Emperor Yao

Emperor Yao (simplified Chinese: 尧; traditional Chinese: 堯; pinyin: Yáo; Wade–Giles: Yao), (traditionally c. 2356-2255) was a legendary Chinese ruler, one of the Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors.

Ancestry and early life

Yao's ancestral name (姓)is Yi Qi (伊祁) or Qi(祁), clan name (氏)is Taotang (陶唐), given name is Fangxun(放勳), as the second son to Emperor Ku and Qingdu (慶都). He is also known as Tang Yao (唐堯).


Often extolled as the morally perfect and smart sage-king, Yao's benevolence and diligence served as a model to future Chinese monarchs and emperors. Early Chinese often speak of Yao, Shun and Yu as historical figures, and contemporary historians believed they may represent leader-chiefs of allied tribes who established a unified and hierarchical system of government in a transition period to the patriarchal feudal society. In the Book of History, (aka the Classic of History) one of the Five Classics, the initial chapters deals with Yao, Shun and Yu.


According to legend, Yao became the ruler at 20 and died at 119 when he passed his throne to Great Shun, to whom he gave his two daughters in marriage.


Of his many contributions, Yao is said to have invented the game of Weiqi, reportedly to favorably influence his vicious playboy son Danzhu (丹朱). After the customary three year mourning period after Yao's death, Shun named Danzhu as the ruler but the people only recognized Shun as the rightful heir.

Variant accounts

The Bamboo Annals offers a different story. Shun rebelled and imprisoned Yao where he is left to die. Danzhu is exiled and later defeated by Shun.

Dynastic succession

Emperor Yao was claimed to be the ancestor of the han dynasty Emperor Liu Bang. Other important Chinese noble families have also claimed descent through Huangdi.

Last update 20-06-2012

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