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

Fuxi (Mandarin: [fǔ ɕí]; Chinese伏羲), also romanized as Fu-hsi, is a culture hero in Chinese legend and mythology, credited (along with his sister Nüwa 女娲) with creating humanity and the invention of hunting, fishing and cooking as well as the Cangjie system of writing Chinese characters c. 2,000 BCE. He was also known as Paoxi (t 庖犧, s 庖牺), also romanized as Pao-hsi. Fuxi was counted as the first of the Three Sovereigns at the beginning of the Chinese dynastic period. Fuxi was an ancient Chinese god who is said to have shown the ancient Chinese people how to domesticate animals.


Pangu was said to be the creation god in Chinese mythology. He was a giant sleeping in an egg of chaos. As he awoke, he stood up and divided the sky and the earth. Pangu then died after standing up, and his body turned into rivers, mountains, plants, animals, and everything else in the world, among which is a powerful being known as Hua Hsu. Hua Hsu gave birth to a twin brother and sister, Fuxi and Nüwa. Fuxi and Nüwa are said to be creatures that have faces of human and bodies of snakes.

Fuxi was known as the "original human" (although technically speaking he was not a human), and he was said to have been born in the lower-middle reaches of the Yellow River in a place called Chengji (possibly modern Lantian, Shaanxi province, or Tianshui, Gansu province).[1]

In reality, many Chinese people believe[citation needed] that Hua Hsu was a leader during the matriarchal society (ca. 2,600 BC) as early Chinese developed language skill while Fuxi and Nüwa were leaders in the early patriarchal society (ca. 2,600 BCE) while Chinese began the marriage rituals.

Creation legend[edit]

According to the Classic of Mountains and Seas, Fuxi and Nüwa were the original humans who lived on the mythological Kunlun Mountain (today's Huashan). One day they set up two separated piles of fire, and the fire eventually became one. Under the fire, they decided to become husband and wife. Fuxi and Nüwa used clay to create offsprings, and with the divine power they made the clay figures come alive.[1] These clay figures were the earliest human beings. Fuxi and Nüwa were usually recognized by Chinese as two of the Three Emperors in the early patriarchal society in China (ca. 2,600 BCE), based on the myth about Fuxi establishing marriage ritual in his tribe. The creation of human beings was a symbolic story of having a larger family structure that included the figure of a father.

Social importance[edit]

On one of the columns of the Fuxi Temple in Gansu Province, the following couplet describes Fuxi's importance: "Among the three primogenitors of Huaxia civilization, Fu Xi in Huaiyang Country ranks first."[1] During the time of his predecessor Nüwa, society was matriarchal.

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 Fu Xi 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 bone, wood, or bamboo. He instituted marriage and offered the first open-air sacrifices to heaven. A stone tablet, dated AD 160, shows Fuxi with Nüwa.

Traditionally, Fuxi is considered the originator of the I Ching (also known as the Yi Jing), 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 Yellow Emperor.

The Figurists viewed Fuxi as Enoch, the Biblical patriarch.


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 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.
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Mythological Emperor of China
c. 2852–2737 BCE
Succeeded by