Chi You (蚩尤) was a tribal leader of the ancient nine Li tribe (九黎, jiǔlí). He is best known as the tyrant who fought against the then-future Yellow Emperor during the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors era in Chinese mythology. For the Hmong people, Chi You (RPA White Hmong: Txiv Yawg /cʰi jaɨ/) was a sagacious mythical king. Chi You has a particularly complex and controversial ancestry, as he may fall under Dongyi, Miao or even Man depending on the source and view.
According to legend, Chi You had a bronze head with metal foreheads. He had 4 eyes and 6 arms, wielding terrible sharp weapons in every hand. In some sources, Chi You had certain features associated with various mythological bovines: his head was that of a bull with two horns, although the body was that of a human. He is said to have been unbelievably fierce, and to have had 81 brothers. Historical sources often described him as 'cruel and greedy', as well as 'tyrannical'. Some sources have asserted that the figure 81 should rather be associated with 81 clans in his kingdom.
Chi You is regarded as a leader of the nine Li tribe (九黎) by nearly all sources. However, his exact ethnic affiliations are quite complex, with multiple sources reporting him as belonging to various tribes, in addition to a number of diverse peoples supposed to have directly descended from him.
Some sources from later dynasties, such as the Guoyu book, considered Chi You's Li tribe to be related to the ancient San miao tribe (三苗). In the ancient Zhuolu Town is a statue of Chi You claiming him to be the original ancestor of the Hmong people. The place is regarded as the birthplace of the San miao / Miao people, the Hmong being a subgroup of the Miao. In sources following the Hmong view, the "nine Li" tribe is called the "Jiuli" kingdom, Jiuli meaning "nine Li". Modern Han Chinese scholar Weng Dujian considers Jiuli and San Miao to be Man southerners. Chi You has also been counted as part of the Dongyi.
When the Yan emperor was leading his tribe, he met Chi You leading his Nine Li tribes. The Yan emperor stood no chance and lost the fight. He escaped, and later ended up in Zhuolu begging for help from the Yellow Emperor. At this point the epic Battle of Zhuolu between Chi You and the Yellow Emperor's forces began. According to legend, Chi You breathed out a thick fog and obscured the sunlight. The battle dragged on for days while the emperor's side was in danger. Only after the Yellow Emperor invented the south-pointing chariot, did he find his way out of the battlefield. Chi You then conjured up a heavy storm. The Yellow Emperor then called upon the drought demon Nuba, who blew away the storm clouds and cleared the battlefield. Chi You and his army could not hold up, and were later killed by the Yellow Emperor. After this defeat, the Yellow Emperor is said to become the ancestor of all Huaxia Chinese. The Hmong were forced to live in the mountains and leave their Li kingdom.
According to the Records of the Grand Historian, Qin Shi Huang worshiped Chiyou as the God of War, and Liu Bang worshiped at Chi You's shrine before his decisive battle against Xiang Yu.
In one mythical episode, after Chi You had claimed he could not be conquered, the goddess Nuwa dropped a stone tablet on him from Mount Tai. Chi You failed to crush the stone, but still managed to escape. From then on, the 5 finger-shaped, inscribed "Tai mountain stone tablets" (泰山石敢當) became a spiritual weapon to ward off evil and disasters.
According to notes by the Qing Dynasty painter Luo Ping: "Yellow Emperor ordered his men to have Chi You beheaded... seeing that Chi You's head was separated from his body, later sages had his image engraved on sacrificial vessels as a warning to those that would covet power and wealth."
In the People's Republic of China, the Hall of the Three Grand Ancestors built in Xinzheng is dedicated to Yellow Emperor, Yandi, and Chi You, who are collectively revered as the founding ancestors of the Chinese nation. Construction of the Hall was funded mostly by Hmong communities overseas and the Chinese Government.
According to the controversial Korean history book Hwandan Gogi, compiled by Uncho Gye Yeon-su in 1911, and later published in 1979, Chi You was also an ancestor of the Koreans. He is listed there as the 14th (out of 18) head of the State of Shinshi (or 'Baedal'), with the Korean form of his name, Jaoji Hwanung of Baedal. In this account, rather than being killed or defeated in the Battle of Zhuolu, Chi You is victorious and captures the Chinese Emperor Hwang Di alive, rendering him subject to Shinshi.
A recently published Korean novel, entitled "Chi You King of Heaven" (蚩尤天皇) (치우천왕기 in Korean), also claims that Chi You was an ancestral leader of Koreans in the so-called "old country" (Joo Shin, 주신 in Korean), and that he defeated the Yellow Emperor at the Battle of Zhuolu (탁록, Takrok in Korean). Chongqing University professor Huang Zhongmo (黃中模) has said that this historical novel cannot be taken seriously, and Southwest University historian Zhao Zhenyu (趙振宇) has also rejected the novel's claims.
In popular culture
- Chi You is a name for an Aragami creature in the PlayStation Portable game, God Eater.
- Chiwoo, also called "Chiwoo Cheonwang" (치우천왕, Hanja 蚩尤天王, meaning 'Chiwoo, King of Heaven') in Korea, is the mascot of the Red Devils, the supporters' group of the South Korean national football team.
- The comic book Heavenly Executioner Chiwoo is partly based on the legends about Chi Woo.
- Vaj Txiv Yawg is also the mascot for a Hmong charter school, Hmong College Prep Academy.
- The main antagonist of the Shenmue saga, Lan Di, is the head of a mafia group called the Chi You Men, who seek to awake the power of the God Chi You.
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