Yellow Emperor — Culture Hero and Founder of Country in Chinese History

Yellow Emperor or Huang Di (about 2717 BC — 2599 BC), named Gongsun Xuanyuan, was an influential figure in Chinese culture. 


Together with his brother the Flame Emperor (Yan Di), they are respected as ancestors of Han People, the majority ethnic group of Chinese. 

Yellow Emperor (yellow represents the earth) was an exceptional Neolithic sovereign that defeated many primitive tribes through wars and established a united country.  


As a culture hero, Yellow Emperor and his officials made great contributions in inventing or developing Chinese Medicine, the ancient calendar, cultivating more species of food and animals, producing clothes, ships, and carts, as well as setting fundamental etiquettes of his country.


Music, military strategy, math, architecture were all well developed under his reign. 


Because of his extraordinary achievements, Yellow Emperor gradually apotheosized into an immortal with magical power and a mysterious ending, in both Chinese Mythology and Taoism Religion.

Portrait of Yellow Emperor Huang Di the ancient Chinese Sovereign in Neolithic Period

Rising of Yellow Emperor and His Tribe Youxiong


Yellow Emperor, the son of Lord Shaodian and Queen Fubao, was born as a genius. When he turned 20, he inherited his father’s tribe named Youxiong, and worked diligently training his people and developing the economy. 

He found and cultivated more types of crops and enriched the diet structure of Chinese food, tamed many types of wild animals, and had invented more sophisticated weaving tools, crop devices, weapons, martial arts, and building styles. 

His tribe kept growing and expanding when many other smaller ones were defeated, annexed, or complied with him.

Gradually, Flame Emperor (or Yan Di) felt threatened; soon, he and Yellow Emperor fought intensely three times. This was the Battle of Banquan, in which the Yellow Emperor won, and annexed the tribe of Flame Emperor. 

Their descendants formed the civilization of Huaxia (origin of Chinese Culture), and the Flame Emperor and Yellow Emperor together, became the honorable ancestors of Chinese Han people.

Painted Pottery Basin with Human and Fish Patterns of Yangshao Culture (Around 5000 BC — 3000 BC), Believed the Same Time and Place that Yellow Emperor Huang Di had Lived

Painted Pottery Basin with Human and Fish Patterns of Yangshao Culture (Around 5000 BC — 3000 BC), Believed the Same Time and Place that Yellow Emperor had Lived — National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Defeating of Strong Lord Chiyou in the Battle of Zhuolu

Till now, most tribes were under the reign of the Yellow Emperor, except Chiyou. 

In some documents, Chiyou was lord of a strong tribe named Jiuli in the east, while in others he had worked for, but later rebelled the Flame Emperor or the Yellow Emperor.  

Importantly, Chiyou was very aggressive, and his tribe obtained many powerful weapons. 

In mythical history, within Chiyou's army, there were 81 generals, including Chiyou himself, with a human’s head and animals’ body, and ate nothing but stones from rivers. They also gained assistance from God of Wind and Rain; additionally, many ghosts and monsters were serving in his troop as well, helping them initiate an attack using supernatural power. 

The Yellow Emperor, however, was a more intelligent monarch and a better general. 

He learned to produce advanced weapons, from those captured weapons of Chiyou's army and invented the Southward Pointing Cart to guide his soldiers in the dense mist that was created by the God of Wind. 

According to the Classic of Mountains and Seas, some deities of Mount Kunlun, the most powerful dragon Ying Long and Fairy of Drought all participated in the final battle; together with Yellow Emperor’s brave human soldiers and tamed animal fighters, including wolves, pandas, bears, and tigers, they finally defeated Lord Chiyou. 

Battle of Zhuolu in Chinese Mythical History

Battle of Zhuolu in Chinese Mythical History

Remarkable Reign of Yellow Emperor

After having achieved the final success, the Yellow Emperor became the most honorable sovereign, and established a basic regime with efficient administration officials and laws, as the rudiment of a real country. 

Yellow Emperor and his officials obtained advanced knowledge that brought people stable, pleasant lives. 

Within his realm, people followed the advanced calendar to do farm works, produced and wore proper clothes, kept livestock, applied herbs to treat sickness, constructed houses and cities to live, performed and enjoyed music, and obeyed basic etiquettes. 

Those achievements were the outcome of the hard work of the Yellow Emperor, his brilliant officials, as well as everyone who lived in his realm.

Ship Shaped Painted Pottery Pot of Yangshao Culture (Around 5000 BC — 3000 BC)

Ship Shaped Painted Pottery Pot of Yangshao Culture (Around 5000 BC — 3000 BC) — National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying)

In mythical history, they were also awards of deities. 

According to ancient mythical legends, a beautiful phoenix showed up in the secular world, carrying a picture that indicated the most important virtues required to be a king.  

Soon, a yellow dragon awarded the Yellow Emperor a magical book that included valuable knowledge regarding Chinese astrology, geology, medicine, divination. 

Either way, the Yellow Emperor passed on all of his knowledge to his people and brought them a great epoch.

Legendary Traveling and Mysterious Ending of Yellow Emperor

Seeing all of his people were living happily and peacefully, Yellow Emperor started to visit immortals and ask for more useful knowledge. 

During this period, he had held a worship ceremony on Mount Tai and performed Alchemy in Mount Huang.

Sacred Mount Tai of Shandong Province

Sacred Mount Tai of Shandong Province

When he was old, the Yellow Emperor built some ritual vessels named Ding, which then became an emblem of sovereign power and legal dominance in Chinese culture.

Right after all the Dings were finished, a dragon appeared in the sky, flew toward the Yellow Emperor, and announced that he made great contributions to the development of society and had finished his mission, it was time to go back. 

Then, the Yellow Emperor jumped onto the back of the dragon, and they disappeared into the sky. 

Eagle Shaped Pottery Tripod (Ding) of Yangshao Culture (Around 5000 BC — 3000 BC)

Eagle Shaped Pottery Tripod (Ding) of Yangshao Culture (Around 5000 BC — 3000 BC) — National Museum of China

The civilization that he established continued to develop and flourish in the next thousands of years.


His medical book, the Huangdi Neijing (Inner Canon of Huangdi) became the fundamental textbook of Traditional Chinese Medicine, he has been respected as an important deity of Taoism Religion. 

Besides, many temples were built throughout history to memorize Yellow Emperor.


Nowadays, tens of thousands of people still hold grand worship ceremonies in his mausoleums every year. 

Mausoleum of Yellow Emperor (Huang Di)

Mausoleum of Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) in Shaanxi Province