Battle of Zhuolu

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Battle of Zhuolu
Date~2500 BC

Decisive Yanhuang victory

  • Initiation of the Huaxia civilization
  • Exile and subjugation of the Jiuli tribes
Yanhuang tribe Jiuli tribes
Commanders and leaders
Yellow Emperor
Yan Emperor
8,000–15,000 72–81 tribes, roughly estimated around 15,000–26,000
Casualties and losses
~1,200–3,000 Nearly entire invading force; 3,000 in the initial battle, 7,000+ in the retreat
Map of tribes and tribal unions in Ancient China, including tribes of Huang Di (Yellow Emperor), Yan Di (Flame Emperor) and Chiyou. The location of Battle of Zhuolu is also shown.

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 Shanxi.

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.


In prehistoric China, the bear tribe of Yellow Emperor rose to power on the plains of Guanzhong and merged with Yan Emperor's Shennong tribe 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. Chiyou'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 Chiyou.

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 Chiyou led 72 to 81 tribes against the Yanhuang tribes in a thick fog. The Yellow Emperor sent tribes under the totems of the black bear (), brown bear (),[2] pixiu (),[a][3][4][5] and tigers ()[b][9] 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 Chiyou in Hebei.


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, Chiyou was also worshiped as a war deity in ancient China. According to the Records of the Grand Historian, Qin Shi Huang worshipped Chiyou as the God of War, and Liu Bang worshiped at Chiyou'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 Chiyou who are collectively revered as the founding ancestors of the Chinese nation.

The Jiuli tribes that didn't submit to the rule of Yellow Emperor, however, were chased out of the central region of China, and split into two smaller splinter groups, the Miao () and the Li (). The Miao moved southwest and the Li moved southeast, as the victorious 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 Chiyou 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 Chiyou as their ancestor, and by the same token, many question the ethnicity of Chiyou as exclusively Hmong or otherwise. Some Koreans who believe Hwandan Gogi as an authentic text claim Chiyou is an ancestor of Koreans, however, popular mainstream studies of Korea believe that Chiyou has no connection to Koreans.


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 Chiyou 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 Daemon, too counter Chiyou's tactics and harm Chiyou's troops. Later on, Chiyou suffered more defeats and was captured; he was either slain by Yinglong (應龍, lit. "Responsive Dragon")[10] or Nüba, who could not return to heaven.[11]


  1. ^ possibly male leopards and female leopards
  2. ^ According to Erya and Shuowen Jiezi, the 貙 chū looks like a raccoon dog;[6][7] yet Guo Pu's commentaries on Erya indicate that in his time the chū denoted a dog-sized tiger-liked beast with markings like a raccoon dog.[8]


  1. ^ Greg Woolf (2007). Ancient civilizations: the illustrated guide to belief, mythology, and art. Barnes & Noble. p. 213. ISBN 978-1-4351-0121-0.
  2. ^ Zhang, Shuheng (2019), “Three Ancient Words for Bear”, in Mair, Victor, editor, Sino-Platonic Papers, issue 294
  3. ^ Shuowen Jiezi "Radical 豸" "貔:豹屬". tr: "Pí: belongs to leopard [grouping]"
  4. ^ Schuessler, Axel. 2007. An Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese. University of Hawaii Press. p. 412
  5. ^ "Hikyū Beast". quote: "The mythological dragon-headed, lion-bodied Pìxiū 貔貅 (also spelled 豼貅) were traditionally depicted in China as a male-female pair, one with a single horn (male, Pì 貔) and the other with two horns (female, Xiū 貅)"
  6. ^ Erya "Elucidations on the Beasts" quote "貙,獌似貍。 [...] 貙,似貍。"
  7. ^ Xu Shen SWJZ "radical 豸" quote: "貙:貙獌,似貍者。从豸區聲。"
  8. ^ Erya - Commentated "Chapter 10 - 貙" quote: "郭雲:“今貙虎也。大如狗,文如貍。”"
  9. ^ Li Shizhen, Ben Cao Gang Mu, Volume IX: Fowls, Domestic and Wild Animals, Human Substances p. 1061 Quote: "郡國志云:藤州夷人往往化貙。貙,小虎也,有五指。" translation: "The Jun guo zhi states: 'The tribal people in Teng zhou ever so often transform into chu [貙]. Chu [貙] are small tigers with five fingers'."
  10. ^ Classics of Mountains and Seas "Classics of the Great Wilderness: North". quote: "應龍已殺蚩尤,又殺夸父,乃去南方處之,故南方多雨。" translation: "The Responsive Dragon already slew Kuafu, and also slew Chiyou; he then went to the South and dwelt there, that's why in the South it rains so much."
  11. ^ Classics of Mountains and Seas "Classics of the Great Wilderness: North". quote: "蚩尤作兵伐黃帝,黃帝乃令應龍攻之冀州之野。應龍畜水,蚩尤請風伯、雨師,縱大風雨。黃帝乃下天女曰魃。雨止,遂殺蚩尤。魃不得復上,所居不雨。" translation: "Chiyou made weapons and attack the Yellow Emperor; so the Yellow Emperor commanded Yinglong to strike him at a wilderness in Ji province. Yinglong hoarded water, so Chiyou invoked the Earl of Wind and Master of Rain, who unleashed strong winds and heavy rainfall. The Yellow Emperor then let his heavenly daughter, called the Drought-Daemon, descend. The rain was stopped, and eventually Chiyou was slain. Drought-Daemon could not ascend back to heaven, so where she dwells (Mount Xikun) has no rain."