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Chinese Mythology - Shen Nong 神農

Periods of Chinese History
Shen Nong 神農, the "Divine Husbandman", also called Lord Shen Nong 神農氏, is a mythological ruler of prehistoric China and often named one of the Three Augusts 三皇 or the Five Emperors 五帝. His tribal name was Lieshan 烈山氏, Lishan 厲山氏 or Lianshan 連山氏, and he is also called Yi Qi 伊耆. According to legend, he was the son of Andeng 安登, the consort of Emperor Shao Dian 少典 and was born after she had been impregnated by a dragon in Huayang 華陽. Shen Hong was very tall and had the head of a buffalo and the face of a dragon. He is called the inventor of agriculture and of medicine, especially pharmacology, as told in the books Huainanzi 淮南子, Soushenji 搜神記 and Shuyiji 述異記. In a time when the population increased and there were not enough animals (game) to feed them, he instructed mankind in the use of the plough and to plant the five grains (wugu 五穀). He also dug out the first well, out of which a large number of wells mushroomed that helped irrigating the country. His son Zhu Huan 柱還 transmitted the knowledge of cultivating vegetables. The invention of pottery, metallurgy and weaving are also attributed to him, as well as the setting up of markets for exchange. These inventions are reported in the books Yishi 繹史 and Shiyiji 拾遺記, as well as in commentaries to the universal history Shiji 史記. Shen Nong is also venerated as the inventor of the family in a time when humans only knew their mothers and not their fathers. As the inventor of pharmarcology, authorship of the oldest, anonymous pharmacopeia, the Bencaojing 本草經, is attributed to Shen Nong. If interpreted historically, Shen Nong can be seen as the person initiating the Neolithic age. Shen Nong is often identified with the Red Emperor (Yandi 炎帝) who lived at the banks of River Jiang 姜水 (a tributary creek of the River Wei 渭水 in southern Shaanxi) and was successor of Emperor Fu Xi 伏羲. His element was fire (huo 火), and his first capital Chen 陳, later Qufu 曲阜. He reigned for 120 years and was married to a daughter of Lord Bengshui 奔水氏. A legend popular in eastern Sichuan says that Shen Nong died when he tested a poisonous herb.

Sources: Li Jingwei 李經緯 (ed. 1995), Zhongyi da cidian 中醫大辭典 (Beijing: Renmin weisheng chubanshe), p. 1182. ● 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), p. 5. ● Yi Xingguo 衣興國 (1988). Shiyong Zhongguo mingren cidian 實用中國名人辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), p. 3. ● Yuan Ke 袁珂 (ed. 1985), Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian 中國神話傳說詞典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), pp. 299-300. ● Zhongguo baike da cidian bianweihui 中國百科大辭典編委會 (ed. 1999), Zhongguo baike da cidian 中國百科大辭典 (Beijing: Huaxia chubanshe), p. 551. ● Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe bianjibu 中國大百科全書出版社編輯部 (ed. 1992), Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo chuantong yixue 中國傳統醫學 (Beijing: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), p. 1.

February 5, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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