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The Three Sovereigns

The Heavenly SovereignFuxi
The Earthly SovereignNuwa
The Human SovereignShennong
The Three Sovereigns, sometimes known as the Three August Ones, were god-kings or demigods who introduced important aspects of Chinese culture, such as agriculture, fishing, herbal medicine, writing, and the drinking of tea, and in some cases created men and animals. They were known variously as The Heavenly Sovereign, The Earthly Sovereign, and The Human Sovereign; or Fuxi, Nwa, and Shennong. Because of their lofty virtue they lived to a great age and ruled over a period of great peace. This was at the beginning of creation, when prince and subject existed for the first time.

Dr. Edkins believed in the existence of the semi-bestial Fu-hsi (RC. 3000), the earliest worthy referred to in the classics. Dr. Legge said that he could as soon doubt the existence of Abraham and the other Hebrew patriarchs in our sacred scriptures as that of Yao, Shun, and Yu; and in this view the late Sir Thomas Wade concurred.

P'ao-Hsi (Great Brilliant), of the clan-name Wind, replacing Sui-jen (the man who procured fire by friction), continued Heaven's line and became king. His mother, named Hua-hsii, trod in the footprint of a giant2 near Thunder lake, and gave birth to P'ao-hsi at Ch'eng-chi. He had the body of a serpent, the head of a man, and possessed the virtue of a holy one. "Looking up, he regarded the signs in the sky, and looking down, he regarded the forms on the earth ; about him he regarded the marks on birds and beasts, as well as what was suitable to the soil. With respect to what was near, he took into consideration the different parts of his body, and as to what was afar off, all the beings. He was the first to delineate the eight trigrams, whereby he fully understood the attributes of the divine intelligences, and whereby he classified the nature of all things." He invented " written characters and contracts, to supersede (the institution of) knotted cords." He then first regulated marriage rites, arranging that a pair of hides should be given as wedding presents. " He wove nets and snares to teach men how to hunt and fish," and was therefore called Fu-hsi (hidden victims).

His capital was at Ch'en. In the East he raised a fing* altar on Mount T'ai, and having reigned eleven years, died. His posterity, according to the ' Spring and Autumn' classic period (B.C. 721-480), were (lords of) "Jen, Hsu, Hsii-chu, and Chuan-Yu, all offshoots of the ' Wind ' clan."

Nii-kua, who was also of the ' Wind' clan, had the body of a serpent, the head of a man, and the virtue of a divine and holy being. He reigned in the room of Fu-hsi, under the title of Nii-hsi. He did not change or invent anything, and only made the pipes of the reed-organ, so the ' Book of Changes' does not mention him, and he is not included in the quinary cycle. One authority says that Nii-kua was also king by virtue of the tree, and actually a descendant of Fu-hsi, that several generations having elapsed, metal and wood had followed in due rotation, and that the cycle being completed, a new one had begun. Special distinction is accorded to Nii-kua on account of his great merits: he is placed among the three sovereigns, and so there is an additional king of the tree. In his latter years a prince Kung-kung (public works),relying on his cleverness and his punishments, with violence played the tyrant, and though he did not become king, yet by water he surmounted the tree. He fought with Chu-yung10 (director of fire), but was not successful. " He was angry, and with his head butted against mountain ' Incomplete,' which fell, so the pillar of heaven u was broken and a corner of the earth chipped off. Nii-kua then fused stones of five colours to repair the heavens, cut off the feet of a tortoise to support the four corners of the earth," collected the ashes of reeds to stop the overflowing waters, and rescue the province of Chi. The earth was then at rest, the heavens made whole, and the old system of things was unaltered.

After the death of Nii-kua, Shen-nung (Divine Labourer) reigned. The Blazing god, Divine Labourer, was of the Chiang clan, and his mother, named Niiteng, was Yu-Kua's daughter. When Shao-tien's concubine, she was influenced by a divine dragon, and gave birth to the Blazing god. He had the body of a man and the head of an ox, and grew up on the banks of the Chiang river, whence he derived his clan name. As he was king by virtue of fire, he was called Blazing god, and named his officers after fire."

He cut down trees to make ploughshares, and bent wood into the form of ploughs. The use of ploughs and spades was taught by him to myriads." As he was the first to teach husbandry, he was called Divine Labourer. He then offered the sacrifice at the close of the year, and with red whips lashed the plants and trees. He was the first to taste different plants, and the first to obtain curative drugs. He also made the fivestringed lute. " He taught men to hold mid-day markets, and, after bartering their goods, to retire, each obtaining what he required."

Agriculture in China is recorded as beginning with Shon-nung (2737 B. C), the ruler to whom is credited the teaching of farming to the Chinese people. Before his time, the people were roaming tribes still in the nomadic stage, subsisting on the fruits of the chase; and it was with the advent of Shonnung that they took up fixed habitations. But, as we all know, economic developments are gradual growths; and thus could not have come through the teaching of one individual. The probability is that Shonnung, being the ruler under whom was found established agricultural life, had conferred on him by the early historians the posthumous title of Shonnung (literally translated, "divine farmer") and gave him credit for all the progress prior to and during his reign. It is written that " he cleared the fields, taught the universe (Chinese term for all known parts of China and the surrounding tribes) the sowing of crops and the planting of melons, and saved the people from the hardships of the chase." That from his time they began to have sufficient food and drink, getting provisions from grains. Also the people were taught the uses of hemp and the mulberry tree, and the making of cotton and silk. Cheh Tsi was ordered to invent rice threshers, to make various implements for cultivation, and to dig wells and make stoves for the people.

Under Shonnung agricultural life may be said to have been fairly well established, although everything was in a very crude stage. For various cereals and herbs had their experimental planting, the few implements mentioned were fashioned of wood,1 and the people were first taught the use of the plow and the lo (a weed-cutting instrument).

The Tsing Tien System, started with the system of land tenure. Its vicissitudes, its crises and epochs were timed by the abolition or reestablishment of the system. It was the system of the sages; the system whose chief aim was popular cooperation; the political system of administration; the system of taxation in the ancient period, etc. Tsing Tien #B3 means fields laid out like the character tsing #. For each tsing consisted of a square divided into nine plots. To eight families were assigned the eight exterior plots, and the center plot was reserved to be worked in common. The tsing unit was also known as 1 Lin (neighborhood) 3 Lins = 1 Pung (friendship) 3 Pungs= 1 Li (village). This li also stands for 1 Chinese mile, and had the same meaning originally, for 1 square Li contained 900 mows, or 3 Pungs according to the ancient table of measurements. 5 Lis= 1 Yi (district or town) 10 Yis = 1 Tu (county or center) 10 Tus = 1 Shih or Sze (prefecture) 10 Shihs= 1 Chow (state or province). The territory was reckoned as states (chows) and all divided into tsings.

He afterwards multiplied the eight trigrams, so as to form sixty-four hexagrams. He first had his capital at Ch'en, and then dwelt at Ch'ii-fou. After reigning a hundred and twenty years, he died, and was buried at Ch'angsha.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:40:03 ZULU