Emperor Ku

Born as Kù (simplified Chinese: 喾; traditional Chinese: 嚳), though usually known as Dì Kù (simplified Chinese: 帝喾; traditional Chinese: 帝嚳), and sometimes also known as Gaoxin or Gāoxīn Shì (Chinese: 高辛氏), was (according to many of the variations of the list) one of the Five Sovereigns (also translated as Emperors or August Ones) of the three sovereigns and five emperors period of Chinese mythology, or at least before history can properly said to have begun: although some sources interpret the traditions as to treat Di Ku as a semi-historical figure, other sources make fantastic mythological or religious claims about him. Besides varying in their degree of historization in the case of Di Ku, the various sources also differ as to what specific stories in his regard they focus on, so that putting together the various elements of what is known regarding Di Ku results in a multifaceted story.


Di Ku's lineage derives from descent from the legendary Yellow Emperor (Huangdi), then descends through the line of Shaohao (as opposed to the line through Changyi, which lead to to Shun and Yu). He was the son of Jiăo Jí (蟜極/蟜极), the grandson of Shăohào (少昊) and the great grandson of Huáng-dì (黃帝/黄帝), the Yellow Emperor. According to speculative dates (from after 100 BC, calculated by Liu Xin) he is supposed to have ruled from c. 2436 BC – c. 2366 BC, but other dates are also mentioned.

As emperor

When he became emperor, Ku added the title Di, meaning "emperor", or "god-emperor", in front of his name. After achieving the imperial title, Di Ku was said to travel by seasonally riding a dragon in spring and summer, then by horse in autumn and winter. Among other things Di Ku was an inventor of musical instruments and the composer of songs. According to the Lüshi Chunqiu, drums, bells, chimes, pipes, ocarinas, and flutes were all invented to the order of Di Ku by his subordinate Yourui; Di Ku's lyrics had musical scores composed by his assistant Xianhei; and, by further imperial command, dance accompaniment to the resulting musical performances was provided by a phoenix. Although Ku held the title di, which can be interpreted "emperor", it is unclear what territory, if any, which his empire might have consisted of. The title di was later assumed as one of his titles by the king of Qin upon completing the conquest of his neighboring kingdoms and forging them into the first historically known empire of China.


Di Ku had several wives, or consorts. There is a group of four ladies with whom Di Ku consorted (or married), according to some sources. These are Jiang Yuan (or, Jiangyuan), Jiandi, Qingdu, and Changyi. Once each of these ladies had given birth to a son, Di Ku had a diviner foretell for him which of the sons was destined to rule the empire, and received the answer that all four would. Another source mentions a lady with whom he had eight sons, each one born after she had dreamed of swallowing the sun: although her name is uncertain, she was said to be from Zoutu.


According to some traditions, Di Ku had four sons to four different wives, each of these four sons was ancestral to the founding of a Chinese dynasty, or inherited the empire. He is known in these sources as the father of Qi Ji (later known as Houji), Xie, Fanxuan (Yao), and Zhi. He is also said to have had two sons who became star gods, Ebo and Shichen. The first of Di Ku's sons to rule the kingdom was Zhi, who was the son of his fourth wife, Changyi. One of his sons later became the Emperor Yao, this was Fanxuan, born to Qingdu. Di Ku's son Xie (Qi) born miraculously to Jiandi after she swallowed the egg of a black bird became the the predynastic founder of the lineage of the ruling family of the shang dynasty. Di Ku's son Qi Ji (Houji) born miraculously to Jiang Yuan after she stepped in the foot print of a god became the the predynastic founder of the lineage of the ruling family of the zhou dynasty.

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