Sima Qian’s History book Shi Ji‘s fascinating chapter on the ‘Annals of the Five Emperors’, doesn’t feel like mythology at all. It reads like genuine early Chinese history studded with names and facts about their early patriarchs!
Of course the powerful rulers of the entire ancient world and offspring of Ouranoh–Manu-Noah, like Cronus-Ham, Yapheti Japheth, Mizraim-Zeus, Naptuhim-Neptune, Atlas, Poseidon-Sidon, etc., were all considered ‘gods’ by all the early peoples and civilisations, just because these patriarchs lived a very long time! Much longer than their own 3rd, 4th generational offspring, who actually died before them. Noah 600 years old at the Flood lived another 350 years more. Shem died at 600! Mizraim-Zeus, acc. to Arab literature, made it until 700!
When you read this histography of the earliest Chinese patriarchs who migrated into ShanXI or Xian, near the yellow river basin and plateau, you see how they were all related to each other and that there were already emperors and that most of them until Emperor Yao were the offspring of Huang Di! It almost sounds like a dynasty.
Also HuangDi’s forebear ShenNong is mentioned, who was 7-14 generations before Huang Di, but lived long enough to be his friend and mentor! Read this amazing account written around 100 BC, some 2000 years after the facts, and check the names with our diagram of relationships between them. ENJOY!
Annals of the Five Emperors 五帝本紀
[Western Han] 109 BC-91 BC Sima Qian Partial translation adapted from Herbert J. Allen’s “Ssŭma Ch’ien’s Historical Records” (Royal Asiatic Society, 1894). http://ctext.org/shiji
Huangdi (Yellow emperor) was the son of Shaodian. His surname was Gongsun, and his prename Xuanyuan. Born a genius he could speak when a baby, as a boy he was quick and smart, as a youth simple and earnest, and when grown up intelligent.
In the time of Xuanyuan, Shennong became enfeebled. The princes made raids on each other and harassed the people, but Shennong could not chastise them, so Xuanyuan exercised himself in the use of weapons of war, so as to be able to punish irregularities. The princes all came and did homage, but Chiyou, the fiercest of all, could not be subdued. Yandi (Flame emperor) wished to oppress the princes, so they turned to Xuanyuan, who practised virtue, marshalled his men, controlled the five elements, cultivated the five kinds of grain, pacified the nations, and went over all parts of his country. Training black bears, grizzly bears, foxes, panthers, lynxes, and tigers, he, with their aid, fought with ‘Flame emperor’ in the desert of Banquan, and, after three battles, realised his wishes.
Chiyou was a rebel, who did not obey the Emperor’s command, so Huangdi, levying an army of the princes, fought against Chiyou, captured, and slew him in the desert of Zhuolu. The princes all agreed that Xuanyuan should be the Emperor in place of Shennong, under the title Huangdi. Those in the empire who would not submit, Huangdi pursued and chastised, and when they were subdued he left them. He made cuttings in hills, opened roads, and was never at rest.
Eastward his empire extended to the sea, Ball hill, and the ancestral Dai mountain; westward to ‘Hollow cave’ and Cock’s-head hills; southward to the Yangtze river and Xiongxiang hill; while in the north he drove out the Xunyu. He made a treaty on Kettle hill, and built a city on the slopes of Zhuolu. He was constantly changing his residence, while his troops formed an encampment about him. He ordered his officers to be named after cloud omens. He appointed a chief and deputy superintendent over international affairs, and the various states being at peace, he worshipped the demons and spirits of the hills and streams with the feng and shan ceremonies in numbers. He obtained a valuable tripod, and made calculations of future events, appointing ‘Chief of the winds,’ ‘Strength-governor,’ ‘Everfirst,’ and ‘Great Swan,’ to direct the people to act in accordance with the celestial and terrestrial arrangements, the dark and bright prognostications, the disputations on life and death, the planting of the crops, plants, and trees in their seasons, and the transformations of birds, beasts, insects, and moths. He also prepared a record of the movements of the sun, moon, and stars; the flow of the tides; and the properties of clay, stones, metals, and gems. He devoted much careful attention to these things, and his observation was applied to ascertaining how fire, water, wood, and other elements could be used economically. There was an auspicious omen of the earth’s energy, and he was therefore called ‘Yellow god.’
Huangdi had twenty-five sons, of whom fourteen received surnames.
Huangdi lived at Xuanyuan hill, and married a woman of ‘Western range’ land called Leizu, who was his principal wife, and bore him two sons, both of whose descendants held Imperial sway. The eldest, named Xuanxiao, or Qingyang, dwelt on the Jiang stream, and the other, who was named Changyi, dwelt on the Ruo stream. Changyi married a woman from the Shu hills (Sichuan) named Changpu, who bore him a son, Gaoyang, who possessed the virtue of a sage. Huangdi died, and was buried at Qiaoshan, and his grandson, Changyi’s son Gaoyang, came to the throne under the title Emperor Zhuanxu.
Emperor Zhuanxu, or Gaoyang, was Huangdi’s grandson and Changyi’s son. Calm and unfathomable in his designs, and thoroughly versed in all matters, he exercised his talents in cultivating the ground; he recorded in their seasons the movements of the heavenly bodies, relied on spiritual influences in framing laws, taught reform by controlling the passion nature, and sacrificed with purity and sincerity. Northward his rule extended to ‘Dark mound,’ southward to Annam, westward to the moving sands, and eastward to ‘Coiling tree’. Of animate and inanimate things, of spirits great and small, of those on whom the sun and moon shone, all were equally subject to him.
Emperor Zhuanxu had a son, Chiungchan. Zhuanxu died, and Xuanxiao’s grandson Gaoxin came to the throne under the title of Emperor Ku.
Emperor Ku, or Gaoxin was Huangdi’s great grandson, his father being Jiaoji, whose father was Xuanxiao, whose father was Huangdi. Neither Xuanxiao, nor Jiaoji came to the throne, but Gaoxin did hold Imperial sway. Gaoxin was a clansman of Zhuanxu.
Being born a genius Gaoxin spoke from babyhood. He distributed his benefits everywhere, regardless of self. Intelligent enough to understand things far off, and clever enough to search into minutiae, he followed Heaven’s laws, and knew the people’s needs. Humane yet dignified, kind yet truthful; he practised self-culture and all men submitted to him. He secured the revenue of the land, and spent it economically. He governed and instructed all his subjects, and they profited by the instruction. He made a calendar of the days and months past as well as future. He knew all about spirits, and worshipped them respectfully. His appearance was elegant, and his virtue eminent. His movements were well-timed, and his dress gentlemanly. Emperor Ku was thoroughly impartial all over his empire. There was no one on whom the sun and moon shone, or on whom the rain and wind blew, who was not devoted to him.
Emperor Ku married a daughter of Chenfeng, who bore a son named Fangxun (‘The highly meritorious’). He also married a daughter of Juzi, who bore a son Zhi. Emperor Ku died, and Zhi reigned in his stead. Zhi reigned badly and died, and his brother ‘The highly meritorious one’ reigned under the title of Emperor Yao.
Emperor Yao was highly meritorious. His benevolence was like that of heaven, and his wisdom that of a god; when approached he was genial as the sun, and was looked out for as clouds in dry weather. He was rich without being proud, and esteemed yet not lax. He wore a yellow hat and plain silk dress, and drove a red car drawn by white horses. He was able to display his super-eminent virtue, by bringing into close alliance the nine degrees of kindred, and they being rendered harmonious, he forthwith regulated the people, and his people having become enlightened, the various states were at peace
He then commanded Xi and He in reverent accordance with their observations of the wide heavens to record in a calendar the laws affecting the sun, moon, stars, and zodiacal spaces, and respectfully to communicate to the people the seasons (adapted for labour). He also commanded Xi’s younger brother to reside at Yuyi, called the bright valley, so as to hail with respect the rising sun, and arrange the labours of the spring; and the day being of medium length, and the culminating star (the central one of the) ‘Bird’ quarter of the heavens, he was to determine mid-spring, when the people begin to disperse, and birds and beasts to breed and copulate. He further commanded Xi’s third brother to reside at the southern frontier to arrange the transformations of summer, and respectfully observe the extreme limit (of the shadow), and the day being at its longest, and the star in the zenith that called ‘Fire,’ he was to fix the exact period of midsummer, when the people are most widely dispersed, birds moult, and beasts change their coats. He further commanded He’s younger brother to reside in the west at a place called Dark Valley to respectfully convoy the setting sun, and arrange the completing labours of the autumn, and the night being of medium length, and the culminating star Xu (β in Aquarius) to determine mid-autumn, when people begin to feel comfortable, and birds and beasts look smooth and glossy. He further commanded He’s third brother to reside in the northern region in what was called the sombre capital, to examine the hidden things, and the day being at its shortest, and the culminating star Mao (ε in Pleiades) to determine midwinter, when people get into cosy corners, and the coats of birds and beasts are downy and thick. The year consisted of 366 days, an intercalary month being added to adjust the four seasons. Authentic directions were given to the various officers, and their several labours commenced
Yao said, ‘Who can obediently manage these matters?’ Fangqi said, ‘There is your adopted son Danzhu, who is developing his intelligence.’ Yao said, ‘Oh! he is unscrupulous and wicked; I cannot employ him.’ He said again, ‘Who will do it?’ Huandou said, ‘The minister of works, who is generally popular, and has displayed merit, could be employed.’ Yao said, ‘The minister of works is talkative; if he is employed, his depravities, although he is apparently respectful, would overspread the heavens, he will not do.’ He said further, ‘Alas! O president of the four mountains, the waters of the flood rise up to heaven, and in their vast expanse encompass the mountains, and overtop the hills; the common people are troubled about it. Is there a capable man whom I could set to deal with the matter?’ They all said, ‘Gun might do it.’ Yao said, ‘Gun disobeys orders, and ruins his companions. He will not do.’ The President said, ‘Ah! well! try him, and if he is found useless, have done with him.’ Whereupon Yao adopting his suggestion, employed Gun for nine years, but his work was not completed.
Yao said, ‘Alas! O president of the four mountains, I have been on the throne seventy years; you are able to carry out the decrees, do you occupy my throne.’ The president replied, ‘My moral qualities are of such a low order that I should disgrace the Imperial throne.’ Yao said, ‘You must all recommend one of your esteemed relations, or even an obscure stranger.’ All the courtiers said to Yao, ‘There is an unmarried man of the lower orders called Shun of Yu.’ Yao said, ‘Yes, I have heard of him, what is he like?’ The president said, ‘He is the son of a blind man; his father was unprincipled, his mother insincere, and his brother arrogant, but he managed by his dutiful conduct to be reconciled to them, so they have gradually improved, and not been extremely wicked.’ ‘Shall I try him?’ said Yao. He then married his two daughters to Shun, and watched his behaviour towards them. Shun sent the two women down to the north of the Gui river, and treated them with the ceremony due to them as his wives.
堯善之，乃使舜慎和五典，五典能從。乃遍入百官，百官時序。賓於四門，四門穆穆，諸侯遠方賓客皆敬。堯使舜入山林川澤，暴風雷雨，舜行不迷。堯以為聖，召舜曰：「女謀事至而言可績，三年矣。女登帝位。」舜讓於德不懌。正月上日，舜受終於文祖。文祖者，堯大祖也。Yao praised Shun, and told him to carefully harmonize the five human relationships and when they could be obeyed. These became universal among the various officials, who at the proper times arranged the visitors at the four gates in the right order, and when the visitors at the four gates were submissive, the princes and strangers from distant regions became one and all respectful. Yao sent Shun into the hills and forests among rivers and swamps, but although fierce winds and thunderstorms prevailed, Shun did not miss his way. Yao then taking Shun to be a holy man, called him and said, ‘For three years your deliberations have been excellent, and I have found that your words can be carried into practice. You shall ascend the Imperial throne.’ Shun yielded in favour of some one more virtuous than himself, and was unhappy, but on the first day of the first month Shun accepted Yao’s resignation in the temple of the accomplished ancestor, who was Yao’s great ancestor.
The Emperor Yao being old ordered that Shun should be associated with him in the government of the Empire in order to observe Heaven’s decrees. Shun thereupon examined the gem-adorned armillary sphere, and the jade transverse, so as to adjust the position of the ‘Seven Directors.’ He then offered a special sacrifice to the Supreme Ruler, sacrificed purely to the six honoured ones, looked with devotion to the hills and rivers, and worshipped with distinctive rites the hosts of spirits. He called in the five tokens, chose a lucky month and day, gave audience to the president of the four mountains, and all the governors, returning the tokens in due course. In the second month of every year he went eastward on a tour of inspection, and on reaching Daizong he presented a burnt-offering, and sacrificed in order to the hills and rivers. He then gave audience to the chieftains of the East, putting in accord their seasons and months, and rectifying the days. He rendered uniform the standard tubes, the measures of length and capacity, and the scales; and regulated the five kinds of ceremonies. The five gems, the three kinds of silks, the two living animals, and one dead one were brought as presents to the audience, but the five implements were returned at the conclusion. In the fifth month he went to the south, in the eighth month to the west, and in the eleventh month northward on his tours of inspection; in each case observing the same ceremonies as before, and on his return he went to the temple of the ancestral tablets, and offered up a single ox. Every five years there was one tour of inspection, and four audiences of the princes at court, when they presented a full verbal report, which was intelligently tested by their works, and chariots and robes given according to their deserts. Shun instituted the division of the Empire into twelve provinces, and deepened the rivers. He gave delineations of the statutory punishments, enacting banishment as a mitigation of the five chief punishments, the whip being employed for public officers, the stick in schools, and a money penalty being inflicted for redeemable crimes. Inadvertent offences, and those caused by misfortune were to be pardoned, and those who offended presumptuously or repeatedly were to be punished with death. ‘Be reverent, be reverent’ (said he), ‘and in the administration of the law be tranquil.’
Huandou approached, and spoke about the minister of works. ‘I cannot even give him a trial as a workman,’ said Yao, ‘for he is really profligate.’ The president of the four mountains recommended Gun as the proper person to look after the deluge. Yao regarded it as impracticable, but the president vehemently requested that he might be tried, so the trial was made, but without good results. Of old the people had felt that it was undesirable that the three Miao tribes in the districts of Jiang Huai, and Jing should so often rise in rebellion; so Shun on his return spoke to the emperor requesting that the minister of works might be banished to the ridge of Yu to reform the Northern Ti tribes, that Huandou might be detained on mount Chong, to reform the Southern barbarians, that the chief of the three Miao tribes might be removed to Sanwei (three cliffs) to reform the Western Rong people, and that Gun might be imprisoned for life on Mount Yu to reform the Eastern barbarians. These four criminals being thus dealt with, universal submission prevailed throughout the empire.
Yao had sat on the throne seventy years, when he secured Shun’s services for twenty years; then, being old, he directed that Shun should be associated with him in the government of the empire, and presented him to Heaven. Yao had abdicated the throne twenty-eight years when he died, and the people mourned for him as for a parent, no music being played for three years throughout the empire, for which reason he was remembered. Yao knew that his son Danzhu was a worthless fellow, who was not fit to reign, and so the authority was conferred on Shun. As it was conferred on Shun, the empire got the advantage and Danzhu was injured. If it had been conferred on Danzhu, the empire would have been injured, and Danzhu gained the advantage. Yao said, ‘We certainly cannot cause the empire to suffer loss, and the advantage go to an individual.’ In the end the empire was given over to Shun. After the death of Yao, when the three years’ mourning was over, Shun gave way to Danzhu, and retired to the south of the southern river. When the princes went to an audience at court, they did not present themselves before Danzhu, but before Shun; litigants did not go before Danzhu, but Shun; and the singers did not sing in praise of Danzhu, but of Shun. Shun said, ‘It is from Heaven.’ Afterwards he went to the capital, sat on the Imperial throne, and was styled Emperor Shun.
Shun of Yu was named Chonghua (double splendour); Chonghua’s father was Gusou; Gusou’s father was Qiaoniu (bridge cow); Qiaoniu’s father was Juwang; Juwang’s father was Jingkang; Jingkang’s father was Qiongchan; Qiongchan’s father was Emperor Zhuanxu; Zhuanxu’s father was Changyi. From him to Shun we have seven generations. From Qiongchan to Emperor Shun they were all insignificant common people.
Shun’s father, Gusou, was blind, and his mother having died, Gusou married again and had a son, Xiang, who was arrogant. Gusou loved his second wife, and frequently tried to kill Shun, who avoided him; when he made slight mistakes he was punished, yet he obediently served his father, stepmother, and brother, and was day by day generous, careful, and never negligent.
Shun was a native of Jizhou, ploughed on Li mountain, fished in Thunder lake, made pots on the bank of the river, fashioned various articles at Shouqiu, and went now and then to Fuxia. Shun’s father, Gusou, was unprincipled, his mother insincere, and his brother, Xiang, arrogant. They all tried to kill Shun, who was obedient, and never by chance failed in his duty as a son, or his fraternal love. Though they tried to kill him they did not succeed, and when they sought him he got out of the way.
When Shun was twenty years old he was noted for his filial piety, and when he was thirty the Emperor Yao asked if he was fit to reign. The presidents united in bringing Shun of Yu forward as an able man, so Yao gave him his two daughters in marriage in order to observe his conduct at home, and bade his nine sons put him in charge of a post so as to note his behaviour abroad. Shun lived within the bend of the Kuei river, and was especially careful. Yao’s two daughters did not dare, on account of their rank, to be proud, but waited on Shun’s relations, and were constant in their wifely duties, while Yao’s nine sons became more and more generous. When Shun ploughed on Li mountain, the inhabitants yielded the boundaries; when he fished in Thunder lake, the men on the lake yielded to him the best place; and when he made pots on the bank of the river, his vessels had no holes or flaws in them. If he dwelt in a place for a year he formed an assemblage, in two years it became a town, and in three a metropolis. Yao gave Shun clothes made of fine grass-cloth, and a lute, and built him a granary and shed for his oxen and sheep. Gusou again tried to kill Shun by making him go up and plaster the roof of the granary, while he set fire to it from below, but Shun, protecting himself from the fire with a couple of bamboo hats, came down and escaped with his life. Gusou after this told Shun to dig a well, which he did, making a secret tunnel at the side to get out at. When Shun had gone right in, Gusou and Xiang filled up the well with earth, but Shun came out by the secret passage. Gusou and Xiang rejoiced, thinking that Shun was dead, and Xiang said, ‘The plot was mine, but I will go shares with my father and mother; I will take Shun’s wives, Yao’s two daughters, and the lute as my share, while the oxen, sheep, granary and shed shall belong to my parents.’ He remained, however, in Shun’s house playing on the lute, and when Shun went thither Xiang, startled and not well-pleased to see him, said, ‘I was just thinking of you, and getting very anxious.’ ‘Quite so,’ said Shun, ‘and so you possessed yourself of all these things.’ Shun again served Gusou, loved his brother, and was still more careful in his conduct. Yao thereupon tested Shun as to the five cardinal rules, and the various officers were under control.
In former days the Emperor Gaoyang had eight talented sons; the world benefited by them, and they were called the eight benevolent ones. The Emperor Gaoxin had also eight talented sons, and men called them the eight virtuous ones. Of these sixteen men after ages have acknowledged the excellence, and not let their names fall to the ground. In the time of Yao he was not able to raise them to office, but Shun raised the eight benevolent ones to office, and made them superintend the land department and direct all matters, arranging them according to their seasons. He also raised the right virtuous ones to office, employing them to spread throughout the country a knowledge of the duties pertaining to the five social relationships, for fathers became just, mothers loving, elder brothers sociable, younger ones respectful, and children dutiful; within the empire there was peace, and beyond it submission.
In ancient days the Emperor Hong (Huangdi) had a son devoid of ability, who shut himself off from duty, and was a villain in secret, delighting in the practice of the worst vices, and all men called him Hundun (Chaos). (The Emperor) Shaohao had a descendant devoid of ability, who overthrew good faith, hated loyalty, extolled specious and evil talk, and all the people called him Qiongji (Monster). Zhuanxu had a son devoid of ability, who would receive no instruction and acknowledge no good words, and all the people called him Taowu (Block). These three men everyone was distressed about until the time of Yao, but Yao could not send them away. Jinyun had a son devoid of ability, who was greedy in eating and drinking, and pursued wealth blindly. All the people called him Taotie (Glutton), hated and compared him to the three other wicked men. Shun received visitors at the four gates, but banished these four wicked ones to the four borders of the empire to manage hobgoblins; and those at the four gates rightly said there were no wicked men among them.
Shun went to the great plains at the foot of the mountains, and, amid violent wind, thunder, and rain, did not go astray. Yao then knew that Shun was fit to accept the empire, and being old, caused Shun to be associated with him in the government, and when he went on a tour of inspection Shun was promoted and employed in the administration of affairs for twenty years; and Yao having directed that he should be associated in the government, he was so associated for eight years. Yao died, and when the three years’ mourning was over, Shun yielded to Danzhu, but the people of the empire turned to Shun. Now Yu, Gaoyao, Xie, Houji, Boyi, Kui, Long, Chui Yi, and Pengzu were all from the time of Yao promoted to office, but had not separate appointments. Shun having then proceeded to the temple of the accomplished ancestor, deliberated with the president of the four mountains, threw open the four gates, and was in direct communication with officers in all four quarters of the empire, who were eyes and ears to him. He ordered the twelve governors to talk of the Emperor’s virtue, to be kind to the virtuous, and keep the artful at a distance, so that the barbarians of the south might lead on one another to be submissive. He said to the president of the four mountains, ‘Is there anyone who can vigorously display his merits, and beautify Yao’s undertakings, and whom I can make prime minister?’ They all said, ‘There is Baron Yu, the superintendent of works,’ he can beautify the Emperor’s labours. Shun said, ‘Ah! yes, Yu, you have put in order the water and the land, but in this matter you must exert yourself.’ Yu did obeisance with his head to the ground, while declining in favour of Hou Ji (Millet), Xie, or Gaoyao. Shun said, ‘Yes; but do you go and set about it.’ Shun said, ‘Qi, the black-haired people begin to be famished. Do you, Prince Millet, sow in their seasons the various kinds of grain.’ He also said, ‘Xie, the people do not love one another, and the five orders of relationship are not observed. You, as minister of instruction, must carefully diffuse abroad those five lessons of duty, but do so with gentleness.’ He also said, ‘Gaoyao, the southern barbarians are disturbing the summer region, while robbers, murderers, villains, and traitors abound. Do you, as minister of crime, exercise repression by use of the five kinds of punishment—for the infliction of which there are three appointed places—and the five banishments with their several places of detention, and the three degrees of distance. Be intelligent and you will inspire confidence.’ Shun said, ‘Who can direct the workmen?’ They all said ‘Chui can do it’; so he made Chui minister of works. Shun said, ‘Who can superintend my uplands and lowlands, pastures and woods, birds and beasts?’ They all said, ‘Yi is the man’; so Yi was made imperial forester. Yi did obeisance with his head to the ground, and declined in favour of the officials Fir, Tiger, Black Bear, and Grizzly Bear. Shun said, ‘Go and act harmoniously.’ Fir, Tiger, Black Bear, and Grizzly Bear were accordingly his assistants. Shun said, ‘Ah! president of the four mountains, is there anyone who can superintend the three ceremonies?’ They all said, ‘Baron Yi is the man.’ Shun said, ‘Ah! Baron Yi, I will make you arranger of the ancestral temple. Day and night be careful, be upright, be pure.’ Baron Yi declined in favour of Kui or Long, but Shun said, ‘Let it be so,’ and made Kui director of music and teacher of youth. ‘Be straightforward’ (he added) ‘and yet mild; lenient and yet stern; firm, yet not tyrannical; impetuous, yet not arrogant. Poetry gives expression to the thought, and singing is the prolonged utterance of that expression. Notes accompany that utterance, and are harmonized themselves by the pitch-pipes. The eight kinds of instruments can be adjusted, so that one shall not take from or interfere with another, and spirits and men are thereby brought into harmony.’ Kui said, ‘Oh! I smite the stone; I tap the stone, and the various animals lead on one another to dance.’ Shun said, ‘Long, I dread slanderous speakers and injurious deceivers, who agitate and alarm my people. I appoint you minister of communication. Day and night you will issue and receive my orders, but be truthful.’ Shun said, ‘Ah! you twenty and two men, be reverent, and you will aid in their proper seasons the undertakings of heaven.’ Every three years there was an examination of merits, and after three examinations there were degradations and promotions both far and near. The people’s labours generally prospered, while the people of the three Miao tribes were divided and defeated.
These twenty-two all completed their labours. Gaoyao was chief minister of crime, and the people were all subservient and obtained his genuine services. Boyi was director of ceremonies, and both upper and lower classes were retiring. Chui was head workman, and the various kinds of work were successfully accomplished. Yi was head forester, and hills and swamps were brought under cultivation. Qi was director of agriculture, and the various crops ripened in their seasons. Xie was minister of instruction, and the people were friendly together. Long superintended the foreign department, and men from afar arrived. The twelve governors did their duty, and the people of the nine provinces did not dare to rebel.
But Yu’s labours consisted in making great cuttings through the nine hills, making thoroughfares through the nine swamps, deepening the nine rivers, and regulating the nine provinces, each of which by their officials sent tribute, and did not lose their rightful dues. In a square of 5000 li he reached the wild domain. To the south he governed Annam; on the north he reduced the western Rong tribes, Xizhi, Chusou, and the Qiang of Di; on the north the hill Rong tribes and the Xishen; and on the east the tall island barbarians. All within the four seas were grateful for Emperor Shun’s labours; and Yu then performed the nine tunes, and the result was that strange creatures and phœnixes flew to and fro. Men of illustrious virtue in the empire began from the days of Emperor Shun of Yu.
When Shun was twenty years of age he was noted for his filial piety, at thirty Yao raised him to office, at fifty he assisted in the administration of Imperial affairs, when he was fifty-eight Yao died, and when he was sixty-one he sat on the Imperial throne in Yao’s stead. After he had occupied the Imperial throne thirty-nine years, he went on a hunting expedition to the south, died in the desert of Cangwu, and was buried at a place called Lingling (broken hillocks) in the Jiuyi range in Jiangnan province. After Shun had come to the throne, and was flying the Imperial flag, he went to pay a visit to his father, Gusou, and addressed him in a grave and respectful manner, as a son should do. He raised his brother Xiang to the rank of prince. Shun’s son Shang-jun was also degenerate, so that Shun, being prepared, recommended Yu to the notice of Heaven, and seventeen years later he died. When the three years’ mourning was over, Yu also yielded to Shun’s son just as Shun had yielded to Yao’s son, but the princes gave their allegiance to Yu, and he thereupon came to the Imperial throne. Yao’s son Danzhu, and Shun’s son Shangjun, both held territory so that they might be enabled to perform sacrifices to their ancestors; they paid the due observances, such as religious ceremonies and music, and they went to the audiences as the Emperor’s guests. The Emperor did not dare, without due notification from his ministers, to act on his own responsibility.
From Huangdi to Shun and Yu all the sovereigns had the same surname, but different dynastic appellations, and so displayed their illustrious virtue. So Huangdi was called Youxiong (possessor of bears); Emperor Zhuanxu was Gaoyang; Emperor Ku was Gaoxin; Emperor Yao, Taotang; Emperor Shun was Youyu (possessor of foresters); and Emperor Yu was Xiahou (prince of Xia); and he had also the name Si (sister-in-law); Xie had the family name of Shang with the personal name Zi (son); and Qi had the family name Zhou with the personal name Ji (queen).
The historian remarks on this as follows: Most scholars say that the five emperors are deserving of honour, but the Book of History only refers to Yao, and those who come after him, while the book of the ‘hundred families’ speaks of the Yellow emperor. The style of the latter work is not, however, very refined, and the officials and gentry hardly ever refer to it. Confucius handed down these works, viz. ‘Zai Yu’s questions,’ the ‘virtues of the five emperors,’ and ‘the genealogies and names of the emperors,’ but the literati doubt that they have been so handed down. I have travelled westward as far as ‘hollow cave’ hill, northward beyond Zhuolu, eastward I have crossed the sea, while southward I have floated on rafts along the Yangtze and Huai rivers, and all the elders whom I met again and again talked of the places where the Yellow emperor, Yao, and Shun dwelt, and how very different their customs and teachings were. In short, those who are attached to the ancient literature must be familiar with their sayings. I have looked at the ‘Spring and Autumn’ classic, and the ‘Narratives of the States,’ which make the ‘virtues of the five emperors’ and the ‘genealogies and names of the emperors’ very clear. I have inspected these works, but not thoroughly examined them, and the portions I have quoted are none of them unimportant. There are defects in the book, and occasionally the views of others may be noted. Scholars should not think too deeply over the book, but take the general drift of it, when it can hardly be called superficial. There are a few investigations into doctrine, which I have discussed in the concrete, and then selected some of the more elegant sentences for quotation. Thus I have compiled the first chapter of the ‘Original Records.’