Yao and Shun Demise-尧舜禅让

The legend of Yao and Shun’s “abdication” reflects the primitive communal democratic system in ancient China. During this period, known as the “public world” era, leaders were chosen through a non-bloodline or “pseudo-bloodline” inheritance system, namely the abdication system. This system aimed to select leaders based on talent and capability rather than direct familial lineage.

Emperor Yao, also known as Tao Tang, ruled for over seventy years and managed the Yellow River Basin effectively. He was well-liked by the people due to his approachable nature, simple lifestyle, and dedication to the welfare of the community. As Yao grew older, he sought a worthy successor to ensure the continuity of good governance.

Yao rejected the idea of passing the throne to his son Danzhu, recognizing his unsuitability. Similarly, another candidate, Gonggong, was deemed unfit due to his political cunning and questionable intentions. Eventually, Shun emerged as a recommended candidate due to his kind and tolerant nature.

Shun’s background revealed a challenging upbringing, marked by mistreatment from his stepmother and younger brother. Despite facing adversity, Shun remained humble, hardworking, and capable. His resilience and integrity shone through when his father and brother attempted to harm him through deceitful schemes, yet Shun emerged unscathed each time.

Impressed by Shun’s character and achievements, Yao appointed him to manage political affairs and even married his daughters to him. Shun’s successful leadership and accomplishments led to Yao’s decision to abdicate the throne to him. Shun continued the tradition of good governance, promoting meritocracy and encouraging the development of various economic activities.

After Shun’s rule, he also adhered to the abdication system. When he wanted to relinquish the throne to Danzhu, the people rejected this choice, and Shun continued to lead. Eventually, Dayu, who successfully controlled floods, gained recognition and was elected as the new leader through discussions in tribal alliance meetings. Shun gracefully held a concession ceremony, highlighting the democratic nature of the abdication system.

The legend reflects the primitive communal democratic ideals of selecting leaders based on merit and the willingness to peacefully transfer power. The abdication system aimed to ensure that leaders of major tribes had the opportunity to share power, promoting unity and coordination in social production within the tribal alliance.