Emperor Yao

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For other uses, see Yao (disambiguation).
Ma Lin - Emperor Yao.jpg
Chinese Emperor Yao. Color on silk, Song Dynasty. National Palace Museum
Reign 2333 BC-2234 BC (100 years)[1]
Predecessor Emperor Zhi
Successor Emperor Shun
Spouse San Yi (concubine)
Issue Danzhu
Father Emperor Ku
Mother Qingdu
Born 2324 BC
Gaoyou, Jiangsu or Tianchang, Anhui
Died 2206 BC (aged 118)
Emperor Yao statue in the Guanyun hall of the Yao temple in Linfen (Shanxi).

Emperor Yao (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Yáo; traditionally c. 2356 – 2255 BC)[2] was a legendary Chinese ruler, one of the Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors.

Ancestry and early life[edit]

Yao's ancestral name (姓) is Yi Qi (伊祁) or Qi (祁), clan name is Taotang (陶唐), given name is Fangxun (放勳), as the second son to Emperor Ku and Qingdu (慶都). He is also known as Tang Yao (唐堯).[3][4]

Yao's mother has been worshipped as the goddess Yao-mu.[5]


Often extolled as the morally perfect and intelligent sage-king, Yao's benevolence and diligence served as a model to future Chinese monarchs and emperors. Early Chinese often speak of Yao, Shun and Yu the Great as historical figures, and contemporary historians believed they may represent leader-chiefs of allied tribes who established a unified and hierarchical system of government in a transition period to the patriarchal feudal society. In the Classic of History one of the Five Classics, the initial chapters deals with Yao, Shun and Yu.


According to the legend, Yao became the ruler at 20 and died at 119 when he passed his throne to Shun the Great, to whom he had given his two daughters in marriage.[6] According to the Bamboo Annals, Yao abdicated his throne to Shun in his 73rd year of reign, and continued to live during Shun's reign for another 28 years.


Of his many contributions, Yao is said to have invented the game of Weiqi, reportedly to favorably influence his vicious playboy son Danzhu.[7] After the customary three-year mourning period after Yao's death, Shun named Danzhu as the ruler but the people only recognized Shun as the rightful heir.

Bamboo Annals[edit]

The Bamboo Annals represent Yao as having banished prince Danzhu to Danshui in his 58th year of reign. They add that following Yao's abdication in favor of Shun, Danzhu kept away from Shun, and that following the death of Yao, "Shun tried to yield the throne to him, but in vain."

However, an alternative account found elsewhere in the Annals offers a different story. It holds that Shun dethroned and imprisoned Yao, then raised Danzhu to the throne for a short time before seizing it himself.[8]

Dynastic succession[edit]

Yao was claimed to be the ancestor of the Han Dynasty Emperor Liu Bang.[9] Other important noble families have also claimed descent through Yellow Emperor.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Records of the Grand Historian
  2. ^ Ching, Julia; R. W. L. Guisso (1991). Sages and filial sons: mythology and archaeology in ancient China. The Chinese University Press. p. 140. ISBN 978-962-201-469-5. 
  3. ^ Sarah Allan (1991). The shape of the turtle: myth, art, and cosmos in early China. SUNY Press. p. 59. ISBN 0-7914-0460-9. Retrieved 4-1-2012. 
  4. ^ Asiapac Editorial (2006). Great Chinese emperors: tales of wise and benevolent rule (revised ed.). Asiapac Books Pte Ltd. p. 11. ISBN 981-229-451-1. Retrieved 4-1-2012. 
  5. ^ Yang, 102
  6. ^ Asiapac Editorial (2006). Great Chinese emperors: tales of wise and benevolent rule (revised ed.). Asiapac Books Pte Ltd. p. 12. ISBN 981-229-451-1. Retrieved 4-1-2012. 
  7. ^ Yang, Lihui; Deming An; Jessica Anderson Turner (2005). Handbook of Chinese mythology. ABC-CLIO Ltd. p. 228. ISBN 978-1-57607-806-8. 
  8. ^ Bamboo Annals
  9. ^ Patricia Buckley Ebrey (2003). Women and the family in Chinese history. Volume 2 of Critical Asian scholarship (illustrated ed.). Psychology Press. p. 171. ISBN 0-415-28823-1. Retrieved 4-1-2012. 
  10. ^ Fabrizio Pregadio (2008). Fabrizio Pregadio, ed. The encyclopedia of Taoism, Volume 1 (illustrated ed.). Psychology Press. p. 505. ISBN 0-7007-1200-3. Retrieved 4-1-2012. 


  • Yang, Ch'ing-k'un. Religion in Chinese Society : A Study of Contemporary Social Functions of Religion and Some of Their Historical Factors (1967 [1961]). Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

External links[edit]

Emperor Yao
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Zhi
Emperor of China Succeeded by
Emperor Shun