Mythos 79 – Hanuman and Sun Wukong

 

In the Records of the Grand Historian the first of the Five Emperors was the Yellow Emperor (黄帝), who is considered to have lived sometime between 4,700 to 4,600 years ago (2698 to 2598 BC).(1)Herbert Allen Giles (1898) A Chinese Biographical Dictionary, Page 338 This date was calculated by a Jesuit priest named Martino Martini around 350 years ago, and is widely accepted for lack of any evidence contrary. This is not the traditional date used by Chinese scholars in earlier times. Prior to Martini’s calculations the Yellow Emperor’s life was believed to have been around 5,800 to 5,700 years ago, although the earliest surviving recorded date for the life of the Yellow Emperor was recorded by Zhang Shouwang (張壽望) circa 2,100 years ago, who calculated the life of the Yellow Emperor around 6,000 years before his time; approximately 8,200 to 8,100 years ago.(2)Fan Ye, et al. (circa 450 AD) Book of the Later Han, Chapter 21A, Page 978 This is somewhat similar to when the ancient Greeks recorded that the ancient Indians originally recorded the life of Prince Rama, and the Emperor Ravana, at approximately 8,800 years ago. As Rama is recorded as defeating Ravana’s Empire, it seems possible that the Yellow Emperor could have emerged a few hundred years later as the first independent emperor of the Han people.

Traditional Interpretation of the Yan Emperors

Traditional Interpretation of the Yan Emperors

The Yellow Emperor is reported to have unified the first Chinese civilization, which was based in the region of the Yellow River in northern China. Before the age of the Yellow Emperor, the Yan Emperors (炎帝) ruled China from the shores of the mythical Jiang River (姜水). The Yan Emperors are believed to have ruled for 500 years(3)K. C. Wu (1982) The Chinese Heritage, Page 56 through the lives of 8, 9, or 10 Kings, depending on the source. The oldest existing source is found in the Classic of Mountains and Seas (山海经) from around 2,400 years ago,(4)R. Leo Bagrow and A. Skelton (2009) History of cartography, Page 204 which listed ten kings: Yandi (炎帝), Yanju (炎居), Jiebing (節並), Xiqi (戲器), Zhurong (祝融), Gonggong (共工), Shuqi (術器), Houtu (后土), Yeming (噎鳴), and Suishi (歳十). The first Yan Emperor, Yandi was known as “Emperor of the South,”(5)Him Mark Lai (1991) Chinese America: History and Perspectives 1991, Page 75 possibly indicating that the mythical Jiang River was to the south of China. If the proposed date of the Yellow Emperor’s life by Zhang Shouwang of 8,200 to 8,100 years ago was accurate, and the Yan Emperors ruled for 500 years, then the life of the Yan Emperor circa 8,700 years ago, coincides with the life of Prince Rama circa 8,800 years ago.

This raises the possibility of Yandi being Rama, and the Jiang being the Indus. It also raises the possibility that the title Yellow Emperor, and his domain, the Yellow River, were both named Yellow after the light colored skins of the natives of northern China. If the Yan Emperors were Dravidian Emperors, then they would have been seen by the ancient Chinese as Kunlun, the dark-skinned southerners. The term Yellow, could have been taken as a symbol of racial pride, similar to the effect witnessed in other enslaved or subject groups after emancipation. If the Yan Emperors were Dravidian or Kunlun (Negrito) Emperors in South or Southeast Asia, then it seems likely that the stories of Fi Xi and Nüwa also originate to the south of China, in either India and Pakistan or the now submerged Sundaland Plateau.

Artists Interpretation of Sun Wukong

Artists Interpretation of Sun Wukong

In Chinese Mytho-history there is also the legend of Sun Wukong (悟空), the Monkey King. Like Hanumān who was the King of the Vanara monkey-people, Babi who was chief of the baboons in Egypt, and Vṛṣākapi of the Ṛigveda, Sun Wukong was the king of the monkeys. Like Hanumān and Babi that carried maces, Sun Wukong carried a magical staff, which in early versions of the story was an ‘Iron Cudgel’ (铁棒).(6)Glen Dudbridge (1970) The Hsi-Yu Chi: A Study of Antecedents to the Sixteenth-Century Chinese Novel, Pages 37-38 Sun Wukong also had the ability to fly, and was invited the Heaven of the Jade Emperor where he caused havoc, like Vṛṣākapi in Indra’s Svarga. While this story could have been imported to China during the historic era, with so little of Chinese pre-history surviving the Burning of Books and Burying of Scholars circa 2,100 years ago, it seems inappropriate to assume it was imported at a later date, given the notable similarities between early Chinese mytho-history and the mytho-history of other cultures around the world.

References   [ + ]

1. Herbert Allen Giles (1898) A Chinese Biographical Dictionary, Page 338
2. Fan Ye, et al. (circa 450 AD) Book of the Later Han, Chapter 21A, Page 978
3. K. C. Wu (1982) The Chinese Heritage, Page 56
4. R. Leo Bagrow and A. Skelton (2009) History of cartography, Page 204
5. Him Mark Lai (1991) Chinese America: History and Perspectives 1991, Page 75
6. Glen Dudbridge (1970) The Hsi-Yu Chi: A Study of Antecedents to the Sixteenth-Century Chinese Novel, Pages 37-38