History. 三國史記 卷第十八
髙句麗本紀 第六. National Institute of Korean
^ 한국인문고전연구소 원문과 함께 읽는 삼국사기
의자왕 義慈王. 한국인문고전연구소.
^ 한국인문고전연구소 원문과 함께 읽는 삼국사기
광개토왕 廣開土王. 한국인문고전연구소.
^ 金光林 (2014). A Comparison of the Korean and Japanese Approaches
to Foreign Family Names (PDF). Journal of Cultural Interaction in East
Asia Vol.5 Society for Cultural Interaction in East Asia. p30
Samguk Sagi volume 28
髙句麗亦以髙辛氏之後, 姓髙氏 見晉書載記。
— 三國史記 卷二十八 百濟本紀 第六 Chinese
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors
Emperor of China
c. 2514 BC – c. 2436 BC