Fu Xi

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An ancient painting of Nuwa and Fuxi (right) unearthed in Xinjiang.

Fuxi (Chinese伏羲), also romanized as Fu-hsi, is a culture hero in Chinese legend and mythology, credited (together with his sister Nüwa) with creating humanity and with the invention of hunting, fishing, cooking, and (together with Cangjie) writing during the 2800s or 2700s BCE. He was also known as Paoxi (t 庖犧, s 庖牺}), also romanized as P'ao-hsi. Fuxi was counted as the first of the Three Sovereigns at the beginning of the system of Chinese dynasties.

Early life[edit]

Fuxi was born on the lower-middle reaches of the Yellow River in a place called Chengji (possibly modern Lantian, Shaanxi province or Tianshui, Gansu province).[1]

Creation legend[edit]

According to legend, the land was swept by a great flood and only Fuxi and his sister Nüwa survived. They retired to the mythological Kunlun Mountain, where they prayed for a sign from the Emperor of Heaven. The divine being approved their union and the siblings set about procreating the human race. In order to speed up the process, Fuxi and Nüwa used clay to create human figures, and with the power divine entrusted to them made the clay figures come alive.[1] Fuxi then came to rule over his descendants, although reports of his long reign vary between sources, from 115 years (2852–2737 BCE) to 116 years (2952–2836 BCE).

Social importance[edit]

On one of the columns of the Fuxi Temple in Gansu Province, the following couplet describes Fu Xi's importance: "Among the three primogenitors of Huaxia civilization, Fuxi in Huaiyang Country ranks first."[1] During the time of his predecessor Nüwa (who, according to some sources, was also his wife and/or sister), society was matriarchal and primitive. Childbirth was seen to be miraculous, not requiring the participation of the male, and children only knew their mothers. As the reproductive process became better understood, ancient Chinese society moved towards a patriarchal system and Fuxi assumed primary importance.[1]

In the beginning there was as yet no moral or social order. Men knew their mothers only, not their fathers. When hungry, they searched for food; when satisfied, they threw away the remnants. They devoured their food hide and hair, drank the blood, and clad themselves in skins and rushes. Then came Fuxi and looked upward and contemplated the images in the heavens, and looked downward and contemplated the occurrences on earth. He united man and wife, regulated the five stages of change, and laid down the laws of humanity. He devised the eight trigrams, in order to gain mastery over the world.

— Ban Gu, Baihu tongyi[2]

Fuxi taught his subjects to cook, to fish with nets, and to hunt with weapons made of iron. He instituted marriage and offered the first open-air sacrifices to heaven. A stone tablet, dated 160 CE, shows Fuxi with Nüwa.

Traditionally, Fuxi is considered the originator of the I Ching (also known as the Yi Jing or Zhou Yi), which work is attributed to his reading of the He Map (or the Yellow River Map). According to this tradition, Fuxi had the arrangement of the trigrams (八卦 bāgùa) of the I Ching revealed to him in the markings on the back of a mythical dragon horse (sometimes said to be a tortoise) that emerged from the Luo River. This arrangement precedes the compilation of the I Ching during the Zhou dynasty. This discovery is said to have been the origin of calligraphy. Fuxi is also credited with the invention of the Guqin musical instrument, though credit for this is also given to Shennong and Huangdi.

The Figurists viewed Fuxi as Enoch, the biblical patriarch. According to Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the fourth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, all Chinese religions are derived from the teachings of Fuxi.[3]


Fuxi is said to have lived for 197 years altogether and died at a place called Chen (modern Huaiyang, Henan), where a monument to him can still be found and visited as a tourist attraction.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Worshiping the Three Sage Kings and Five Virtuous Emperors - The Imperial Temple of Emperors of Successive Dynasties in Beijing. Beijing: Foreign Language Press. 2007. ISBN 978-7-119-04635-8. 
  2. ^ Wilhelm, Richard; Baines, Cary F. (1967). I Ching. 
  3. ^ Taoism
Fu Xi
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Mythological Emperor of China
c. 2800–2737 BCE
Succeeded by