|One of Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors|
Changyi, father of Zhuanxu
|Literal meaning||"Yellow Emperor" / "Yellow Deity"|
The Yellow Emperor or Yellow Thearch (in Chinese Huángdì, formerly romanized as Huang Ti and Hwang Ti),[note 1] also known as Huangshen (黄神 "Yellow God") is a deity in Chinese religion, one of the legendary Chinese sovereigns and culture heroes included among the mytho-historical Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors and cosmological Five Forms of the Highest Deity (五方上帝 Wǔfāng Shàngdì) schemes.[note 2] Tradition holds that Huangdi reigned from 2697 to 2597 or 2698 to 2598 BC.
He is also known by the names and epithets of Xuanyuan Huangdi (轩辕黄帝 "Xuanyuan the Yellow Deity") or Xuanyuanshi (轩辕氏), Huangshen Beidou (黄神北斗 "Yellow God of the Northern Dipper"), or as a cosmological deity as the Zhongyuedadi (中岳大帝 "Great Deity of the Central Peak") and in the Shizi as Huangdi Simian (黄帝四面 "Yellow Emperor with Four Faces").
Huangdi's cult was particularly prominent in the late Warring States and early Han period, when he was portrayed as the originator of the centralized state, a cosmic ruler, and a patron of esoteric arts. Traditionally credited with numerous inventions and innovations, the Yellow Emperor is now regarded as the initiator of Chinese civilization, and said to be the ancestor of all Huaxia Chinese.
- 1 Names
- 2 Historicity
- 3 Origin of the myth
- 4 Elements of Huangdi's myth
- 5 History of Huangdi's cult
- 6 Traditional dates
- 7 Popular culture
- 8 Film
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
"Huangdi": Yellow God, Yellow Emperor, Yellow Deity
In the late Warring States period, the Yellow Emperor was integrated into the cosmological scheme of the Five Phases, in which the color yellow represents earth, the Yellow Dragon, and the center. The correlation of the colors in association with different dynasties was mentioned in the Lüshi Chunqiu (late 3rd century BC), where the Yellow Emperor's reign was seen to be governed by earth.
Certain accounts interpret the Yellow Emperor as the incarnation of the "Yellow God of the Northern Dipper" (黄神北斗 Huángshén Běidǒu[note 3]), another name of the universal God, Shangdi 上帝 or Tiandi 天帝, thus making an ontological distinction between the two. The character 黄 huáng, for "yellow", also means, by homophony and shared etymology with 皇 huáng, "august", "creator" and "radiant", other attributes of the supreme God.
Xuanyuan and Youxiong
The Records of the Grand Historian, compiled by Sima Qian in the first century BCE, gives the Yellow Emperor's name as "Xuanyuan" (s 轩辕, t 軒轅, p Xuānyuán). Third-century scholar Huangfu Mi, who wrote a work on the sovereigns of antiquity, commented that Xuanyuan was the name of a hill where Huangdi had lived and that he later took as a name. Qing-dynasty scholar Liang Yusheng (梁玉繩; 1745–1819) argued instead that the hill was named after the Yellow Emperor. Xuanyuan is also the name of the star Regulus (Alpha Leonis) in Chinese, the star being associated to Huangdi in traditional astronomy. He is also associated to the broader constellations Leo and Lynx, of which the latter is said to represent the body of the Yellow Dragon (黄龙 Huánglóng), Huangdi's animal form.
Huangdi was also referred to as "Youxiong" (c 有熊, p Yǒuxióng). This name has been interpreted as either a place name or a clan name. According to British sinologist Herbert Allen Giles (1845–1935), that name was "taken from that of [Huangdi's] hereditary principality". William Nienhauser, a modern translator of the Records of the Grand Historian, states that Huangdi was originally the head of the Youxiong clan, which lived near what is now Xinzheng in Henan. Rémi Mathieu, a French historian of Chinese myths and religion, translates "Youxiong" as "possessor of bears" and links Huangdi to the broader theme of the bear in world mythology. Ye Shuxian has also associated the Yellow Emperor with bear legends common across northeast Asia people as well as the Dangun legend.[page needed]
The Chinese historian Sima Qian – and much Chinese historiography following him – considered the Yellow Emperor to be a more historical figure than earlier legendary figures such as Fu Xi, Nüwa, and the Yan Emperor. His Records of the Grand Historian begins with the Yellow Emperor, while passing over the others.
Throughout most of Chinese history, the Yellow Emperor and the other ancient sages were considered to be real historical figures. Their historicity started to be questioned in the 1920s by historians like Gu Jiegang, one of the founders of the Doubting Antiquity School in China. In their attempts to prove that the earliest figures of Chinese history were mythological, Gu and his followers argued that these ancient sages were originally gods who were later depicted as humans by the rationalist intellectuals of the Warring States period. Yang Kuan, a member of the same historiographical current, noted that only in the Warring States period had the Yellow Emperor started to be described as the first ruler of China. Yang thus argued that Huangdi was a later transformation of Shangdi, the supreme god of the Shang pantheon.
Also in the 1920s, French scholars Henri Maspero and Marcel Granet published critical studies of China's accounts of high antiquity. In his Danses et légendes de la Chine ancienne ["Dances and legends of ancient China"], for example, Granet argued that these tales were "historicized legends" that said more about the time when they were written than about the time they purported to describe.
Most scholars now agree that the Yellow Emperor originated as a god who was later represented as a historical person. K.C. Chang sees Huangdi and other cultural heroes as "ancient religious figures" who were "euhemerized" in the late Warring States and Han periods. Historian of ancient China, Mark Edward Lewis speaks of the Yellow Emperor's "earlier nature as a god", whereas Roel Sterckx, a professor at University of Cambridge, calls Huangdi a "legendary cultural hero".
Origin of the myth
Major origin hypotheses
The origin of Huangdi's mythology is unclear, but historians have formulated several hypotheses about it. Yang Kuan, a member of the Doubting Antiquity School (1920s–40s), argued that the Yellow Emperor was derived from Shangdi, the highest god of the Shang dynasty. Yang reconstructs the etymology as follows: Shangdi 上帝 → Huang Shangdi 皇上帝 → Huangdi 皇帝 → Huangdi 黄帝, in which he claims that huang 黄 ("yellow") either was a graphic variant of huang 皇 ("august") or was used as a taboo character for the latter. Yang's view has been criticized by Mitarai Masaru and by Michael Puett.
Historian Mark Edward Lewis agrees that huang 黄 and huang 皇 were often interchangeable, but, disagreeing with Yang, he claims that huang meaning "yellow" appeared first. Based on what he admits is a "novel etymology" likening huang 黄 to the phonetically close wang 尪 (the "burned shaman" in Shang rainmaking rituals), Lewis suggests that "Huang" in "Huangdi" might originally have meant "rainmaking shaman" or "rainmaking ritual." Citing late Warring States and early Han versions of Huangdi's myth, he further argues that the figure of the Yellow Emperor originated in ancient rain-making rituals in which Huangdi represented the power of rain and clouds, whereas his mythical rival Chiyou (or Yandi) stood for fire and drought.
Also disagreeing with Yang Kuan's hypothesis, Sarah Allan finds it unlikely that such a popular myth as the Yellow Emperor's could have come from a taboo character. She argues instead that pre-Shang "'history'," including the story of the Yellow Emperor, "can all be understood as a later transformation and systematization of Shang myth." In her view, Huangdi was originally an unnamed "lord of the underworld" (or the "Yellow Springs"), the mythological counterpart of the Shang sky deity Shangdi. At the time, Shang rulers claimed that their mythical ancestors, identified with "the [ten] suns, birds, east, life, [and] the Lord on High" (i.e., Shangdi), had defeated an earlier people associated with "the underworld, dragons, west." After the Zhou overthrew the Shang in the eleventh century BC, Zhou leaders reinterpreted Shang myths as meaning that the Shang had vanquished a real political dynasty, which was eventually named the Xia dynasty. By Han times – as seen in Sima Qian's account in the Shiji – the Yellow Emperor, who as lord of the underworld had been symbolically linked to the Xia, had become a historical ruler whose descendants were thought to have founded the Xia.
Given that the earliest extant mention of the Yellow Emperor was on a fourth-century bronze inscription claiming that he was the ancestor of the royal house of the state of Qi, Lothar von Falkenhausen speculates that Huangdi was invented as an ancestral figure as part of a strategy to claim that all clans in the Zhou cultural sphere shared common ancestry.
Taiwanese scholar Chang Tsung-tung has pointed out, based on a comparison of the vocabulary of Old Chinese in Bernhard Karlgren's Grammata Serica (1940) with Proto-Indo-European etymologies in Julius Pokorny's Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (1959), that there was a strong influence of Indo-European on the basic vocabulary of Old Chinese around 2400 BCE (subtracting two or three centuries from Huangdi's traditional years to compensate for what he calls "hyperbolic predating"). Chang finds similarities of Old Chinese especially with Germanic: "Among Indo-European dialects, Germanic languages seem to have been mostly akin to Old Chinese.... Germanic preserved the largest number of cognate words also to be found in Chinese.... Chinese and northern Germanic languages are poor in grammatical categories".
Chang claims that the Shang dynasty was founded by Indo-European conquerors and identifies Huangdi as an Indo-European deity, suggesting that the "yellow" in his name should be interpreted as referring to the blond of his hair. A nomad from the steppes, the Yellow Emperor promoted the construction of roads and carriages pulled by horses and oxen, and established a centralized state.
Elements of Huangdi's myth
As with any myth, there are numerous versions of Huangdi's story, emphasizing different themes and interpreting the main character's significance in different ways.
The Shiji version
The figure of Huangdi had appeared sporadically in Warring States texts. Sima Qian's Shiji (or Records of the Grand Historian, completed around 94 BC) was the first work to turn these fragments of myths into a systematic and consistent narrative of the Yellow Emperor's "career". The Shiji's account was extremely influential in shaping how the Chinese viewed the origin of their history.
The Shiji begins its chronological account of Chinese history with the life of Huangdi, whom it presents as a sage sovereign from antiquity. It recounts that Huangdi's father was Shaodian and his mother was Fu Pao (附寶). The Yellow Emperor had four wives. His first wife Leizu of Xiling bore him two sons. His other three wives were his second wife Fenglei (封嫘), third wife Tongyu (彤魚) and fourth wife Momu (嫫母). The emperor had a total of 25 sons, 14 of whom began their own surnames and clans. The oldest was Shaohao or Xuanxiao, who lived in Qingyang by the Yangtze River. Changyi, the youngest, lived by the Ruo River. When the Yellow Emperor died, he was succeeded by Changyi's son, Zhuanxu.
According to Huangfu Mi (215–282), the Yellow Emperor was born in Shou Qiu ("Longevity Hill"), which is today on the outskirts of the city of Qufu in Shandong. Early on, he lived with his tribe near the Ji River – Edwin Pulleyblank states that "there seems to be no record of a Ji River outside the myth" – and later migrated to Zhuolu in modern-day Hebei. He then became a farmer and tamed six different special beasts: the bear (熊), the brown bear (s 罴, t 羆), the pí (貔) and xiū (貅) (which later combined to form the mythical Pixiu), the ferocious chū (貙), and the tiger (虎).
Huangdi is sometimes said to have been the fruit of extraordinary birth, as his mother Fubao conceived him as she was aroused, while walking in the country, by a lightning bolt from the Big Dipper. She delivered her son on the mount of Shou (Longevity) or mount Xuanyuan, after which he was named.
In traditional Chinese accounts, the Yellow Emperor is credited with improving the livelihood of the nomadic hunters of his tribe. He teaches them how to build shelters, tame wild animals, and grow the Five Grains, although other accounts credit Shennong with the last. He invents carts, boats, and clothing.
Other inventions credited to the emperor include the Chinese diadem (冠冕), throne rooms (宮室), the bow sling, early Chinese astronomy, the Chinese calendar, math calculations, code of sound laws (音律), and cuju, an early Chinese version of football. He is also sometimes said to have been partially responsible for the invention of the guqin zither, although others credit the Yan Emperor with inventing instruments for Ling Lun's compositions.
In traditional accounts, he also goads the historian Cangjie into creating the first Chinese character writing system, the Oracle bone script, and his principal wife Leizu invents sericulture and teaches his people how to weave silk and dye clothes.
At one point in his reign the Yellow Emperor allegedly visited the mythical East sea and met a talking beast called the Bai Ze who taught him the knowledge of all supernatural creatures. This beast explained to him there were 11,522 (or 1,522) kinds of supernatural creatures.
The Yellow Emperor and the Yan Emperor were both leaders of a tribe or a combination of two tribes near the Yellow River. The Yan Emperor hailed from a different area around the Jiang River, which a geographical work called the Shuijingzhu identified as a stream near Qishan in what was the Zhou homeland before they defeated the Shang. Both emperors lived in a time of warfare. The Yan Emperor proving unable to control the disorder within his realm, the Yellow Emperor took up arms to establish his domination over various warring factions.
According to traditional accounts, the Yan Emperor meets the force of the "Nine Li" (九黎) under their bronze-headed leader, Chi You, and his 81 horned and four-eyed brothers and suffers a decisive defeat. He flees to Zhuolu and begs the Yellow Emperor for help. During the ensuing Battle of Zhuolu the Yellow Emperor employs his tamed animals and Chi You darkens the sky by breathing out a thick fog. This leads the emperor to develop the south-pointing chariot, which he uses to lead his army out of the miasma. He next calls upon the drought demon Nuba to dispel Chi You's storm. He then destroys the Nine Li and defeats Chi You. Later he engages in battle with the Yan Emperor, defeating him at Banquan and replacing him as the primary ruler.
The Yellow Emperor was said to have lived for over a hundred years before meeting a phoenix and a qilin and then dying. Two tombs were built in Shaanxi within the Mausoleum of the Yellow Emperor, in addition to others in Henan, Hebei and Gansu.
Modern-day Chinese people sometimes refer to themselves as the "Descendants of Yan and Yellow Emperor", although non-Han minority groups in China may have their own myths or not count as descendants of the emperor.
Deity of the centre of the universe
As the Yellow Deity with Four Faces (黄帝四面 Huángdì Sìmiàn) he represents the centre of the universe and vision of the unity which controls the four directions. It is explained in the Huangdi Sijing ("Four Scriptures of the Yellow Emperor") that regulating "heart within brings order without". In order to reign one must "reduce himself" abandoning emotions, "drying up like a corpse", never allowing oneself to be carried away, as according to the myth the Yellow Emperor himself did during his three years of refuge on Mount Bowang in order to find himself. This practice creates an internal void where all the vital forces of creation gather, and the more indeterminate they remain and the more powerful they will be.
It is from this centre that equilibrium and harmony emanate, equilibrium of the vital organs which becomes harmony between the person and the environment. As sovereign of the centre, the Yellow Emperor is the very image of the concentration or re-centering of the self. By self-control, taking charge of his own body one becomes powerful without. The centre is also the vital point in the microcosm by means of which the internal universe viewed as an altar is created. The body is a universe, and by going into himself and by incorporating the fundamental structures of the universe, the sage will gain access to the gates of Heaven, the unique point where communication between Heaven, Earth and Man can occur. The centre is the convergence of within and without, the contraction of chaos on the point which is equidistant from all directions. It is the place which is no place, where all creation is born and dies.
The Great Deity of the Central Peak (中岳大帝 Zhōngyuèdàdì) is another epithet representing Huangdi as the hub of creation, the axis mundi (which in Chinese mythology is Kunlun) that is the manifestation of the divine order in physical reality, that opens to immortality.
According to the Mausoleum of the Yellow Emperor in modern-day Shaanxi, the Yellow Emperor shares ancestry with that of a Central Plains race that went by the name Ji from their position along the Ji River.
Later sources claimed that several sovereigns and dynasties descended from the Yellow Emperor: Ku, Yao, and Shun, the Xia dynasty, the Shang dynasty, the Zhou dynasty, the Qin dynasty, the Han dynasty, the Cao Wei, and the Song dynasty.
According to the Book of Wei and Dong Ba[clarification needed], the Cao family of Cao Wei were descended from Huangdi via Emperor Zhuanxu. They were of the same lineage as Emperor Shun. Another account says that the Cao family was descended from Emperor Shun. Ritual advisor Jiang Ji (蔣濟) objected to this account, claiming it was people of the Tian 田 surname, not the Cao, who were descended from Shun. He also claimed Gui 媯 was Shun's family name.
Gun, Yu, Zhuanxu, Zhong, Li, Shujun, and Yuqiang are various emperors, gods, and heroes whose ancestor was Huangdi. The Huantou, Miaomin, and Quanrong peoples were said to be descended from Huangdi.
Most Chinese noble families claimed descent from Huangdi. Claiming descent from Huangdi and the other five emperors was set during the Western Han dynasty in Sima Qian's time. Sima claimed in the Shiji that 14 of Huangdi's 25 sons had received twelve different family names. The practice of claiming Huangdi as an ancestor was well established in Tang and Song China, with many Chinese families writing about their ancestry from Huangdi's sons and great-grandsons, Emperor Shun, and Emperor Yao. During the Tang dynasty, non-Han rulers also claimed descent from the Yellow Emperor, for individual and national prestige, as well as to connect themselves to the Tang.
Most Chinese genealogies trace their family ultimately to Huangdi. Lynn Pan claims that descent from Huangdi is commonly claimed by some overseas Chinese clans. Many Chinese clans in overseas areas will have genealogies displaying their descent from Huangdi with their different surnames being explained by name changes claimed to have derived ultimately from the 14 surnames of Huangdi's descendants. Many overseas Chinese and Chinese who live in China use genealogies which show the Huangdi as their ancestor to reinforce their sense of being Chinese.
History of Huangdi's cult
In his Shiji, Sima Qian claims that the state of Qin started worshipping the Yellow Emperor in the fifth century BC, along with Yandi, the Fiery Emperor. Explicit accounts of the Yellow Emperor started to appear in Chinese texts in the Warring States period (early fifth century – 221 BC). "The most ancient extant reference" to Huangdi is an inscription on a bronze vessel made in the first half of the fourth century BC by the royal family (surnamed Tian 田) of the state of Qi, a powerful eastern state.
Harvard historian Michael Puett writes that the Qi bronze inscription was one of several references to the Yellow Emperor in the fourth and third centuries BC within accounts of the creation of the state. Noting that many of the thinkers who were later identified as precursors of the Huang–Lao – "Huangdi and Laozi" – tradition came from the state of Qi, Robin D. S. Yates hypothesizes that Huang–Lao originated in that region.
The Yellow Emperor was credited with an enormous number of cultural legacies and esoteric teachings. While Taoism is often regarded in the West as arising from Laozi, Chinese Taoists claim the Yellow Emperor formulated many of their precepts. In addition the texts mentioned above, he was also credited with composing the Four Books of the Yellow Emperor (黄帝四经 Huángdì Sìjīng), the Yellow Emperor's Book of the Hidden Symbol (黄帝阴符经 Huángdì Yīnfújīng), and the "Yellow Emperor's Four Seasons Poem" included in the Tung Shing fortune-telling almanac. The Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon (黄帝内经 Huángdì Nèijīng), which presents the doctrinal basis of traditional Chinese medicine, was also named after him.
"Xuanyuan (+ number)" is also the Chinese name for Regulus and other stars of the constellations Leo and Lynx, of which the latter is said to represent the body of the Yellow Dragon. In the Hall of Supreme Harmony in Beijing's Forbidden City, there is also a mirror called the "Xuanyuan Mirror".
The Yellow Emperor became a powerful national symbol in the last decade of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) and remained dominant in Chinese nationalist discourse throughout the Republican period (1911–49). The early twentieth century is also when the Yellow Emperor was first referred to as the ancestor of all Chinese.
Starting in 1903, radical publications started using the projected date of his birth as the first year of the Chinese calendar. Intellectuals like Liu Shipei (1884–1919) found this practice necessary in order to "preserve the [Han] race" (baozhong 保種) from both Manchu dominance and foreign encroachment. Anti-Manchu revolutionaries like Chen Tianhua (1875–1905), Zou Rong (1885–1905), and Zhang Binglin (1868–1936) tried to foster the racial consciousness they thought was missing from their compatriots, and thus depicted the Manchus as racially inferior barbarians who were unfit to rule over Han Chinese. Chen's widely circulated pamphlets claimed that the "Han race" formed one big family descended from the Yellow Emperor. The first issue (Nov. 1905) of the Minbao 民報 ("People's Journal"), which was founded in Tokyo by revolutionaries of the Tongmenghui, featured the Yellow Emperor on its cover and called Huangdi "the first great nationalist of the world." It was one of several nationalist magazines that featured the Yellow Emperor on their cover in the early twentieth century. The fact that Huangdi meant "yellow" emperor also served to buttress the theory that he was the originator of the "yellow race".
Many historians interpret this sudden popularity of the Yellow Emperor as a reaction to the theories of French scholar Albert Terrien de Lacouperie (1845–94), who in a book called The Western Origin of the Early Chinese Civilization, from 2300 B.C. to 200 A.D. (1892) had claimed that Chinese civilization was founded around 2300 BC by Babylonian immigrants. Lacouperie's "Sino–Babylonianism" posited that Huangdi was a Mesopotamian tribal leader who had led a massive migration of his people into China around 2300 BC and founded what later became Chinese civilization. European sinologists quickly rejected these theories, but in 1900 two Japanese historians, Shirakawa Jirō and Kokubu Tanenori, omitted these criticisms and published a long summary that presented Lacouperie's views as the most advanced Western scholarship on China. Chinese scholars were quickly attracted by "the historicization of Chinese mythology" that the two Japanese authors advocated.
Anti-Manchu intellectuals and activists who searched for China's "national essence" (guocui 國粹) adapted Sino-Babylonianism to their needs. Zhang Binglin explained Huangdi's battle with Chi You as a conflict opposing the newly arrived civilized Mesopotamians to backward local tribes, a battle that transformed China into one of the most civilized places in the world. Zhang's reinterpretation of Sima Qian's account "underscored the need to recover the glory of early China." Liu Shipei also presented these early times as the golden age of Chinese civilization. In addition to tying the Chinese to an ancient center of human civilization in Mesopotamia, Lacouperie's theories suggested that China should be ruled by the descendants of Huangdi. In a controversial essay called History of the Yellow Race (Huangshi 黃史), which was published serially from 1905 to 1908, Huang Jie (黃節; 1873–1935) claimed that the "Han race" was the true master of China because it was descended from the Yellow Emperor. Reinforced by the values of filial piety and the Chinese patrilineal clan, the racial vision defended by Huang and others turned vengeance against the Manchus into a duty owed to one's ancestors.
The Yellow Emperor continued to be revered after the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, which overthrew the Qing dynasty. In 1912, for instance, banknotes carrying Huangdi's effigy were issued by the new Republican government. After 1911, however, the Yellow Emperor as national symbol changed from first progenitor of the Han race to ancestor of China's entire multi-ethnic population. Under the ideology of the Five Races in Unity, Huangdi became the common ancestor of the Han, the Manchus, the Mongols, the Tibetans, and the Hui Muslims, who were said to form the Zhonghua minzu, a broadly understood Chinese nation. Sixteen state ceremonies were held between 1911 and 1949 to Huangdi as the "founding ancestor of the Chinese nation" (中華民族始祖) and even "the founding ancestor of human civilization" (人文始祖).
The cult of the Yellow Emperor was forbidden in the People's Republic of China until the end of the Cultural Revolution. The prohibition was halted during the 1980s when the government reversed itself and resurrected the "Yellow Emperor cult". Starting in the 1980s, the cult was revived and phrases relating to the "Descendants of Yan and Huang" were sometimes used by the Chinese state when referring to people of Chinese descent. In 1984, for example, Deng Xiaoping argued for Chinese reunification saying "Taiwan is rooted in the hearts of the descendants of the Yellow Emperor," whereas in 1986 the PRC acclaimed the Chinese-American astronaut Taylor Wang as the first of the Yellow Emperor's descendants to travel in space. In the first half of the 1980s, the Party had internally debated whether this usage would make ethnic minorities feel excluded. After consulting experts from Beijing University, the Chinese Academy of Social Science, and the Central Nationalities Institute, the Central Propaganda Department recommended on March 27, 1985, that the Party speak of the Zhonghua Minzu – the "Chinese nation" broadly defined – in official statements, but that the phrase "sons and grand-sons of Yandi and the Yellow Emperor" could be used in informal statements by party leaders and in "relations with Hong Kong and Taiwanese compatriots and overseas Chinese compatriots".
After retreating to Taiwan in late 1949 at the end of the Chinese Civil War, Chiang Kai-shek ruled that the Republic of China would keep paying homage to the Yellow Emperor on April 4, the National Tomb Sweeping Day, but neither he nor the three presidents that succeeded him ever paid homage in person. In 2009 President Ma Ying-jeou presided over these rites in person and proclaimed that both Chinese culture and common descent from the Yellow Emperor united people from Taiwan and the mainland. Later the same year, Lien Chan – a former Vice President of the Republic of China who is now Honorary Chairman of the Kuomintang – and his wife Lien Fang Yu paid homage at the Mausoleum of the Yellow Emperor in Huangling, Yan'an, in mainland China.
Gay studies researcher Louis Crompton has cited Ji Yun's report in his popular Notes from the Yuewei Hermitage (1800), that some claimed the Yellow Emperor was the first Chinese to take male bedmates, a claim that Ji Yun dismissed. Ji Yun argued that this was probably a false attribution.
Although the traditional Chinese calendar did not mark years continuously, some Han-dynasty astronomers tried to determine the years of the life and reign of the Yellow Emperor. In 78 BC, under the reign of Emperor Zhao, an official called Zhang Shouwang (張壽望) calculated that 6,000 years had passed since the time of Huangdi; the court refused his proposal for reform, countering that only 3,629 years had elapsed. In the proleptic Julian calendar, the court's calculations would have placed the Yellow Emperor in the late 38th century BC rather than in the 27th century BC that is conventional nowadays.
During their missions in China in the seventeenth century, the Jesuits tried to determine what year should be considered the epoch of the Chinese calendar. In his Sinicae historiae decas prima (first published in Munich in 1658), Martino Martini (1614–1661) dated the royal ascension of Huangdi to 2697 BC, but started the Chinese calendar with the reign of Fuxi, which he claimed started in 2952 BC. Philippe Couplet's (1623–1693) "Chronological table of Chinese monarchs" (Tabula chronologica monarchiae sinicae; 1686) also gave the same date for the Yellow Emperor. The Jesuits' dates provoked great interest in Europe, where they were used for comparisons with Biblical chronology. Modern Chinese chronology has generally accepted Martini's dates, except that it usually places the reign of Huangdi in 2698 BC (see next paragraph) and omits Huangdi's predecessors Fuxi and Shennong, who are considered "too legendary to include."
Helmer Aslaksen, a mathematician who teaches at the National University of Singapore and specializes in the Chinese calendar, explains that those who use 2698 BC as a first year probably do so because they want to have "a year 0 as the starting point", or because "they assume that the Yellow Emperor started his year with the Winter solstice of 2698 BC", hence the difference with the year 2697 BC calculated by the Jesuits.
Starting in 1903, radical publications started using the projected date of birth of the Yellow Emperor as the first year of the Chinese calendar. Different newspapers and magazines proposed different dates. Jiangsu, for example counted 1905 as year 4396 (making 2491 BC the first year of the Chinese calendar), whereas the Minbao (the organ of the Tongmenghui) reckoned 1905 as 4603 (first year: 2698 BC). Liu Shipei (1884–1919) created the Yellow Emperor Calendar, now widely used, to show the unbroken continuity of the Han race and Han culture from earliest times. There is no evidence that this calendar was used before the 20th century. Liu's calendar started with the birth of the Yellow Emperor, which was reckoned to be 2711 BC. When Sun Yat-sen declared the foundation of the Republic of China on January 2, 1912, he decreed that this was the 12th day of the 11th month of year 4609 (epoch: 2698 BC), but that the state would now be using the solar calendar and count 1912 as the first year of the Republic. Chronological tables published in the 1938 edition of the Cihai (辭海) dictionary followed Sun Yat-sen in using 2698 as the year of Huangdi's accession; this chronology is now "widely reproduced, with little variation."
- The emperor appears as an ancestor hero in the strategy game Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom made by Sierra Entertainment. In the game he is a patron of acupuncturist and silk weaver, and has the skills needed for leading men into battle, especially the Chariot-Fort soldiers.
- The emperor serves as the hero in Jorge Luis Borges' story, "The Fauna of the Mirror". British fantasy writer China Miéville used this story as the basis for his novella "The Tain", which describes a post-apocalyptic London. "The Tain" was included in Miéville's short-story collection "Looking For Jake" (2005).
- The popular Chinese role-playing video game series for the PC, Xuanyuan Jian, revolves around the legendary sword used by the emperor.
- The emperor is an important NPC in the action RPG Titan Quest, The player must reach the emperor to learn the truth about Typhon's imprisonment. He also reveals a bit of information about the war between the gods and the titans, while also revealing that he has been following the players actions since the beginning of the Silk Road
- A 2016 Chinese drama film about the story of the Yellow Emperor is entitled "Xuan Yuan: The Great Emperor" (轩辕大帝).
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- 帝 Dì can be translated as "emperor", "lord", or "thearch", a term signifying a god-king or incarnate god from the Greek theos ("deity") + arche ("principle", "origin"), thus meaning "divine principle", "divine origin".
- In Chinese thought mythological history and cosmology are two points of view to describe the same reality. In other words, mythology and history and theology and cosmology are all interrelated.
- A 斗 dǒu in Chinese is an entire semantic field meaning the shape of a "dipper", as the Big Dipper (北斗 Běidǒu), or a "cup", signifying a "whirl", and also has martial connotations meaning "fight", "struggle", "battle".
- Herbert Allen Giles (1845–1935), A Chinese Biographical Dictionary (London: B. Quaritch, 1898), p. 338; cited in Veith 2002, p. 5.
- Sima Qian, Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji 史記, c. 100 BC), Chapter 1, "Wudi benji" 五帝本紀 ("Basic Annals of the Five Emperors"); iFeng.com (retrieved on 2010-08-22). (Chinese)
- Pregadio (2013), p. 504, vol. 2 A-L: Each sector of heaven (the four points of the compass and the center) was personified by a di 帝 (a term which indicates not only an emperor but also an ancestral "thearch" and "god").
- Chang (2000).
- Olberding, Amy (2012). Mortality in Traditional Chinese Thought. SUNY Press. ISBN 1438435649.. p. 20
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- Lewis 2009a, p. 556: "modern scholars of myth generally agree that the sage kings were partially humanized transformations of earlier, supernatural beings who figured in shamanistic rituals, cosmogonic myths or tales of the origins of tribes and clans."
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- Allan 1991, pp. 64, 73, 175: "In the Xia annals of the Shiji, the Xia ancestry is traced from Yu 禹 back to Huang Di, the Yellow Lord"; "the lord of the underworld and Yellow Springs and thus closely associated with the Xia"; "By the Han, their [the Xia] ancestor, the Yellow Emperor, originally the lord of the underworld, had been transformed into an historical figure who, with his descendant Zhuan Xu, ruled before Yao".
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- Hon 2010, p. 150 "Seen in this light, Sino-Babylonianism became a call to arms for all descendants of Huang Di to wage a racial war against the Manchus".
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|Mythological Emperor of China
c. 2698 BC – c. 2598 BC