An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Gao Yao 皋陶

Jan 23, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Gao Yao 皋陶 (normally read Gao Tao), also written Jiu Yao 咎繇 or Jiu Yao (Jiu Tao) 咎陶, was according to legend a minister of Emperor Shun 舜. He is venerated as the God of Jail (yushen 獄神). The historical person Gao Yao was perhaps a tribesleader of the Eastern Yi 東夷. His family name was said to have been Yan 偃, and he was appointed Chamberlain for Law Enforcement (dali 大理) by Emperor Shun - thus it is reported in the book Shuoyuan 說苑 from the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE).

In this position, Gao Yao invented the five punishments (wuxing 五刑), as the catalogue of inventors in the genealogy Shiben 世本 says. He also served Emperor Yu the Great 大禹, the founder of the Xia dynasty 夏 (17th-15th cent. BCE). Yu selected Gao Yao to be his successor, but Gao Yao died at an early date. The lords of Ying 英 and Liu 六 (both located close to modern Liu'an 六安, Anhui) during the Spring and Autumn period 春秋 (770-221 BCE) were believed to have been his descendants.

Li Jianping 李劍平, ed. (1998). Zhongguo shenhua renwu cidian 中國神話人物辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 542.
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), 9.
Yuan Ke 袁珂, ed. (1985). Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian 中國神話傳說詞典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), 322.