"That stubborn old man simply refuses to die."

Yu-huang Shang Ti, the Jade Emperor, also known as Yu the Great or simply Yu, was one of the oldest Goa'uld System Lords.


Background information[]

Yu-huang Shang Ti

Yu's symbol.

Lord Yu is considered to be one of the more reasonable System Lords, who has kept his realm stable via a combination of pragmatism, ruthlessness, and enlightened self interest. Yu is a pragmatic and practical Goa'uld, one who is not a punitive ruler. He is the oldest of the Goa'uld and some would say the greatest of them all. Lord Yu speaks with instantaneous authority, though irritation constantly tinges his voice. Rarely does he lose his temper, and only orders reprisals when he believes that doing so serves his long-term interests.

During the First Goa'uld Dynasty, Yu actively supported Ra, since he kept the other System Lords in line. In his rivalry with Cronus, the conflicts between the two usually ended in a stalemate, despite Cronos' impressive military might and resources. The volatile aggressive Cronus often made foolhardy moves that Yu was able to counter via better strategies, yet due to his conservatism Yu was unable to take advantage of opportunities to kill Cronus. In addition, Cronus was often in conflict with other System Lords and never gained their support, which helped Yu. Recently Yu was in conflict with both Morrigan and Olokun, and through the application of superior force and strategy he remained victorious.

In the far past, he had four Goa'uld queens under his control, all of but one of them has died from old age. Queen Xiwangmu, the remaining queen, who is too old to spawn, still retains a position of trust and respect. Yu was also rumored to have up to 100 concubines spread across holdings, with adopted human "sons" on each of his planets whom were in charge during his absence. His biological children have been appointed to cultural and political postings, rather than military or political positions, thereby keeping true power away from their hands.

His Jaffa are given far more latitude compared to the First Primes and generals of other Goa'uld, but are expected to achieve more. To ensure that no Jaffa immigrants can be infiltrated as spies into his realm, he only promotes those Jaffa of his own realm to positions beyond the rank of captain. Among his upper level officers, most of them have personally known Lord Yu since their childhood. He hand-picked them for their positions after checking with the First Prime and obtaining his approval. Due to the extremely rigid controls that Lord Yu has implemented over the military's behavior and contacts, the Tok'ra have been unable to infiltrate his forces and one Tok'ra operative is believed to have defected into his army.

Lord Yu is capable of committing acts of brutality, but prefers using bribes and rewards to maintain order in his domain. With a realm as extensive as his, it's a more effective strategy for keeping order, permitting him to conserve time and resources for other more pressing issues. He also uses the superior technology at his disposal to influence the production of food and agriculture by his subjects. Lord Yu will either withhold or grant assistance to his subjects, thereby gaining the loyalty of the population. Loyal or compliant subjects experience record-breaking crops and problematic or rebellious subjects have their food and water-supplies held hostage. By making it known that such practices are not common among the other System Lords, he has ensured good feelings and loyalty among all of his subjects, from the lowliest mine worker or farmer to the most elevated Jaffa.

The armies of Lord Yu are huge, with over a million Jaffa and a fleet of 16 Ha'tak. Because his worlds are connected via a well-planned selection of transport corridors and satellites, it has made them extremely defensible and therefore very difficult to take via a direct attack. Since Lord Yu was alive during the Goa'uld's war against the Asgard, one of the few left from that conflict, he is extremely wary of them. Lord Yu refuses to underestimate the Asgard's technological and tactical capabilities, and is a strong supporter of pursuing a strategy that avoids direct confrontation with the Asgard. (SG1: "Living Gods: Stargate System Lords")


Yu was part of the delegation that was sent by the System Lords to negotiate Earth's entry into the Asgard's Protected Planets Treaty, along with Cronus and Nirrti. He partially favored the treaty, as his interests no longer resided in that area of the Milky Way, looking toward other exploits. After SG-1 revealed Nirrti's treachery to kill Cronus, Yu was convinced to allow Earth into the treaty, and also let them keep their Stargates, which were originally to be forfeited as a condition of the treaty, although he and Cronus did note that any SG-teams found on Goa'uld-controlled planets would still be fair game. (SG1: "Fair Game")


Yu-huang Shang Ti 1

Yu stunned to hear that Anubis is back

During the aftermath of the deaths of Apophis, Cronus and Heru'ur, Yu was among the System Lords who engaged in combat with the others to come to dominate the power vacuum. He made strides against Olokun, but soon began to suffer attacks by an unknown adversary. When the System Lords gathered to end the conflict, Osiris - who recently gained the respect of the Goa'uld - arrived as an emissary on behalf of Anubis, whom he revealed to be the one behind the attacks. Yu was the only one of the seven System Lords present who voted against Anubis' regain of his former rank of System Lord, and was the only one among the High Council of System Lords that had originally banished him in the first place. Dr. Daniel Jackson - posing as his lo'taur Jarren - attempted to use Yu's Tel'tak to kidnap Osiris in order to free his host, Sarah Gardner, but Yu stumbled upon them. Osiris stabbed Yu with a knife, but Yu survived and declared war on Anubis. (SG1: "Summit", "Last Stand")

When Teal'c lead a raid on P3X-042, his Jaffa captured Teal'c. Noting that Teal'c was not one to blindly follow another, Yu allowed him to leave unharmed after he revealed the treachery of K'tano, the new leader of the Jaffa Rebellion, inspiring Teal'c to challenge K'tano in Joma secu, resulting in him learning that K'tano was actually Imhotep. (SG1: "The Warrior")

When Colonel Jack O'Neill was captured by Ba'al and taken to his secret fortress, the SGC contacted Yu with information about it, knowing that he would attack the fortress as Ba'al was hiding it and his anti-gravity research from the other Goa'uld. In the message, they asked Yu to target the power generators first so that O'Neill could escape. Yu sent his Ha'tak to the fortress, bombarding it from orbit and knocking out the power generators first as asked. O'Neill escaped thanks to Yu's attack and Ba'al abandoned the fortress which was left heavily damaged until SG-1 returned for a raid a year later in which it was destroyed. (SG1: "Abyss", "A Matter of Honor")


Yu then spent the next year fiercely campaigning against Anubis, and finally managed to rally the other System Lords against him. However, the power of the sarcophagus was beginning to fail to fully restore him, until he reached the point where he was no longer able to take a new host. Yu began to suffer from a sense of senility, giving blatantly foolish orders that could jeopardise the campaign against Anubis. In turn, his First Prime Oshu had to take control of his master's Empire to keep it from falling into anarchy, and when Ba'al took leadership of the United Alliance of System Lords, Oshu agreed to obey Ba'al so long as his actions lead to the destruction of Anubis and the betterment of his master's territory. (SG1: "Full Circle", "Fallen", "Homecoming", "Orpheus")


When Ba'al took control of the Kull warriors, Yu was accompanied by Camulus, Amaterasu and his First Prime in a second delegation to Earth to seek their help in defeating Ba'al. His senility showed during the negotiation once again when he believed that the System Lords are still facing to Anubis. Yu and Amaterasu left empty handed, while Camulus sought asylum. (SG1: "New Order, Part 1", "New Order, Part 2")


Over the next year, Amaterasu and Yu campaigned against Ba'al, while the rest of the System Lords fell, fled, or surrendered. At a meeting in the Hasara space station, Ba'al sent his underlord Selkhet to negotiate the High Council surrender. Replicator Carter arrived, posing as Samantha Carter, and ran a blade through Yu's chest, finally killing him. (SG1: "It's Good to Be King", "Reckoning, Part 1")

Alternate timelines[]

System Lords

Yu in the alternate timeline


Unlike most Goa'uld, who are generally megalomaniacal and obsessed with total domination, Yu can be fairly pragmatic and methodical. While certainly no friend of Earth, Yu is mostly concerned with strengthening his hold on the territory he already controls, while other Goa'uld will often haphazardly waste resources trying to conquer the entire galaxy.

Yu is also often fairly willing to negotiate with Earth (as opposed to other System Lords which view all humans as just livestock) and achieve a diplomatic solution more or less co-existent with the Tau'ri, twice assisting them in their campaigns against other System Lords when their own forces were insufficient to the task at hand. However, it is stated that this is due in no small part to the fact that the territories Yu controls are on the opposite side of the Milky Way Galaxy, and thus most of the other System Lords are located between Yu and Earth: allowing Earth to survive helps destabilize Yu's Goa'uld enemies located between the two.

Another factor is simply the persona that Yu took, that of one of China's early emperors, who was not really considered a "god" per se. Like many other Goa'uld, however, Yu does generally seem to believe his own propaganda (unlike Ba'al, who privately acknowledged the falsehood of this claim and was rather flippant about it). Still, Yu rarely asserts this fact, even when questioned, or endeavor to force others to acknowledge it (as opposed to Apophis and Sokar, who were rather self-obsessed with their status as "gods").

Unlike other Goa'uld, who might agree to an alliance with the Tau'ri to achieve an immediate goal and then turn against them when the time is right, Yu is generally shown to keep his word and stick to their agreement; the only time he "betrayed" Earth was when his senility caused him to make a mistake. Also, unlike other Goa'uld, who will attempt to exploit any chance to kill the shol'va Teal'c and only fail to do so when Teal'c escapes or kills them himself, Yu once allowed Teal'c to live even after K'tano had attempted to convince Teal'c to assassinate him, Yu implying that he admired Teal'c's ability not to blindly serve another (although it should be noted that his actions also undermined Imhotep's attempt to infiltrate the Jaffa Rebellion, suggesting that Yu's true goal was to defeat his adversary while saving face).

As he became increasingly senile, Yu's orders became more erratic and unreliable, but his past actions ensured the continued loyalty of his First Prime, Oshu, who took control of Yu's armies while leaving his master as a public figurehead, agreeing to serve the more mentally stable Ba'al so long as Ba'al's actions would serve to benefit Yu, such as through ensuring the destruction of Anubis.


This section requires expansion




Appearances for Yu-huang Shang Ti

In chronological order:

Behind the scenes[]

Two references in the series to the historical basis of Yu show a clear contradiction on the persona Yu assumed. In a briefing at the SGC, Daniel Jackson introduced Yu as "Yu the Great. He did not assume the role of a god, per se. But may have been one of China's earliest emperors... He founded the first recorded dynasty". (SG1: "Fair Game") Later, Jackson, impersonating Yu's servant, announced Yu's full title as "the Jade Emperor, the exalted Lord Yuhuang Shangti". (SG1: "Summit") The first reference refers to Yu the Great, founder of the Xia Dynasty, a mortal who lived in the 21st century BC, and "Yu" would be written as 禹 in Chinese. The second reference refers to the Jade Emperor, a deity of Taoism developed much later on, and "Yu" would be written as 玉 in Chinese (pronounced as Yù).

It is possible, however, that Yu assumed both personae at different times.

His Jaffa symbol is similar to the Chinese character 中 (zhong) which is translated as "middle", and is used in the Chinese word for China ("zhong guo"; lit. "middle Kingdom", or "land in the center of all things").

Yu wears Qing-era attire, which was not introduced to China until the 17th century AD. To be fair, however, nobody is quite sure what Xia-era attire would have looked like, also, not insisting on his divinity, he isn't constrained by sticking symbolic attributes of his persona and can change his attire however he sees fit.

His full name Yu Huang Shang Ti would in Chinese be 玉皇上帝 (Pinyin: Yù Huáng Shàng Dì), meaning "Jade Emperor God".

While it is never stated on the show, it is possible that China's traditional association of Chinese emperors with dragons was originated (in-universe) by Yu, as Goa'uld symbiotes possess a decidedly serpentine appearance. What is more, the traditional Chinese dragon, unlike the Western kind, is wingless, has a snake-like lower body, and its head is often flanked by exaggerated "ears" reminiscent of Goa'uld head-fins.


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