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Fu Xi (伏羲)

Chinese. Name of a semi-mythological Chinese emperor, often described as the first of the Three Sovereigns during the Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors Period of ancient China, alongside Nu Wa (fig.), Yandi (fig.) and Huang Di (fig.), and who according to tradition ruled between 2852 and 2738 BC. He is said to be both the brother and consort of Nu Wa, and the mythical inventor of fishing and trapping, as well as of writing, although the invention of the Chinese characters is also attributed to Cangjie, an official historian of the Yellow Emperor (fig.). According to legend, the land was swept by a great flood and only Fu Xi and his sister Nu Wa survived. With the approval from the Emperor of Heaven they were united in order to procreate the human race. To speed up the process, the couple used yellow clay to create human figures, which were animated by divine power and Fu Xi then came to rule over his descendants as the first sovereign. Like Nu Wa, Fu Xi is at times depicted with the body of a serpent, usually intertwined with that of Nu We (fig.). Sometimes transcribed Fuxi and Fu Hsi, and also known as Fu Xi-shi (伏羲氏), and as Pao Xi (庖牺) or Pao Xi-shi (庖牺氏), with the annex shi (氏) referring to his membership of a clan known as Shi, i.e. a group of semi-mythological rulers and culture heroes from the period preceding the Xia Dynasty and that took part in the creation of the world. This group consists of four members, who together are referred to as Si Shi.