The Three Sage Kings of ancient China were Suiren, Fuxi and Shennong. They made personal sacrifices to improve the lives of the people. Today they are remembered for the many unique contributions to the Chinese people and mankind in general.
The first sage King was Suiren (approx. 16,000 BC) who reputedly discovered how to make fire by drilling wood. With fire mankind could eat cooked food, keep warm and protect themselves from wild animals.
Many people remember Fuxi for creating the Bagua or Eight Trigram which became the basis of the Yi Qing or the Book of Changes. However not many remember that he taught people to domesticate animals and lay traps to catch fish, birds and other wild animals. Even lesser people know that he invented marriage and the laws that governs it as well a 35 strings musical instrument.
Shennong greatest contribution was teaching people to farm and for inventing many farming aids. He taught the people to grow rice, wheat, beans etc and invented barter trading. He also invested a 5 strings musical instrument.
However he was best remembered for tasting hundreds of wild herbs to find remedies to treat illnesses. In the process he suffered continually from poisoning and eventually die from eating one too many.
The emperors after Shennong were Huangdi, Zhuanxu, Diku, Yao and Shun and they are collectively known as the Five Legendary Rulers.
Huangdi was a good leader. He knows how to maximize the ability of those around him to rule the country and come out with innovations that benefit his people.
Huangdi was instrumental to the development of a written language for the Chinese people. He was also very interested in the art of healing and commissioned the compilation of The Yellow Emperor’s Medicine Classic? He also developed the 60 year cycle Farmer’s Calendar.
Huangdi was a man of peace and did not like war. During his rule, there was peace, stablility and prosperity in his kingdom.
Zhuanxu who succeeded Huangdi was not his son. He was chosen over Huangdi’s many sons because of his outstanding ability. Zhuanxu greatest contribution was to bring law and order to the people plus consolidating the power of the central authority.
Huangdi’s great grandson, Diku succeeded Zhuanxu. While his great grandfather developed the calendar, Diku further improved on it. He also created new positions and ministries to cope with the growing population. As a benevolent king who cared for his people, he made frequent person visits to his ministry to ensure that the country was well run.
Yao was Diku’s son. He was industrious and benevolent like his father. He further developed the calendar and modified the timing of planting that resulting in bumper harvests.
Shun was Yao’s son in law. Although his mother died when he was very young, and his step mother and father ill-treated him, he remained filial to them. His great virtue helped him to gain fame and he was summoned to King Yao’s service at 30. He eventually married King Yao’s daughter.
During Shun reign, he divided the country into 12 independent states each with their own administrator. He made further changes to the department of land, water, works, music, farming and rites. He was credited with drafting many rules and regulations including the five rules of etiquette.
After Shun comes Yu. Yu founded the Xia Dynasty and he was credited for his ability to control the floods. More on Yu in future articles.