Huang-di, or the Yellow Emperor, is a legendary Chinese sovereign and cultural hero who is considered in Chinese mythology to be the ancestor of all Han Chinese. He was one of the legendary Five Emperors. He was mentioned in the Shiji by historian Sima Qian (145 BCE-90 BCE). Tradition holds that he reigned from 2697 BC to 2597 BC. His personal name was said to be Gongsun Xuanyuan. He emerged as a chief deity of Taoism during the Han Dynasty (202 BCE-220 CE).
Among his many accomplishments, Huang-di has been credited with the invention of the principles of Traditional Chinese medicine. The Huang-di Neijing (Inner Canon of Huang-di) was supposedly composed in collaboration with his physician Qibo. However, modern historiographers generally consider it to have been compiled from ancient sources by a scholar living between the Zhou and Han dynasties, more than 2,000 years later.
His interest in natural health and preventing and treating diseases, according to historical sources, meant he lived to the age of 100, and attained immortality after his physical death.
In legend, his wife Lei Zu taught the Chinese how to weave the silk from silkworms, and his historian Cang Jie created the first Chinese characters.
His conception was supposed to have been signaled by a thunderclap on a clear day by the Heavens.
Legend says that Huang-di became the leader of his tribe which bore the totem of a bear. His tribe went to war with a neighboring tribe bearing the totem of a bull, headed by Yan-di. Huang-di, through his superior military and leadership skills won the war and subdued Yan-di's tribe. The two tribes united and became one. Legend then says that the Chinese civilization began with these two tribes. Some sources name Yan-di as a brother or half-brother of Huang-di.
Huang-di's people were then threatened by a tribe under the leadership of Chi You, who was said to have magical powers and had 81 brothers, each having 4 eyes and 8 arms wielding terrible sharp weapons in every hand. Huang-di called upon 8 neighboring tribes to join forces with him and sent the combined army to meet Chi You and his brothers. The two great armies fought for days without a clear winner. Just as Huang-di's army began to turn the tide of battle, Chi You breathed out a thick fog and obscured the sunlight. Huang-di's army fell into disarray and could not find its way out of the battlefield. At this critical moment, Huang-di invented the South Pointing Chariot, and ordered its construction on the battlefield. With the South Pointing Chariot, Huang-di was able to lead his army out of the fog. Chi You then conjured up a heavy storm. Huang-di then called upon the gods who blew away the storm clouds and cleared the battlefield. Huang-di was then able to defeat Chi You and his tribe once and for all.
With this great victory, Huang-di not only safeguarded his own tribe, but the tribes of his allies. The 9 Tribes joined together as one tribe under the leadership of Huang-di.
Huang-di is said to have ruled for 100 years. He was said to have had 25 children, 14 of whom were sons. Of these 14 sons, 12 chose last names for themselves. It is also said that all the noble families of the first 3 dynasties of China, Xia, Shang, and Zhou were direct descendants of Huang-di.
After Huang-di had lived for over 100 years, he arranged his worldly affairs with his ministers, and prepared for his journey to the Heavens. One version said a dragon came down from the Heavens and took Huang-di away. Another version said Huang-di himself turned into half-man and half-dragon and flew away.