Yellow Emperor

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  • Chinese/Japanese: 黄帝 (huang di / koutei)

The Yellow Emperor is a legendary ancient Chinese ruler, to whom is credited the origins of all [Chinese] civilization. He is counted among the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, also known as the Sage Kings, who are credited with introducing fire, agriculture, mankind, and the separation of Heaven and Earth. He himself is credited with the invention of the crossbow, the steamer, a kind of football, the cooking pot, the boat, the carriage, the bronze mirror, and houses, while members of his court are credited with inventing writing (Cangjie), music (Ling Lun), the sexagenary cycle, and medical texts.

Among the Sage Kings, the Yellow Emperor is considered the first great warrior, having defeated Chi You at the battle of Zhuolu, identified in legend as the first great battle in Chinese history.

Throughout most of Chinese history, the Yellow Emperor was considered a historical figure, who actually lived, and ruled, in the distant, ancient, past. Today, however, scholars identify him as a purely legendary figure.


  • K.C. Chang, Art, Myth, and Ritual, Harvard University Press (1983), 2, 42.