Yan Di – The First Chinese Emperor
The legendary Yan Di or “Flame Emperor” is said to have ruled a stone age tribe around the area of Yang Tou Shan (Sheep’s Head Mountain) just north of Baoji in Shaanxi province, China. There are few facts known about Yan Di as historical records do not exist from the time he supposedly lived. It has often been assumed that because of his name, his people were the first agriculturalists in China, practising slash and burn agriculture. Yan Di was also the first Chinese ruler to be styled “Di” or “Emperor” rather than “Lord”.
Yan Di supposedly gifted his people with traditional Chinese medicine by tasting numerous plants and noting the effects upon his body. He is also credited with inventing a primitive method of record keeping using a knotted string.
Yan Di was allegedly defeated by “Huang Di”, the “Yellow Emperor” at the legendary battle of Banquan. Yan Di was forced to accept Huang Di’s overlordship and their two tribes intermarried and became one- the modern Chinese people.
There is a temple in Baoji dedicated to Yan Di who is portrayed as a horned giant, and the alleged tomb of Yan Di is on Yang Tou Shan, which also contains a large temple complex where Chinese people come to honour one of the great founders of their culture.
It has been suggested that Yan Di may actually have been a title rather than one individual, and that the deeds attributed to Yan Di were actually carried out by several different generations of “Flame Emperors”.
By P A McHugh