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Vol. VII • 1984

Huang Ti - Chinese Writing and the Postflood Settlement of China
Roy L. Hales

Genesis 11:1-9 indicates that after the great flood and their eventual arrival in their present homeland, the Chinese must have spent some time in Sumeria (the "land of Shinar"). At least one ancient Chinese legend hints that Huang Ti, the fabled "Yellow Emperor", led his people from Out of the west, and a primitive people, called the Miao, now living in southwest China, say that they arrived in China before him. The prominence given Huang Ti in ancient genealogies lends added substance to these legends.

Ten of the first characters of Chinese writing, the T'ien Kan or "heavenly stems", were supposedly developed during Huang Ti's reign but actually look much like Sumerian script from the Uruk/Jemdet Nasr period. Much of the legend of the Yellow Emperor appears to be rooted in the original Chinese trek - out from (Middle Eastern) Sumeria, after Noah's Flood.

Map of China, in Asia
China & East Asia

    The Hill and Sea Classics
Many scholars once believed that the Yellow Emperor led the Chinese to their present homeland: they based their theories on an early Han dynasty (202BC - 9AD) text called "Hill and Sea Classics". This book was traditionally regarded as "a curious Story", however, and it was not until Chinese scholars came under western influence that the Shan Hai Ching became popular.1 This, together with the absence of any hints of a western origin in earlier texts, has now led many scholars to reject the Shan Hai ChIng outright. Yet, several factors tend to argue for the historicity of this tradition:

(1) we possess only a small fragment of such Chinese literature as existed prior to the Han dynasty. As the Shan Ha Ching purports to convey ancient traditions, this leaves us with little material to test its credibility. Skeptics are probably correct in believing that much of its text is of a late origin, but there also remains the distinct possibility that some of the ideas in the text descend from antiquity;

(2) that hints of a western origin should appear in the literature of China which traditionally despised all things foreign is peculiar enough to be noteworthy;

(3) as was mentioned earlier, the Miao claim to have arrived first in China;2

(4) Chinese tradition tends to support the claim that the first war of their history occurred when the Yellow Emperor defeated the Miao. From the standpoint of chronology it is of interest to note that in many accounts the Chinese leader did not actually become the Yellow Emperor until after his victory;

(5) the Yellow Emperor is ancestor to every Chinese emperor for the next 2,500 years. There are legends of prior rulers, but they are only faintly related to subsequent generations; there were subsequent emperors, but none of them was to claim more than a fraction of the Imperial descendants that Huang Ti evidenced. Every emperor in the immediate period after him and the succeeding Hsia (2205-1766 BC) Shang (1766-1112 BC) and Chou (1111-256 BC) dynasties, was descended from Huang Ti (see attached genealogy). He appears as virtual ancestor to the Chinese nation.  

    The T'ien Kan (or "Heavenly Stems")
Ten of the first characters of Chinese writing. the "heavenly stems" were supposedly developed by one of Huang Ti's ministers. The names and shapes of these characters have been preserved by tradition. Correspondants to the shapes of five of them appear in Chinese neolithic pottery marks (see attached figure). That so few of these characters should be evidenced is understandable, as less than forty pottery mark forms have passed into modern times, Allowing for some slight modifications the tilt of "I", the reversed position of "Wu", the added dashes to the ends of "Kuei" the shapes of these characters can be seen to be faithfully preserved. However, as Kiang Kang-hu pointed out in 1935, the names of these characters "are unintelligible in the Chinese language. The same terms are often written in different characters in various places. It appears that they might be words of foreign origin translated into Chinese according to their pronunciation."3  

    The T'ien Ken Appear Sumerian
The actual shapes of the T'ien Kan are much like that of Sumerian script from the Uruk/Jemdet Nasr period (Chart 1). (As the Sumerians gave their script a ninety degree lilt during this period I have added an extra column where the Uruk/Jemdet Nasr symbols can be adjusted for better comparison -Chart 2). With the possible exception of "Hsin," the Chinese characters can easily be explained as deriving from the Sumerian. "Chia" is virtually identical to the Uruk character designated 234. "I" is a more linear rendering of 450. "Ping" is only a more compact expression of 692. "Ting" is L 405. Take the half circle away from 444, and we are looking at "Wu." "Chi" is 864. "Keng" expresses a similar idea to 386, though theY shape has been taken away from the sides and instead thrust up the center. "Jen" is a simplified 515. "Kuei" is merely that figure designated 8 78, with dashes added to the ends. Nine of the ten characters of the T'ien Kan can be explained as being derived from Sumerian script and the neolithic pottery marks actually appear to sit as an intermediate form. This is exactly what should be expected if the T'ien Kan was actually derived from Sumeria.  

Many hundreds of years later the Chinese were to exhibit an egocentric pride in their own culture combined with a worship of the reigning emperor and a contempt for all things foreign. This led to an abandonment of traditions of an earlier homeland or else a retelling of such stories in Chinese settings. One might point to the Chinese flood epic which stands alone, in the many world traditions of a great flood, in that their "Noah" conquered the flood waters: Yu, their "Noah" was an emperor and he obtained his victory through the means of magic dirt obtained from heaven. Under such circumstances it is not to be wondered that the later Chinese considered the legend of Huang Ti's western origin a "strange story," but it is remarkable that such a story should survive at all When we consider that this story finds agreement with Miao tradition and that Huang Ti is virtually the ancestor of the Chinese in ancient genealogies, this story appears remarkably historical (see Chart 3). The names of those Chinese characters developed in his reign appear to be of foreign derivation and the symbols themselves are like those of Sumeria's Uruk / Jemdet Nasr era. Scripture explains this situation quite simply, all mankind lived in Sumeria after the flood. One can only surmise that the legends of Huang Ti incorporate the memories ot the Chinese trek eastward

1 Kiang Kang-hu, T-ai Yu Chul Chi Chinese Civilisation (Shanghai: Chung Hwa Book Co., 1935) p.4.
2 See Roy L. Hales, "Archaeology. the Bible and the Postflood Origins of Chinese History." Creation Social Science and Humanities Quarterly, Winter 1983 or Hugo Bernatzek, Akha and Miao (1970) p.15.
3 Kiang Kang-hu, p.6.

T'ien Kan symbols taken from Chang Kwang-chih. `T'ien Kan: a key to the history of the Shang," David T. Roy and Tsuen-hsuin Ts len (eds), Ancient China: Studies in Early Civilisation (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1978).

Neolithic symbols from Chang Kwang-chih, The Archaeology of Ancient China (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, edition of 1977) figures 51 and 129.

Sumerian figures taken from either: (1) Adam Falkenstein, Archaische Texte Aus Uruk (Berlin, 1936), these have purely numerical designations like 234, (2) G.A. Barton, Origin and Development of Babylonian Writing (Leipzig, 1913) as reproduced in L.A. Wedell, The Aryan Origin of the Alphabet (Hawthorne, Cal.; Christian Book Club of America, edition of 1968), this sign is designated B 78. This sign also appears in figure 62 of Hans Jensen, Sign. Symbol and Script (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1970). (3) S. Langdon Pictrographic Inscriptions from Jemdet Nasr (Oxford University Press, 1928) fig. designated L 405.

Chart 1

Chart 2

Chart 3


"Huang Ti - Chinese Writing and the Postflood Settlement of China"
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