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History of China
History of China
ANCIENT
3 Sovereigns and 5 Emperors
Xia Dynasty 2100–1600 BCE
Shang Dynasty 1600–1046 BCE
Zhou Dynasty 1045–256 BCE
 Western Zhou
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IMPERIAL
Qin Dynasty 221 BCE–206 BCE
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Three Kingdoms 220–280
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Jin Dynasty 265–420
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304–439
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420–589
Sui Dynasty 581–618
Tang Dynasty 618–907
  ( Second Zhou 690–705 )
5 Dynasties &
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907–960
Liao Dynasty
907–1125
Song Dynasty
960–1279
  Northern Song W. Xia
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Yuan Dynasty 1271–1368
Ming Dynasty 1368–1644
Qing Dynasty 1644–1911
MODERN
Republic of China 1912–1949
People's Republic
of China

1949–present
Republic
of China

(Taiwan)
1945–present
Historian's depiction of the Yellow Emperor

The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors (Chinese: 三皇五帝pinyin: Sānhuáng wǔdìWade-Giles: San-huang wu-ti) were mythological rulers and culture heroes of China during the period from c. 2852 BC to 2205 BC, which is the time preceding the Xia Dynasty.

The actual translation of 帝 is problematic in that it is most often translated using its modern sense, which did not arise until after the advent of an imperial state under Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇 Qínshĭhuáng). Its original meaning, and the most likely translation thereof, is that of supreme being, a kind of Übermensch, rather than 'emperor'. This is reflected in Shangdi (上帝), the supreme deity during the Shang dynasty. The character 帝 originally represented a way of wearing a liturgical mantle.

The Three Sovereigns

The Hall of the Three Sovereigns (三皇殿) in Changchun Si, a Taoist temple in Wuhan

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 Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian, in a chapter added by Sima Zhen, states that they were:

The Chunqiu yundou shu (春秋運斗樞) and Chunqiu yuanming bao (春秋元命苞) identify them as:

Fuxi and Nüwa are respectively the god and goddess, husband and wife credited with being the ancestors of humankind after a devastating flood. The invention of the Primal Arrangement of the Eight Trigrams (Xian Tian Ba Gua, 先天八卦) is attributed to Fuxi. Shennong invented farming and was the first to use herbs for medical purposes.

The I Ching starts like this: “In the old times of King Fuxi’s regime, he observed sky and the stars when he looked upwards, and researched the earth when he looked downwards, and watched the birds and beasts to see how they lived in their environment. He took examples from nearby and far away, and then made 8 Yin Yang signs (the 8 trigrams that constitute the Ba gua)to simulate the rules of universe...After Fuxi died, Shennong rose. He made Plow and taught people how to grow crops and fish. He invented money and market for the exchange of goods."

The Shangshu dazhuan (尚書大傳) and Baihu tongyi (白虎通義) replace Nüwa with Suiren (燧人), the inventor of fire. The Diwang shiji (帝王世紀) replaces Nüwa with the Yellow Emperor (黄帝), the supposed ancestor of all Han Chinese people.

See also

Preceded by
New creation
Dynasties in Chinese history
2852 BC - 2205 BC
Succeeded by
Xia Dynasty

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