Originally posted by Aianawa
The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow Thearch, or by his Chinese name Huangdi (/ˈhwɑːŋ ˈdiː/), is a deity (shen) 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 (Chinese: 五方上帝; pinyin: Wǔfāng Shàngdì).[note 1] Calculated by Jesuit missionaries on the basis of Chinese chronicles and later accepted by the twentieth-century promoters of a universal calendar starting with the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi's traditional reign dates are 2697–2597 or 2698–2598 BCE.
Huangdi's cult became prominent in the late Warring States and early Han dynasty, when he was portrayed as the originator of the centralized state, as a cosmic ruler, and as a patron of esoteric arts. A large number of texts – such as the Huangdi Neijing, a medical classic, and the Huangdi Sijing, a group of political treatises – were thus attributed to him. Having waned in influence during most of the imperial period, in the early twentieth century Huangdi became a rallying figure for Han Chinese attempts to overthrow the rule of the Qing dynasty, which they considered foreign because its emperors were Manchu people. To this day the Yellow Emperor remains a powerful symbol within Chinese nationalism. Traditionally credited with numerous inventions and innovations – ranging from the Chinese calendar to an early form of football – the Yellow Emperor is now regarded as the initiator of Chinese culture.
1.1 "Huangdi": Yellow Emperor, Yellow Thearch
1.2 Xuanyuan and Youxiong
1.3 Other names
3 Origin of the myth
4 History of Huangdi's cult
4.1 Earliest mention
4.2 Warring States period
4.3 The state of Qin
4.4 The Shiji version
4.5 Imperial era
4.6 In Taoism
4.7 Twentieth century
4.7.1 Late Qing
4.7.2 Republican period
4.8 Modern significance
5 Elements of Huangdi's myth
6 Meaning as a deity
6.1 Symbol of the centre of the universe
6.2 As ancestor
7 Traditional dates
8 Cultural references
9 See also
11.1 Works cited
11.2 Further reading
Temple of Huangdi in Xinzheng, Zhengzhou, Henan
"Huangdi": Yellow Emperor, Yellow Thearch
Until 221 BCE when Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty coined the title huangdi (皇帝) – conventionally translated as "emperor" – to refer to himself, the character di 帝 did not refer to earthly rulers but to the highest god of the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BCE) pantheon. In the Warring States period (c. 475–221 BCE), the term di on its own could also refer to the deities associated with the five Sacred Mountains of China and colors. Huangdi (黃帝), the "yellow di", was one of the latter. To emphasize the religious meaning of di in pre-imperial times, historians of early China commonly translate the god's name as "Yellow Thearch" and the first emperor's title as "August Thearch", in which "thearch" refers to a godly ruler.
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 the earth phase, 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 BCE), where the Yellow Emperor's reign was seen to be governed by earth. The character huang 黃 ("yellow") was often used in place of the homophonous huang 皇, which means "august" (in the sense of 'distinguished') or "radiant", giving Huangdi attributes close to those of Shangdi, the Shang 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 "Xuan Yuan" (traditional Chinese: 軒轅; simplified Chinese: 轩辕; pinyin: Xuān Yuán). 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. The 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 in Chinese, the star being associated with 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 (黃龍 Huánglóng), Huangdi's animal form.
Huangdi was also referred to as "Youxiong" (有熊; 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 eagle-faced Thunder God (雷神 Léishén) in a 1923 drawing, punisher of those who go against the order of Heaven
Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian describes the Yellow Emperor's ancestral name as Gongsun (公孫).
In Han dynasty texts, the Yellow Emperor is also called upon as the "Yellow God" (黃神 Huángshén). Certain accounts interpret him as the incarnation of the "Yellow God of the Northern Dipper" (黄神北斗 Huángshén Běidǒu),[note 2] another name of the universal god (Shangdi 上帝 or Tiandi 天帝). According to a definition in apocryphal texts related to the Hétú 河圖, the Yellow Emperor "proceeds from the essence of the Yellow God".
As a cosmological deity, the Yellow Emperor is known as the "Great Emperor of the Central Peak" (中岳大帝 Zhōngyuè Dàdì), and in the Shizi as the "Yellow Emperor with Four Faces" (黃帝四面 Huángdì Sìmiàn). In old accounts the Yellow Emperor is identified as a deity of light (and his name is explained in the Shuowen jiezi to derive from guāng 光, "light") and thunder, and as one and the same with the "Thunder God" (雷神 Léishén), who in turn, as a later mythological character, is distinguished as the Yellow Emperor's foremost pupil, such as in the Huangdi Neijing.
Map of tribes and tribal unions in Ancient China, including tribes of Huang Di (Yellow Emperor), Yan Di (Flame Emperor) and Chiyou
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 Shennong. Sima Qian's 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 historical figures. Their historicity started to be questioned in the 1920s by historians such as 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 current of historiography, 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 dynasty's 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
Twentieth-century statue of the Yellow Emperor on display at the National Palace Museum in Taipei
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 黃 ("yellow") either was a variant Chinese character for huang 皇 ("august") or was used as a way to avoid the naming taboo 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 the Yan Emperor) 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 mythology." 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 dynasty overthrew the Shang dynasty in the eleventh century BCE, 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 BCE Chinese 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 ruling clans in the "Zhou dynasty culture sphere" shared common ancestry.
History of Huangdi's cult
A section of the poem from the Tung Shing
Explicit accounts of the Yellow Emperor started to appear in Chinese texts the Warring States period. "The most ancient extant reference" to Huangdi is an inscription on a bronze vessel made during the first half of the fourth century BCE by the royal family (surnamed Tian 田) of the state of Qi, a powerful eastern state.
Harvard University historian Michael Puett writes that the Qi bronze inscription was one of several references to the Yellow Emperor in the fourth and third centuries BCE 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.
Warring States period
Cro-Magnon is no longer a classification