An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Zhu Rong 祝融

Jan 23, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Zhu Rong 祝融, also called Zhu Ming 朱明 "the Red-Bright", Zhu Song 祝誦 or Zhu He 祝和, is a person of Chinese mythology, a deity and assistant to Yan Di 炎帝, the Red Emperor. Sometimes he is identifed with Yan Di (or Chi Di 赤帝) himself. Some sources render his personal name as Zhong Li 重黎, while the words Zhong and Li are otherwise the names of two persons. He is sometimes called one of the mythological Three Augusts 三皇.

The Red Emperor was, according to the book Shanhaijing 山海經 the father of Yan Ju 炎居, Yan Ju father of Jie Bing 節幷, Jie Bing the father of Xi Qi 戲器, and the latter was the father of Zhu Rong. Another chapter in the same book says that Zhu Rong was the son of Lao Tong 老童, the son of Zhuan Xu 顓頊, and great-grandson of the Yellow Emperor 黄帝.

The commentary Zhouli zhushu 周禮注疏 likewise tells Zhu Rong a son of Zhuan Xu. He was believed to rule the process fire.

Zhu Rong had the face of a man but the body of a beast and used to ride on two dragons. His function in the empire of China was that of the Controller of Fires (huozheng 火正) of Emperor Di Ku 帝嚳. Zhu Rong is therefore also known as the god of fire (huoshen 火神, also called zaoshen 竈神, the Kitchen God).

It was Zhu Rong who once suggested to Yan Di (or the Yellow Emperor) to execute Gun 鯀 for his inability to tame the floods. It is also told that Zhu Rong personally fought with Gong Gong 共工, another water deity, but lost battle and was executed by his master Di Ku.

Zhu Rong's younger brother Wu Hui 吳回 (also called Hui Lu 回祿) took over the office of Controller of the Fires and finally defeated the water deity Gong Gong. This story is reported in Sima Zhen's 司馬貞 (679-732) commentary to the history Shiji 史記. Other sources say that the battle between Zhu Rong and Gong Gong was about domination of the world and took place during the age of Nü Wa 女媧.

In the books Mozi 墨子, Shangshu dazhuan 尚書大傳 and Tai Gong jingui 太公金匱 it is told that Zhu Rong assisted either the Shang dynasty 商 (17th-11th cent. BCE) in subduing the Xia 夏 (21th-17th cent. BCE), or the Zhou 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE) in conquering the Shang. The rulers of the state of Chu 楚 of the family Mi 芈 claimed descendency from Zhu Rong.

Li Jianping 李劍平, ed. (1998), Zhongguo shenhua renwu cidian 中國神話人物辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 455.
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), 6.
Yuan Ke 袁珂, ed. (1985). Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian 中國神話傳說詞典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), 97, 297-298.