King Wen of Zhou

King Wen of Zhou

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What did King Wen do?

King Wen (1152-1056 BCE) of the Zhou is described as a living standard of benevolence & wisdom. The first important historical figure of the Zhou is King Wen (1152-1056 BCE), who is described as a living standard of benevolence and wisdom. He became king of Zhou in 1099 BCE during the last days of the Shang Dynasty.

Likewise, when did King Wu die? 1043 BC

In this regard, what did King Wu accomplish?

King Wu &ndash the name means "Martial" &ndash followed his victory by establishing many feudal states under his 16 younger brothers and clans allied by marriage, but his death three years later provoked several rebellions against his young heir King Cheng and the regent Duke of Zhou, even from three of his brothers.

How did the Mandate of Heaven justify the overthrow of a dynasty?

The Zhou created the Mandate of Heaven: the idea that there could be only one legitimate ruler of China at a time, and that this ruler had the blessing of the gods. They used this Mandate to justify their overthrow of the Shang, and their subsequent rule.

Ancient World History

In Chinese tradition King Wen (the Accomplished), King Wu (the Martial), and the Duke of Zhou are revered as the wise founding fathers of the Zhou (Chou) dynasty (c. 1122� b.c.e.) and their era is considered a the golden age.

King Wen prepared the way King Wu overthrew the Shang dynasty but died shortly after, leaving his young son King Cheng (Ch’eng) under the care of his uncle, the Duke of Zhou, as regent.

Soon after this event three other brothers of King Wu, who had been sent to govern the former Shang territories in the east, and the Shang prince who had been set up as nominal ruler of the Shang people, joined in rebellion. After two years of warfare the Duke of Zhou and his brother the Duke of Shao defeated the rebels.

The Shang prince was killed, the Shang capital, Yin, was leveled, and another Shang prince was set up to rule another fief called Song (Sung) further east. The rebel Zhou princes were either killed or exiled. Thus ended the first crisis of the new dynasty.

The Duke of Zhou then pressed further east and brought all peoples to the coast under Zhou rule. The Zhou territory was larger than that of modern France. To consolidate the conquests the duke sent loyal relatives to establish strongholds in strategic locations and set up a second capital at Luoyang (Loyang), strategically located at the junction of the Luo (Lo) and Yellow Rivers.

During the early Zhou era numerous walled cities were built, governed by relatives and supporters of the new dynasty, who gradually established control over the population.

Their territories were called guo (kuo). The king ruled directly over the largest territory in the center of the political order, called Zhungguo (Chung-kuo) or the “central state,” which came to mean “China” and known to the West as the Middle Kingdom.

The new rulers were given titles of rank, translated as duke (reserved for sons and brothers of the king), marquis, count, viscount, and baron. Together the nobles were referred to as “the various marquises.”

Most of the nobles were related to the royal house either by blood or by marriage they looked to the king as head of their vast extended family and the Zhou clan as their common ancestors. Many common features between these Zhou institutions and European medieval feudal institutions have led historians to call the early Zhou polity feudal.

The Duke of Zhou is also credited with creating the well-field system that equitably distributed farmland to cultivators eight families grouped together farmed plots for themselves and together farmed the ninth one for their lord.

The Duke of Zhou explained to the Shang people that the change of dynasties was the will of heaven, which punished the last Shang king for his wickedness and rewarded the house of Zhou for its virtue.

He also lectured his nephew that the concept of “Mandate of Heaven” was a double-edged sword and could be cut when the personal and political conduct of the new rulers did not measure up to heaven’s expectations. After a seven-year regency, and having accomplished his mission, he returned power to his nephew and retired to his own fief called Lu in eastern Shandong (Shantung).


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Wuwang, Wade-Giles romanization Wu-wang, personal name (xingming) Ji Fa, (flourished 11th century bc , China), reign name (nianhao) of the founder and first ruler (1046–43 bc ) of the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 bc ). He was regarded by later Confucians as a wise king.

Ji Fa succeeded his father, the famous Wenwang, as head of the semibarbaric state of Zhou, located on the western border of China. Wenwang had assumed the title Xi Bo (“King of the West”) and had begun to plot against the Chinese Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 bc ). The Wuwang emperor continued his father’s work and formed a coalition with eight other border states, which defeated the evil last ruler of the Shang. The final battles were said to have been extremely bloody, and Shang survivors may well have served as Chinese culture bearers to places as far removed as Korea.

After establishing the Zhou dynasty, Wuwang, assisted by his brother, known as the duke of Zhou, consolidated his rule by establishing a feudalistic form of government, which parceled out territory to relatives and vassals willing to acknowledge Zhou suzerainty. Even descendants of the defeated Shang were allowed to rule over a portion of their former domain.

Ancient World History

Both were descended from the Neolithic Longshan (Lungshan) culture, but the Zhou people were less cultivated. The Shang oracle bones described them as sometimes enemies and also as allies against the Jiang (Chiang) barbarian tribes further west. A Zhou leader was also referred to as "Chief of the West", to whom a Shang noblewoman was given in marriage. A son was born of the union, King Wen.

King Wen was described as a paragon of virtue. Wen paved the way for overthrowing the Shang dynasty by forming coalitions with other states but died in the 50th year of his reign, about 1133 b.c.e., before he could accomplish his goal. Since Zhou rulers practiced primogeniture, his oldest son, Wu, succeeded him.

Around 1122 b.c.e. King Wu led a second campaign against the Shang, a coalition army purportedly 45,000 strong that consisted of forces from eight anti-Shang states, including men from a faraway Yangtze River valley state called Ba (Pa) in present-day Sichuan (Szechwan).

At a place called Muye (Mu-yeh), meaning "Shepherd’s Field", not far from Yin, Wu gave a speech that detailed the crimes of Shang king Shou. In a decisive battle against a larger but disaffected Shang army Wu’s forces won decisively. King Shou retreated to his palace in Yin, set it a fire, and died.

Wu restored order quickly, even placing a Shang prince in Yin as his vassal ruler, to continue conducting sacrifi ces to his powerful ancestral spirits, but under the supervision of three of Wu’s brothers.

Wu then returned to his capital in Hao, located just southwest of the modern city Xi’an (Sian), but died soon after, in 1116 b.c.e. while still young and before consolidating his conquest. The throne passed to Wu’s oldest son, King Cheng (Ch’eng), but under the supervision of one of Wu’s younger brothers, Dan (Tan), the Duke of Zhou.

As regent, the duke consolidated the new state and laid down the foundations that made the dynasty a great and lasting one. Kings Wen and Wu and the Duke of Zhou are remembered as great men and ideal rulers in Chinese history.

Early Zhou proclamations justified the transfer of power as the wish of their high god, Tian (T’ien), or heaven, who was equated with Shangdi (Shang-ti), the Shang high god. From this came the concept of the Mandate of Heaven, that heaven oversaw the affairs of humans and appointed a virtuous human to rule on its behalf. The mandate could be passed down the generations in the ruling family, provided they ruled justly.

If they did not rule justly, as was the case with the last Shang king, he forfeited the mandate. A righteous man would be appointed to replace him, in this case the Zhou king. This concept became central to Chinese political thinking.

Establishment of the Zhou Dynasty

Seeing the huge loss, King Zhou of Shang burnt down himself in his royal palace.

Ji Fa, now King Wu of Zhou, established the Zhou Dynasty and respected his father Ji Chang as the King Wen of Zhou.

The King Wu of Zhou then subinfeuded lands to his brothers and relatives, and to the lords that had contributed significantly to Zhou's establishment.

Former nobles, such as descendants of King Huang Di , King Yao, and Shun , were given fiefs and titles as well.

He also established a more centralized political management system, which granted the king more powers and strengthened the consolidation of the whole kingdom.

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Ritual Jade (Yu Zhang) of the Zhou Dynasty Carved with Human and Phoenix Patterns &mdash Henan Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

King Wu of Zhou

King Wu of Zhou (Chinese: 周武王 pinyin: Zhōu Wǔ Wáng ) was the first king of the Zhou dynasty of ancient China. The chronology of his reign is disputed but is generally thought to have begun around 1046 BC and ended three years later in 1043 BC. [1]

King Wu's ancestral name was Ji ( 姬 ) and given name Fa ( 發 ). He was the second son of King Wen of Zhou and Queen Taisi. In most accounts, his older brother Bo Yikao was said to have predeceased his father, typically at the hands of King Zhou, the last king of the Shang dynasty in the Book of Rites, however, it is assumed that his inheritance represented an older tradition among the Zhou of passing over the eldest son. [2] (Fa's grandfather Jili had likewise inherited Zhou despite two older brothers.)

Upon his succession, Fa worked with his father-in-law Jiang Ziya to accomplish an unfinished task: overthrowing the Shang dynasty. In 1048 BC, Fa marched down the Yellow River to the Mengjin ford and met with more than 800 dukes. [ citation needed ] He constructed an ancestral tablet naming his father Chang King Wen and placed it on a chariot in the middle of the host considering the timing unpropitious, though, he did not yet attack Shang. In 1046 BC, King Wu took advantage of Shang disunity to launch an attack along with many neighboring dukes. The Battle of Muye destroyed Shang's forces and King Zhou of Shang set his palace on fire, dying within.

King Wu – the name means "Martial" – followed his victory by establishing many feudal states under his 16 younger brothers and clans allied by marriage, but his death three years later provoked several rebellions against his young heir King Cheng and the regent Duke of Zhou, even from three of his brothers.

A burial mound in Zhouling town, Xianyang, Shaanxi was once thought to be King Wu's tomb. It was fitted with a headstone bearing Wu's name in the Qing dynasty. Modern archeology has since concluded that the tomb is not old enough to be from the Zhou dynasty, and is more likely to be that of a Han dynasty royal. The true location of King Wu's tomb remains unknown, but is likely to be in the Xianyang-Xi'an area.

Wu is considered one of the great heroes of China, together with Yellow Emperor and Yu the Great.

Confucius Praises King Wu’s Filial Piety

King Wen’s second son, Ji Fa, later known as King Wu of Zhou, followed in his father’s footsteps and was very thoughtful, even when taking care of small matters.

According to historical records, one time, when King Wen was sick, Ji Fa served him by his side day and night without even changing his clothes. Only when King Wen ate a mouthful of rice did Ji Fa also eat a mouthful. If King Wen ate a bowl of rice, Ji Fa would also add a bowl of rice for himself. This lasted for 12 days. Only when King Wen recovered was Ji Fa at ease.

Later, after King Wen died, King Wu (Ji Fa) took over his father’s position. At this time, King Zhou of the Shang Dynasty was very tyrannical and everyone complained about him. Thus, King Wu overthrew King Zhou and became the first king of the Zhou Dynasty. His brother, the Duke of Zhou, continued their father’s legacy and ruled with benevolence.

Later, Confucius praised King Wu’s filial piety as setting an example for everyone in the world to follow.

Translated by Dora Li into English and slightly edited, these stories are reprinted with permission from the book “Treasured Tales of China,” Vol. 1, available on Amazon.

King You of Zhou

King You of Zhou (795–771 BC) (Chinese: 周幽王 pinyin: Zhōu Yōu Wáng) was the twelfth king of the Chinese zhou dynasty and the last of western zhou dynasty. He reigned from 781 to 771 BC.

In 780 BC, a major earthquake hit Guanzhong. A soothsayer named Bo Yangfu (伯陽甫) considered this an omen foretelling the destruction of the zhou dynasty.

In 779 BC, a concubine named Bao Si entered the palace and came into King You's favour. She bore him a son named Bofu. King You deposed Queen Shen (申后) and Crown Prince Yijiu. He made Baosi the new queen and Bofu the new crown prince.

It is said that Baosi did not laugh easily. After trying many methods and failing, King You tried to amuse his favourite queen by lighting warning beacons and fooling his nobles into thinking that the Dog Rong nomads were about to attack. The nobles arrived at the castle only to find themselves laughed at by Baosi. Even after King You had impressed Baosi, he continued to abuse his use of warning beacons and lost the trust of the nobles.

Queen Shen's father, the Marquess of Shen, was furious at the deposition of his daughter and grandson Crown Prince Yijiu and mounted an attack on King You's palace with the Quanrong. King You called for his nobles using the previously abused beacons but none came. In the end, King You and Bofu were killed and Baosi was captured.

After King You died, nobles including the Marquess of Shen, the Marquess of Zeng (缯侯) and Duke Wen of Xu (許文公) supported deposed Prince Yijiu as King Ping of Zhou to continue the zhou dynasty. As the national capital Haojing had suffered severe damage, and was located near the potentially dangerous Quanrong, in 771 BC, King Ping of Zhou moved the capital eastward to Luoyi, thus beginning the eastern zhou dynasty and ushering in the spring and autumn period which would last for more than 300 years.

Key Facts & Information


  • 1021 BC. Before the Zhou Empire was established, Zhou and Shang coexisted in a state of war and peace.
  • “Mandate of Heaven” was the title given to the Kings of Zhou and followed by the later dynasties. It is used to emphasize that a new leader must have strong moral values.
  • In 1099, as the Zhou clan became increasingly powerful, King Wen of Zhou initiated a plan to destabilize the Shang Dynasty.
  • His second son King Wu succeeded in conquering the Shang Dynasty in 1046 and declared the start of the Zhou Dynasty.
  • King Wu’s son, King Cheng, was very young to be a king after his father died. The Duke of Zhou was his regent.
  • He took over his brother’s plan to conquer the Shang Dynasty completely and succeeded in having control over the Eastern Plain. He also defeated the rebellion his brothers started against the new King.
  • King Cheng assumed the throne and ruled effectively until 1021 BC.


  • The Zhou Empire was divided into two parts, the Western Zhou Period (1046-771 BCE) and the Eastern Zhou Period (770-256). The Eastern Zhou was split into two further periods, the Autumn and Spring Period and the Warring States Period.
    • King Wu, the first king to rule the Zhou Dynasty, established a feudal empire and distributed the lands to his relatives.
    • King Chen assumed the throne and ordered the Dukes of Zhou and Shao to establish Luoyang as the Eastern capital.
    • Western Zhou was generally peaceful and prosperous until King You assumed the throne. The deposition of his Queen and prince to accommodate his concubine and their son caused conflict with the Queen’s father. He later attacked the palace with the aid of the Quanrong tribe and killed King You, ending the Western Zhou Dynasty.
    • Autumn and Spring Period
    • The legitimate heir to the throne, the deposed prince King Ping and son of King You, was the first ruler of the Eastern Zhou period. He relocated the capital of the Zhou Empire to Eastern Capital Louyang.
    • The King’s decision to move to Louyang further hurt his already diminishing power. The neighboring regional leaders had been controlling their territory on their own terms.
    • As time passed, more regional leaders started to rebel, sought autonomy and tried to seize other states: Qin, Jin, Chu, and Qin Jin had a number of civil wars dividing the state into three, Han, Wei, and Zhao, giving birth to the Seven Warring States.
    • Warring State Period
    • This began after the vassal states declared independence against the Zhou Empire.
    • The seven Warring States were Han, Wei, Zhao, Yan, Qin, Chu, and Qi.
    • Walls were built at the border of each state to protect their land against invaders.
    • The wars in this period involved hundreds of thousands of men and iron-powered tools.
    • The period ended with Qin Shi Huangdi winning against the other six states.


    • Zhou Kingdom practiced feudalism. The King distributed land to the nobles in exchange for military protection and loyalty. They were called dukes, and became regional leaders. The Kingdom’s society had four occupation categories:
      • The “Shi” were the knights and scholars. They were low-level aristocrats who gained education and training to achieve a higher rank and be respected due to their knowledge.
      • The “Nong” were peasant farmers next to the “Shing”. They cultivated the land that provided food to sustain society. They also paid land taxes that brought income to the government.
      • The “Gong” were the artisans and craftsmen. Like the farmers, they also produced necessary objects for society. They were valuable members of Zhou society because they created everyday objects.
      • The “Shang” were the merchants. They were the least respected of the four social classes because they became wealthy by trading things that were produced by others. They were also considered immoral and greedy.


      • Zhou Dynasty was considered the Golden Age of Chinese Philosophy. Most modern philosophies originate from this period. The most popular are Confucianism and Daoism and are still practiced today, but the contribution of other philosophies in China cannot be underestimated.
        • Introduced by Confucius (551–479 BC). The golden rule, “Do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you”, was uttered by Confucius before Christianity was born.
        • He emphasized the importance of kindness and virtue in daily life instead of relying on things that no one can see and communicate. He believed this was the only way a society can flourish.
        • It was also thought that higher nobility status equated to higher moral values. Confucius preached that moral values are innate within all people, no matter the social situation.
        • A religion attributed to Lao Zi (c. 500 BCE).
        • It comes from the word “Dao” which means “the right way”. The philosophy teaches people to be in harmony with the right way and let nature take its course. It believes that doing nothing is better than interfering.
        • Like Confucianism, it does not believe in a higher being.
        • It advocates believing in the natural flow of life and being patient.
        • The philosophy also teaches that there is a simple path that we should follow, and problems arise when people resist and insist on taking the other way.
        • Founded by Shang Yang (ca. 390-338 BC), a Chinese statesman and political philosopher.
        • It was first used in the Kingdom of Qin, one of the states in the Warring State Period.
        • It advocates order above anything else. Legalism believes that people will always act on their selfish nature once given an opportunity. The only way to control this is to devise a system that rewards loyalty and punishes lawbreakers.
        • Originates from the teachings of Mo Zi (470-391 BC).
        • It rebuffed Confucius’ “ren” and advocated practicality over rituals and music.
        • It promoted universal love and claimed that partiality is wrong and the source of disorder in society and family.
        • It promoted utilitarianism and pacifism.
        • Created by Zou Yan (305-240 BC), a Chinese philosopher and representative of the Yin Yang School.
        • Based on the theory of Yin Yang and the five elements.
        • It emphasized that Yin and Yang are two opposites that cannot exist without the other. Its evolution was also supported by the five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, and earth).
        • Hui Shi (380-305 BCE) and Gongsun Long (380 BCE) were the most well-known members of the school.
        • Its members were also called dialecticians and the school was “The School of Names”.
        • Logicians addressed the problem of correlation between name and actuality.
        • Xu Xing, a Chinese philosopher, was one of the most prominent supporters of Agriculturalism.
        • The political philosophy promoted peasant utopian communalism and egalitarianism.
        • It believed that agricultural development was crucial for a stable and prosperous society.

        Zhou Kingdom Worksheets

        This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Zhou Kingdom across 31 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Zhou Kingdom worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Zhou Kingdom which was the longest Ancient Chinese dynasty. It lasted for eight centuries, from 1046 BCE to 256 BCE, and 37 emperors reigned. Philosophers such as Laozi and Confucius were some of the great minds who lived during the Zhou Dynasty. They influence Chinese civilization to this day.

        Complete List Of Included Worksheets

        • Facts Template
        • First King of Zhou
        • Pieces of Zhou
        • Peace and War
        • East and West
        • Zhou Stratification
        • Philo-SolveMe
        • Confucianism vs Taoism
        • Philosophical Approach
        • Jobs in Zhou
        • Zhou at a Glance

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