Chiyou as depicted on a tomb relief of the Han Dynasty
Traditional Chinese蚩尤
Simplified Chinese蚩尤

Chiyou (蚩尤; Old Chinese (ZS): *tʰjɯ-ɢʷɯ) is a mythological being that appears in Chinese mythology. He was a tribal leader of the Nine Li tribe (九黎) in ancient China.[1] He is best known as a king who lost against the future Yellow Emperor during the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors era in Chinese mythology.[1][2][3] According to the Song dynasty history book Lushi, Chiyou's surname was Jiang (), and he was a descendant of the Flame Emperor.[4]

For some Hmong people, Chiyou or Txiv Yawg[5] was a sagacious mythical king.[6] He has a particularly complex and controversial ancestry, as he may fall under Dongyi[1] Miao[6] or even Man,[6] depending on the source and view. Today, Chiyou is honored and worshipped as the God of War and one of the three legendary founding fathers of China.[dubious ]

According to legend, Chiyou had a bronze head with a distinct metal forehead.[7] He had four eyes and six arms, wielding terrible sharp weapons in every hand, similar to a description of fangxiangshi.[8] In some sources, Chiyou had certain features associated with various mythological bovines: his head was that of a bull with two horns, although the body was human, and his hindquarters were those of a bear.[8] He is said to have been unbelievably fierce, and to have had 81 brothers and many followers.[8] Historical sources often described him as 'bold leader',[4] as well as 'brave'.[9] Some sources have asserted that the figure 81 should rather be associated with 81 clans in his kingdom.[10] Chiyou knows the constellations and the ancients spells for calling upon the weather. For example, he called upon a fog to surround Huangdi and his soldiers during the Battle of Zhuolu.


Chiyou is regarded as a leader of the Nine Li tribe (九黎, RPA White Hmong: Cuaj Li Ntuj) by nearly all sources.[7] However, his exact ethnic affiliations are quite complex, with multiple sources reporting him as belonging to various tribes, in addition to a number of diverse peoples supposed to have directly descended from him.

Some sources from later dynasties, such as the Guoyu book, considered Chiyou's Li tribe to be related to the ancient San miao tribe (三苗).[11] In the ancient Zhuolu Town is a statue of Chiyou commemorating him as the original ancestor of the Miao people.[12] The place is regarded as the birthplace of the San miao / Miao people,[12] the Hmong being a subgroup of the Miao. In various sources, the "nine Li" tribe is called the "Jiuli" kingdom,[10] Jiuli meaning "nine Li". Modern Han Chinese scholar Weng Dujian considers Jiuli and San Miao to be Man southerners.[13] Chiyou has also been counted as part of the Dongyi.[7]

Allusions and legends

Legend has it that in ancient times, the Miao people lived on the edge of the Yellow River, with a total of "eighty-one" villages. Their leader was called Chi You. Chi You got rid of the "lop-eared witch" who harmed the Miao people, so that the people could live and work in peace and contentment. Later, The three demon children of the witch invited Red Dragon and Huang Long (i.e. Emperor Yan and Huang Emperor) to take revenge. Chi You led the Miao people to fight bravely and defeated Red Dragon and Huang Long many times.[14]

The story of Guan Gong being invited by Taoist Zhang Tianshi to kill Chi You. Legend has it that during the reign of Zhenzong of the Song Dynasty, the Jiezhou Salt Pond did not produce salt. Zhang Tianshi from Longhu Mountain in Jiangxi Province was summoned to the court to tell the emperor that the lack of salt produced Chi You, and that he could be killed by Guan Gong. After Zhang Tianshi followed the emperor's order, he burned a talisman to summon Guan Gong. Guan Gong showed his power, Chi You was beheaded, the salt pond was restored, and all the people rejoiced.[citation needed]

Epic battles

When the Yan emperor was leading his tribe and conflicts with Nine Li tribes led by Chiyou,[1] the Yan emperor stood no chance and lost the fight. He escaped, and later ended up in Zhuolu begging for help from the Yellow Emperor.[1] At this point the epic battle between Chiyou and the Yellow Emperor's forces began. The battle last for 10 years with Chiyou having the upper hand.

During the Battle of Zhuolu, Chiyou breathed out a thick fog and obscured the sunlight.[15] The battle dragged on for days while the emperor's side was in danger.[8] Only after the Yellow Emperor invented the south-pointing chariot, did he find his way out of the battlefield.[8][15] Chiyou then conjured up a heavy storm. The Yellow Emperor then called upon the drought demon Nüba (女魃), who blew away the storm clouds and cleared the battlefield.[15] Chiyou and his army could not hold up, and were later killed by the Yellow Emperor.[1][8] After this defeat, the Yellow Emperor is said to become the ancestor of all Huaxia.[8] His followers were forced to live in the mountains and leave their Li kingdom.[12] After Chiyou's death, it is said that it rained blood for some time.


According to the Records of the Grand Historian, Qin Shi Huang worshiped Chiyou as the God of War, and Liu Bang worshiped at Chiyou's shrine before his decisive battle against Xiang Yu.[citation needed] The mythical title God of War was given to Chiyou because the Yellow Emperor and Yan Emperor could not defeat Chiyou alone. Altogether, Chiyou won nine major battles including 80 minor confrontations. On the 10th and final war, both emperors combined their forces and conquered Chiyou.

In one mythical episode, after Chiyou had claimed he could not be conquered,[2] the goddess Nuwa dropped a stone tablet on him from Mount Tai. The stone failed to crush Chiyou, who managed to escape. From then on, the 5-finger-shaped stone tablet, inscribed "Mount Tai shigandang" (泰山石敢當) became a spiritual weapon to ward off evil and disasters.[2][16]

According to notes by the Qing dynasty painter Luo Ping: "Yellow Emperor ordered his men to have Chiyou beheaded... seeing that Chiyou's head was separated from his body, later sages had his image engraved on sacrificial vessels as a warning to those that would covet power and wealth."[17]

The Tale of Heike mentions a comet "of the type called Chiyou's Banner or Red Breath."[18]

Chiyou remains as a figure of worship today.

In popular culture

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f 戴逸, 龔書鐸. (2003) [2002]. 中國通史. 史前 夏 商 西周. Intelligence press. p. 32. ISBN 962-8792-80-6.
  2. ^ a b c Lee, James (2006). James Lee Astrology guide 2006 English edition. World publishing co. p. 318. ISBN 962-432-503-0.
  3. ^ Greg Woolf (2007). Ancient civilizations: the illustrated guide to belief, mythology, and art. Barnes & Noble. p. 213. ISBN 978-1-4351-0121-0.
  4. ^ a b Luo Mi (罗泌). Lushi. 后记四:蚩尤传.
  5. ^ Hmong: Zid Yeus; Xong: Puob Youl; Laotian RPA White Hmong: Txiv Yawg /tsi ʝaɨ/
  6. ^ a b c Ya Po Cha (2010). An Introduction to Hmong Culture. McFarland. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-7864-4951-4.
  7. ^ a b c 戴逸, 龔書鐸. (2003) [2002]. 中國通史. 史前 夏 商 西周. Intelligence press. p. 32. ISBN 962-8792-80-6.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g 王恆偉. (2005) (2006) 中國歷史講堂 #1 遠古至春秋. 中華書局. ISBN 962-8885-24-3. p 11-13.
  9. ^ 司马, . 史记. 五帝本纪.
  10. ^ a b Ya Po Cha (2010). An Introduction to Hmong Culture. McFarland. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-7864-4951-4.
  11. ^ (國語·楚語下)
  12. ^ a b c De la Cadena, Marisol. Starn, Orin. Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. [2007] (2007). Indigenous experience today. Berg Publishers, 2007. ISBN 978-1-84520-519-5. pg 239.
  13. ^ Schein, Louisa (2000). Minority rules: the Miao and the feminine in China's cultural politics. Duke University Press. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-8223-2444-7.
  14. ^ "What is Chi You? Why did Huangdi want to kill him to death?". Yahoo News (in Chinese). 2020-10-30. Retrieved 2024-03-15.
  15. ^ a b c "" 黃帝大戰蚩尤與指南車. Retrieved on 2010-08-22.
  16. ^ Lee, James. [2006] (2006). James Lee Astrology guide 2006 Chinese edition. World publishing co. ISBN 962-432-502-2. p 208-209.
  17. ^ Wangheng Chen; Various (2001). Chinese Bronzes: Ferocious Beauty. Asiapac Books Pte Ltd. pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-981-229-020-5.
  18. ^ The Tales of the Heike. Translated by Burton Watson. Columbia University Press. 2006. p. 38. ISBN 9780231138031.
  19. ^ Bullion, J. M. (2018-10-24). "South Korean Chiwoo Cheonwang Series Silver Bullion Medallions from KOMSCO". CoinWeek. Retrieved 2022-02-05.