Guest Author - Caroline Baker
Known as the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi is the fabled first Emperor of China. Over 4000 years ago, along the Yangtze River in China, clans coexisted in constant war and conflict. Each clan had its own order, own language, and own culture.
Huangdi was not the first ruler of China, however he was the first they bestowed the title of Emperor upon. The first rulers of China developed the basis of civilization, such as domesticating animals and spoken language.
No one knows for certain where Huangdi came from. However, under him China formed into a single entity. Some legends have him conquering barbarians, fighting over 40 other tribes and even defeating mythical monsters to unite the Chinese people. He was known as the Yellow Emperor in honor for his contributions to agriculture. Thus, yellow forever became the imperial color.
In addition to farming, his wife, Lei Zu, is attributed for developing the idea of growing silkworms and creating the silk trades. He is noted as the creator of Chinese Medicine. The origins of Taoism and Confucianism trace their roots back to this Emperor. Even today, there is a religion in Taiwan based on the idea of the Yellow Emperor.
This all powerful man had created the Chinese written system, coined the first Chinese monetary system, created the concept of states and government. There is even some stories that tell of him sending off one of his entertainers to create the wonderful instruments that epitomize Chinese music.
His reign is attributed with the creation of bows that made it easier for him to win battles, chopsticks for eating, a compass, and mud bricks for homes. The first year of his reign is noted as the first year in the Chinese calendar, in honor of him creating the concepts of the lunar system and the zodiacs. In one legend, he even created tea.
Stories continue to say that all Chinese surnames were all originated from his twenty-five sons. He sent fourteen of his sons out to different parts of China to establish settlements, each taking on a surname based on the geographic location they ruled.
One day, a yellow dragon descended from the sky. He had come to take the Emperor back to heaven. The people were saddened and did not want him to leave. They tried to grab at him, but all that remained were a few bits of his clothes and his hat. These items were buried in present day Shaanxi Providence and people still travel there to pay homage to him during the Qingming Festival.
He supposedly ruled for a hundred years. After his departure, he was followed by his line, his grandson and then his great grandson. When his great-great grandson takes the throne, Yao, he becomes the first of the next three famous rulers, known as the Sage Kings.
Historians have studies Huangdi for most of China's history. Much of what survives today seems to have been written during either the Han or Zhou dynasty, nearly 2000 years after the Emperor supposedly lived. His name, huang means "godking" and di means "sage king". It would not be until the Qin Dynasty that another Emperor took the name "Huangdi" again.
Still, this legendary Emperor is as real to the Chinese people as any other historical icon. Many Chinese today still call themselves "descendants of the Yellow Emperor".