An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Di Ku 帝嚳

Jan 23, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Di Ku 帝嚳, also written 帝俈, also called Gao Xin 高辛, was one of the Five Emperors 五帝 in Chinese mythology. The book Diwang shiji 帝王世紀 calls him Qun 夋 (Ji Qun 姬夋), the Shanhaijing Jun 俊.

According to the Shiben 世本 genealogies, Di Ku was a great-grandson of the Yellow Emperor 黃帝, a grandson of Xuan Ao 玄囂, and a son of Jiao Ji 蟜極. With the age of 15 sui, he supported emperor Zhuan Xu 顓頊 in government affairs and was made Lord of Gao Xin. His own residence as an emperor was in Bo 毫 (modern Kaifeng 登封, Henan).

An oracle predicted the ascensions of all his sons the throne. His principal wife Jiang Yuan 姜嫄, daughter of Lord Tai 有邰氏, gave birth to Hou Ji 后稷 (Qi 弃), ancestor of the Zhou dynasty 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE). His second wife Jian Di 簡狄, daughter of Lord Rong 有絨氏, gave birth to Xie 契, ancestor to the Shang dynasty 商 (17th-11th cent. BC). His third consort Qing Du 慶都, daughter of Lord Chenfeng 陳鋒氏, gave birth to Emperor Yao 堯, and his fourth consort Changyi 常儀 (i.e. Chang E 嫦娥), daughter of Lord Zouzi 諏訾氏 (also written Juzi 娵訾氏), gave birth to Zhi 摯.

According to the Classic Zuozhuan 左傳, Di Ku had only two sons called E Bo 閼伯 and Shi Chen 實沈 that daily fought against each other, so that Di Ku decided to settle E Bo down in Shangqiu 商丘, where be became an ancestor of the Shang, and Shi Chen do Daxia 大厦, where be became the ancestor of the Xia 夏 (17th-15th cent. BCE). E Bo controlled the star Chen 辰 (Lucifer) that accordingly became the most venerated constellation during the Shang period and represents the early morning (see calendar). Shi Chen was the master of the constellation Shen 參 (Orion).

The much younger book Shiyiji 拾遺記 says that Di Ku's wife was the daughter of Lord Zoutu 鄒屠氏. She eight times dreamt that she devoured a sun and each time gave birth to a son, an incident repeating eight times. These brave sons were the Eight Primordials (bayuan 八元), namely Bo Fen 伯奮, Zhong Kan 仲堪, Shu Xian 叔獻, Ji Zhong 季仲, Bo Hu 伯虎, Zhong Xiong 仲熊, Shu Bao 叔豹 and Ji Li 季狸.

According to the semi-classic Da Dai Liji 大戴禮記, Gao Xin had the personal name Jiao 蟜 and was a son of Ji 極 and a grandson of Yuan Ao 元囂 (i.e. Xuan Ao). He was an intelligent person that professed in all administrative and moral matters. During the seasons Spring and Autumn he used to ride a dragon, during the other seaons a horse.

The Lüshi chunqiu 呂氏春秋 reports how Di Ku ordered his minister Xian Hei 咸黑 to invent music and dance. Legend also says that he was able to control sun, moon and the stars to benefit the people.

Li Jianping 李劍平, ed. (1998). Zhongguo shenhua renwu cidian 中國神話人物辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 509.
Xiong Tieji 熊鐵基, Yang Youli 楊有禮, ed. (1994). Zhongguo diwang zaixiang cidian 中國帝王宰相辭典 (Wuhan: Hubei jiaoyu chubanshe), 7.
Yi Xingguo 衣興國, ed. (1988). Shiyong Zhongguo mingren cidian 實用中國名人辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 6.
Yuan Ke 袁珂, ed. (1985), Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian 中國神話傳說詞典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), 295.