Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors

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The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors were mythological leaders and heroes of China. They were said to have lived before and during the Xia Dynasty.

Three Sovereigns

The Three Sovereigns were considered gods, or at least superhuman. Each was credited with inventing some element of culture.

Fu Xi

Fu Xi (Chinese: 伏羲)) was the great father of China. He is credited with inventing language, writing, laws, crafting and government.

Nu Wa

Nu Wa (Chinese: 女媧)) was the great mother of China. She is credited with inventing civilization and the family. In some myths, she also created people.

Shen Nong

Shen Nong (Chinese: 神農)) was a god of the natural world. He is credited with inventing agriculture, herding, trade and medicine.

Five Emperors

The Five Emperors were human but considered morally perfect. Some of these men may have existed but most of them were mythical, designed to be ideal rulers.


Huangdi (Simplified: 黄帝; Traditional: 黃帝)) was said to be the first ruler, by consent of Fu Xi. While said to be human, he is often treated as a demigod, particularly by Daoists. He is identified with the earth phase and the center.


Zhuanxu (Simplified: 转虚; Traditional: 轉虛)) was a descendant of Huangdi who was credited with many cultural advancements, particularly astrology and astronomy. Of the Five Emperors, Zhuanxu was the one who most likely existed.


Shaohao (Chinese: 稍好)) was another descendant of Huangdi who ruled over his own kingdom. He founded that state when he was eighteen and ruled for eighty-four years.


Emperor Yao (Simplified: 肴; Traditional: 餚)) was the first ruler after the end of Huangdi's line. Said to be the most noble leader of his era, he was cited often by Confucius and appears in all pre-Han historical records.


Emperor Shun (Chinese: 吮)) was the son-in-law of Emperor Yao. According to legend, he established the Xia Dynasty.