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Three August Ones and Five Emperors

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Title: Three August Ones and Five Emperors  
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Subject: Chinese sovereign, Chinese mythology, 29th century BC, Fu Xi, Nüwa, Shangqiu, Erlitou culture, Zhoukou, Five Emperors, Gyuwon Sahwa
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Three August Ones and Five Emperors


History of China
3 Sovereigns and 5 Emperors
Xia Dynasty c. 2100–c. 1600 BCE
Shang Dynasty c. 1600–c. 1046 BCE
Zhou Dynasty c. 1045–256 BCE
 Western Zhou
 Eastern Zhou
   Spring and Autumn period
   Warring States period
Qin Dynasty 221 BCE–206 BCE
Han Dynasty 206 BCE–220 CE
  Western Han
  Xin Dynasty
  Eastern Han
Three Kingdoms 220–280
  Wei, Shu and Wu
Jin Dynasty 265–420
  Western Jin 16 Kingdoms
  Eastern Jin
Southern and Northern Dynasties
Sui Dynasty 581–618
Tang Dynasty 618–907
  (Second Zhou 690–705)
5 Dynasties and
10 Kingdoms

Liao Dynasty
Song Dynasty
  Northern Song W. Xia
  Southern Song Jin
Yuan Dynasty 1271–1368
Ming Dynasty 1368–1644
Qing Dynasty 1644–1911
Republic of China 1912–1949
People's Republic
of China

Republic of
China on Taiwan


The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors (Chinese: ; pinyin: Sānhuáng wǔdì; Wade–Giles: San-huang wu-ti) were a group of mythological rulers and deities from ancient China during the period circa 2852 BC and seen as culture heroes[1] to 2070 BC. This period preceded the Xia Dynasty.[2]

In myth, the Three Sovereigns were demigods who used their abilities to help create mankind and impart essential skills and knowledge. The Five Emperors were exemplary sages possessed of great moral character.


Depending on the source, there are many variations of who classifies as the Three Sovereigns or the Five Emperors. There are six to seven known variations.[3] Many of the sources listed below were written from much later dynasties.

The following appear in different groupings of the Three Sovereigns: Fuxi (伏羲), Nüwa (女媧), Shennong (神農), Suiren (燧人), Zhurong (祝融), Gong Gong (共工), Heavenly Sovereign (天皇), Earthly Sovereign (地皇), Tai Sovereign (泰皇), Human Sovereign (人皇), and even the Yellow Emperor (黄帝).

The following appear in different groupings of the Five Emperors: Yellow Emperor (黃帝), Zhuanxu (顓頊), Emperor Ku (嚳), Emperor Yao (堯), Shun (舜), Shaohao (少昊), Taihao (太昊), and Yan Emperor (炎帝).

Three Sovereigns

The Three Sovereigns, sometimes known as the Three August Ones, were said to be god-kings or demigods who used their magical powers to improve the lives of their people. Because of their lofty virtue, they lived to a great age and ruled over a period of great peace. The Three Sovereigns are ascribed various identities in different Chinese historical texts. The Yellow Emperor is supposedly the ancestor of the Huaxia people.[4] The Mausoleum of the Yellow Emperor was established in Shaanxi Province to commemorate the ancestry legend.[4]

According to source Three Sovereigns
Records of the Grand Historian (史記), addition by Sima Zhen Heavenly Sovereign (天皇), Earthly Sovereign (地皇), Tai Sovereign (泰皇)[3]
Fu Xi (伏羲), Nüwa (女媧), Shennong (神農)
Sovereign series (帝王世系) Fu Xi (伏羲), Shennong (神農), Yellow Emperor (黃帝)[3]
The book of Lineages (世本) Fu Xi (伏羲), Shennong (神農), Yellow Emperor (黃帝)[3]
Baihu Tongyi (白虎通義) (1st variation)
Fu Xi (伏羲), Shennong (神農), Zhurong (祝融)[3]

(2nd variation)
Fu Xi (伏羲), Shennong (神農), Suiren (燧人)[3]
Fengsu TongYi (風俗通義) Fu Xi (伏羲), Nüwa (女媧), Shennong (神農)[3]
Yiwen Leiju (藝文類聚) Heavenly Sovereign (天皇), Earthly Sovereign (地皇); Human Sovereign (人皇)[3]
Tongjian Waiji (通鑑外紀) Fu Xi (伏羲), Shennong (神農), Gong Gong (共工)
Chunqiu yundou shu (春秋運斗樞)

Chunqiu yuanming bao (春秋元命苞)
Fu Xi (伏羲), Nüwa (女媧), Shennong (神農)
Shangshu dazhuan (尚書大傳) Fu Xi (伏羲), Shennong (神農), Suiren (燧人)
Diwang shiji (帝王世紀) Fu Xi (伏羲), Shennong (神農), Yellow Emperor (黃帝)

Five Emperors

According to source Five Emperors
Records of the Grand Historian (史記) Yellow Emperor (黃帝), Zhuanxu (顓頊), Emperor Ku (嚳), Emperor Yao (堯), Shun (舜)[3]
Sovereign Series (帝王世紀) Shaohao (少昊), Zhuanxu (顓頊), Emperor Ku (嚳), Emperor Yao (堯), Shun (舜)[3]
I Ching (易經) Taihao (太昊), Yan Emperor (炎帝), Yellow Emperor (黃帝), Emperor Yao (堯), Shun (舜)[3]

Creation myth

Chinese creation myths generally include Pangu. It is said that after his death his left eye became the sun, while the right eye became the moon. Different parts of his body became the world.[5] There is also the legend of the Four shi (四氏) who took part in creating the world. The four members are Youchao-shi (有巢氏), Suiren-shi (燧人氏), Fu Xi-shi (伏羲氏), and Shennong-shi (神農氏).[5]


These kings are said to have helped introduce the use of fire, taught people how to build houses and invented farming. The Yellow Emperor's wife is credited with the invention of silk culture. The discovery of medicine, the invention of the calendar and Chinese script are also credited to the kings. After their era, Yu the Great founded the Xia Dynasty.[2]


See also


External links

  • History of China
Preceded by
New creation
Dynasties in Chinese history
2852–2205 BCE
Succeeded by
Xia Dynasty
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