Battle of Zhuolu

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Battle of Zhuolu
Date ~2500 BC
Location Zhuolu, Hebei
Result Decisive Yanhuang victory.
Initiation of the Huaxia civilization.
Exile/subjugation of the Jiuli tribes.
Belligerents
Yanhuang tribe Jiuli tribes
Commanders and leaders
Yellow Emperor
Yan Emperor
Chiyou
Strength
some say 8,000 to 15,000 72 to 81 tribes, roughly guessed around 15,000 to 26,000
Casualties and losses
roughly 1,200 to 3,000 nearly whole invading force, 3,000 in the initial battle, 7,000+ in the rout

The Battle of Zhuolu (simplified Chinese: 涿鹿之战; traditional Chinese: 涿鹿之戰) was the second battle in the history of China as recorded in the Records of the Grand Historian, fought between the Yanhuang tribes led by the legendary Yellow Emperor and the Jiuli tribes led by Chiyou.[1] The battle was fought in Zhuolu, near the present-day border of Hebei and Liaoning.

The victory for the Yellow Emperor here is often credited as history, although almost everything from that time period is considered legendary. Traditional Chinese historiography places the battle in the 26th century BC, although the Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project has suggested the traditional dates to be at least some two centuries too early for the most remote recorded periods.

Background[edit]

In prehistoric China, the tribes of Yellow Emperor rose to power on the plains of Guanzhong and merged with Yan Emperor's tribes following the battle of Banquan. The Yanhuang tribes, as the merged tribes were known, spread along the Yellow River towards the East China Sea. The Jiuli (Chinese: 九黎, "the nine Lis") tribes, led by Chiyou, had developed near the present-day borders of Shandong, Hebei, and Henan, and expanded towards the west. The Yanhuang and Jiuli tribes were in conflict over the fertile land in the Yellow River valley, and thus they fought in the plains of Zhuolu. Chi You's tribes were fierce in war and skilled at making weapons; allying themselves with the Kua Fu tribe and the Sanmiao (Chinese: 三苗, "the three Miaos") tribe, they first attacked the Yan Emperor's tribe, driving them into the lands of the Yellow Emperor. The Yellow Emperor was angered by this, and went to war with Chi You.

The battle[edit]

The details of the battle are mostly seen as mythical by historians, but if such a battle did occur, these are the events said to have happened:

It was said that Chi You led 72 to 81 tribes against the Yanhuang tribes in a thick fog. The Yellow Emperor sent tribes under the totems of the Bear, Pi (羆), Wolf, Leopard, and others in retaliation, but due to the fog, they initially suffered several defeats. To counter the fog, the Yellow Emperor brought forth the south-pointing chariot, a geared mechanism able to point in one constant direction designed by himself and built for him by the craftsman Fang Bo. In addition, the Xuannü (玄女) tribe helped the Yanhuang forces by blowing horns and hitting drums, thus frightening the enemy. The Yanhuang forces were ultimately victorious, killing Chi You in Hebei.

Aftermath[edit]

After the battle, the Yellow Emperor built his capital in Zhuolu, and established the agricultural confederacy that later came to be known as the Huaxia civilization, which would evolve into the Han Chinese nation. The Yellow Emperor and the Yan Emperor were often credited for allowing the Chinese civilization to thrive due to the battle, and many Chinese people call themselves "descendants of Yan and Huang" (炎黃子孫) to this day. Because of his ferocity in battle, Chi You was also worshiped as a war deity in ancient China. According to the Records of the Grand Historian, Qin Shi Huang worshiped Chi You as the God of War, and Liu Bang worshiped at Chi You's shrine before his decisive battle against Xiang Yu. In modern China, the Hall of the Three Grand Ancestors built in Xinzheng is dedicated to Huangdi, Yandi and Chi You who are collectively revered as the founding ancestors of the Chinese nation.

The Jiuli tribe, however, were chased out of the central region of China, and split into two smaller splinter tribes, the Miao (苗) and the Li (黎). The Miao moved southwest and the Li moved southeast, as the Huaxia race expanded southwards. During the course of Chinese history, the Miao and the Li were regarded as "barbarians" by the increasingly technologically and culturally advanced Han Chinese. Some fragments of these groups were assimilated into the Chinese during the Zhou Dynasty.[citation needed]

Yet, in other versions of the post-Jiuli migration, the people of Jiuli fragmented in 3 different directions. It is said Chi You had 3 sons, and after the fall of Jiuli, his eldest son led some people south, his middle son led some people north, and his youngest son remained in Zhuolu and was assimilated into the Huaxia culture. Those who were led to the south established the Sanmiao nation. Perhaps on account of this splitting into multiple groups, many Far Eastern peoples regard Chi You as their ancestor, and by the same token, many question the ethnicity of Chi You as exclusively Hmong or otherwise. The Koreans also acknowledge Chi You as an ethnic ancestor.

Mythology[edit]

According to the Chinese mythological account Classic of Mountains and Seas, Chiyou, with the giants, Jiuli tribes and evil spirits, rebelled against the Yellow Emperor at Zhuolu plains. Both sides used magical powers, but Chi You had the advantage of forged swords and halberds. Using his powers, Chiyou covered the battlefield in thick fog. Only with the help of a magical compass chariot could the Yellow Emperor's troops find their way through the mist. He also used his daughter, Nüba, the Drought Demon, to harm Chiyou's troops. Later on, Chiyou suffered more defeats and was captured. Only Yinglong, the winged dragon, being a brave servant of the Yellow Emperor, dared to slay him. Chi You's chains were transformed into oaks, while Yinglong was cursed to remain on earth forever.

References[edit]