Monday, 9 December 2013

The Three Sage Kings

Compiled from The Great Chinese Emperors

        Dedicated and benevolent, the Three Sage Kings of ancient China made personal sacrifices to improve lives of the people. Each of them is remembered today for a unique contribution.

1.                Suiren (Discovered how to make fire)
          In ancient times, Man used to eat raw meat. The food was not only hard to stomach, it also created health problems for the people. Then, about 18,000 years ago, a sage named Suiren stumbled upon some birds pecking on tree trunks, igniting sparks in the process. This inspired him, and he soon discovered that he could drill wood to make fire. With Suiren’s discovery, Man started enjoying cooked food and was no longer stricken by the ailments associated with raw food. Man also began to use fire to keep warm and fend off wild animals.

2.    Fuxi (Created the Eight Trigrams)
   Fuxi, whose surname was Feng, was king for 11 years. He replaced the old method of keeping records by means of knotting cords, and taught the people to carve symbols on rocks and bones instead. Then, he taught people to domesticate animals and make nets to catch fish, birds and wild animals, thus ensuring their food supply all year round.
   He also laid down the first marriage laws and advocated the wedding ceremony to affirm the bond between husband and wife. At the same time, he also forbade undesirable of forced marriages. A keen observer of Nature, he created the Eight Trigrams to depict all natural occurrences, which became the basis for I Ching or The Book of Changes.
   As a music lover, he invented a 35-stringed musical instrument, which enhanced the lives of the people. He was seen as the creator of ancient Chinese culture.

3.    Shennong (Discovered medicinal herbs)
    Shennong, also known as Yandi, was born by the rivers. Thus, Jiang became his surname. He appeared at a time of severe food shortage arising from the fastest growing population. To solve the problem, he tasted and found edible plants to supplement the people’s food supply. Then, he invented the ancient rake, the spade, plough and the sickle, and taught them to plough the land and sow the seeds. He also introduced the five cereals for cultivation – rice, two types of millet, wheat and beans, which market the beginning of Stone Age agriculture and the advent of civilization in the regions of the Yellow River and Yangtze River. He proceeded to introduce barter trade to help the people exchange their harvest for things that they needed.
   Shennong further developed Fuxi’s Eight Trigrams into the 64 hexagrams used in Chinese divination. He also modified Fuxi’s 35-stringed instrument into a five-stringed instrument. In particular, he is remembered for tasting hundreds of wild herbs in order to find remedies to treat his people’s illnesses. In the process, he suffered from poisoning (to the extent of being poisoned 70 times on any given day). Eventually, he tasted a lethal wild herb which ‘tore his intestines apart’, and it became known as duanchangcao (herb that tears intestines apart). Shennong lived for 120 years, and was buried in the county of Lin, Hunan. His tomb still exists today.

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