This Huang Di, as the Yi jing has it, rose to power after the death of Shen
nong, another of the ancient Chinese culture heroes,6 who was credited with
the introduction of materia medica into Chinese civilization.7
The Huang Di of the Yi jing, the Shi ji, and Su wen 1 was the son of Shao
Dian ÷Â. His family name was Gongsun Ω], and his personal name was
Xuan Yuan a’. Because his reign rested on the forces of soil and because
the color of soil is yellow, his title was Yellow Di.8 No equivalent is available
in English to reflect the meanings associated with Di in this ancient context.
meaning of the title 9
A rather appealing translation of Di in English is “Lord.” In its European
context, this term combines notions of a worldly and of a heavenly ruler, but
the latter component is not necessarily evoked by the appearance of a Huang
Di, “Yellow Lord,” in a Chinese context. Also, in the Judeo-Christian tradition,
the concept of Lord is tied to a monotheistic and eternal ruler in heaven.
Neither of these facets is reflected in the notion of Huang Di.
“Yellow Emperor” is the translation of Huang Di most often encountered
in references to the Huang Di nei jing in popular English accounts. The title
Emperor, however, cannot be employed in a historical-philological context
because it implies solely a this-worldly rule and fails to include the notion
of the mythical ruler.
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