DUKE OF ZHOU: PARAGON OF CONFUCIAN VIRTUE

DUKE OF ZHOU


Duke of Zhou

The Duke of Zhou was a member of the Zhou Dynasty who played a major role in consolidating the kingdom established by his elder brother King Wu. He was renowned in Chinese history for acting as a capable and loyal regent for his young nephew King Cheng and successfully suppressed a number of rebellions, placating the Shang nobility with titles and positions. He is also a Chinese culture hero credited with writing the I Ching and the Book of Songs, establishing the Rites of Zhou, and creating the yayue of Chinese classical music. He is said to have founded what is now the modern city of Luoyang in western Henan province, in 1036 B.C. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Dr. Robert Eno of Indiana University wrote: “Next to Confucius himself, the greatest hero of ancient China, as viewed through the perspective of the later Confucian tradition, was a man known as the Duke of Zhou, one of the founders of the Zhou Dynasty... The Duke of Zhou’s story is comparable in political significance to popular tales about George Washington in America (honest enough to ‘fess up to the cherry tree; strong enough to throw a silver dollar across the Potomac). [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

The Duke of Zhou is believed to have been a real life figure born in 11th Century B.C. Known as the "God of Dreams" in legend, he lets people know via dreams when something important is going to happen to them. In a time of turbulence and political instability, when China was by modern standards a failed state, the Duke of Zhou was glowing example and paragon of virtue whose reputation endured for three thousand years. He is credited with founding the idea of a ruler in harmony with heaven that inspired Confucius and was resurrected to fill the ideological vacuum left behind by Chairman Mao. [Source: Carrie Gracie BBC News, October 9, 2012 \=\]

Carrie Gracie of BBC News wrote: The Duke of Zhou is “probably the first real person to step over the threshold of myth into Chinese history. We don't actually know much about” him. “He's more a personality cult than a person. But the seed of the cult lies in a real historical figure and real events. The duke helped his brother sweep away a corrupt ruler and found the Zhou dynasty in the 11th Century B.C.. After his brother died, the Duke of Zhou acted as a dutiful regent, and when his nephew came of age, he handed over power. "He has become as it were everybody's favourite uncle. Because in his noble manner of handing power over - rightfully - to his nephew, he has become a paragon of goodness throughout China's history," says Frances Wood, curator of the British Library's Chinese collection. \=\

The duke's personal name was Ji Dan. He was the fourth son of King Wen of Zhou and Queen Tai Si. His eldest brother Bo Yikao predeceased their father (supposedly a victim of cannibalism); the second-eldest defeated the Shang Dynasty at the Battle of Muye around 1046 B.C., ascending the throne as King Wu. King Wu distributed many fiefs to his relatives and followers and Dan received the ancestral territory of Zhou near present-day Luoyang. Only two years after assuming power, King Wu died and left the kingdom to his young son King Cheng. The Duke of Zhou successfully attained the regency and administered the kingdom himself, leading to revolts not only from disgruntled Shang partisans but also from his own relatives, particularly his older brother Guan Shu. Within five years, the Duke of Zhou had managed to defeat the Three Guards and other rebellions and his armies pushed east, bringing more land under Zhou control. +

Good Websites and Sources on Early Chinese History: 1) Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu; 2) Chinese Text Project ctext.org ; 3) Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization depts.washington.edu ; 4) Zhou Dynasty Wikipedia Wikipedia ; 5) Ancient China Life ancientchinalife.com ; 6) Ancient China for School Kids elibrary.sd71.bc.ca/subject_resources ; 7) Oriental Style ourorient.com ; Books: Cambridge History of Ancient China edited by Michael Loewe and Edward Shaughnessy (1999, Cambridge University Press); The Culture and Civilization of China, a massive, multi-volume series, (Yale University Press); Mysteries of Ancient China: New Discoveries from the Early Dynasties by Jessica Rawson (British Museum, 1996); “Early Chinese Religion” edited by John Lagerwey & Marc Kalinowski (Leiden: 2009);

Good Chinese History Websites: 1) Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; 2) WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia 4) China Knowledge; 5) Gutenberg.org e-book gutenberg.org/files ; Links in this Website: Main China Page factsanddetails.com/china (Click History)

Good Websites and Sources on Confucianism: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu; Confucianism religioustolerance.org ; Confucius.org confucius.org ; Religion Facts Confucianism Religion Facts ; Confucius .friesian.com ; Confucian Texts Chinese Text Project ; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Cult of Confucius /academics.hamilton.edu ; Confucian Temple China Vista ; Virtual Temple tour drben.net/ChinaReport Qufu Wikipedia Wikipedia Travel China Guide Travel China Guide ; UNESCO World Heritage Site: UNESCO

Why The Duke of Zhou Is So Important in Chinese History

Dr. Robert Eno of Indiana University wrote: The Duke of Zhou is celebrated for two reasons. The first concerns his formidable political achievements. The texts tell us that two years after the conquest of the Shang, the Zhou conqueror King Wu died, leaving only one very young son to succeed him. While it was the Shang custom to pass the throne from older to younger brother within one generation, the tradition of the Zhou people had been that their throne should pass only from father to son. Upon the death of King Wu, his younger brother, the Duke of Zhou, seized power, claiming that it was his intention to preside only as an emergency measure until his nephew came of age and could properly receive the Mandate of Heaven. A number of the other brothers believed instead that the Duke was seizing the throne in the manner of former Shang kings and they raised a rebellion. The Duke not only put down the rebellion, but followed this forceful confirmation of his claim to ultimate power by actually doing what he had promised all along – when his nephew, the future King Cheng, came of age, the Duke ceded to him full authority to rule and retired to an advisory role. This sacrifice of power on the Duke’s part immeasurably enhanced the stature of the Zhou throne and the religious power of the concept of Heaven’s mandate. [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“The second dimension of the Duke’s fame is cultural. According to Confucius’s successors, it was the Duke of Zhou who fashioned the elaborate political and ceremonial rituals of the Zhou Dynasty which became, as we shall see later on, central to the Confucian cult of the late Zhou. The primal text of Confucianism, the “Analects of Confucius”, quotes Confucius as exclaiming, “How I have declined! Long has it been since I have dreamed of the Duke of Zhou,” and this was interpreted as confirming the notion that Confucius himself revered the Duke as the source of his Dao, or teaching. In this way, the Duke became a type of culture hero, an inventor of a way of life which was believed to possess in some form divine sanction. /+/

“For these two reasons, during the late Classical era, the Duke of Zhou stood as the single greatest pillar of the Chinese past – the most recent “founder” of Chinese culture. In this account of his life, which appears in the Han Dynasty text “Shiji”, written by the historian Sima Qian about 100 B.C., we can see many of the legends associated with the Duke woven together in a coherent chronicle of his life. One of the questions we will ask later in this course, when we examine inscriptional records of the early Zhou that have been recovered by archaeologists in recent years, is how the Duke of Zhou’s role in history, as portrayed here, matches the contemporary accounts which we are now able to read.

Duke of Zhou and the Mandate of Heaven


Duke of Zhou statue

Carrie Gracie of BBC News wrote: “The mandate of heaven is the Duke of Zhou's big idea. The ruler governs by virtuous example, which spreads virtue throughout the land, and in turn demonstrates his harmony with the divine. But there's a get-out clause for rebels. If the king fails to rule virtuously, harmony is ruined and can only be restored by removal of the king. "One of the great things about Chinese history is the way that people become godlike - that gods and people are slightly interchangeable, and people become slightly superhuman. I think the Duke of Zhou is superhumanly good," says Frances Wood. The concept of the mandate of heaven contains within it the idea that if a ruler is good, heaven will be pleased and all will go well, Wood says. If a ruler is bad, heaven will show its displeasure through earthquakes and all sorts of natural disasters, and the ruler will be overthrown. [Source: Carrie Gracie BBC News, October 9, 2012 \=\]

“Mostly in Chinese history everyone seems to be behaving badly. Regent uncles, dowager empresses, concubines, brothers… all end up doing the wrong thing. Skim read the dynastic ups and downs of imperial China and it is a terrifying bloodbath of unexplained deaths, heads severed, babies strangled, siblings thrown down wells, kings poisoned, whole families executed or challengers torn limb from limb. But not the Duke of Zhou. That is what makes him such a big favourite with Confucians. At the heart of their political philosophy, and far more important than rules or contracts, is sincerity. "To the Chinese way of thinking, that's a very decent thing to do, to hold on to your promise," says historian Xun Zhou of Hong Kong University. "It's a mandate of heaven that his nephew became the king, and he did that." \=\

Confucius wrote: "He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it." Archaeologist Wang Tao told the BBC: "Confucius, in his own words, said: 'Oh, in politics I follow the Duke of Zhou'. I'm sure he very much tried to restore the so-called golden age, or golden rule of Zhou dynasty, particularly in the rule under the Duke of Zhou." /=/

The doctrine of the Mandate of Heaven countered Shang propaganda that as descendants of the god Shangdi they should be restored to power. According to this doctrine, Shang injustice and decadence had so grossly offended Heaven that Heaven had removed their authority and commanded the reluctant Zhou to replace the Shang and restore order. [Source: Wikipedia]

Duke of Zhou and Ancestor Worship

Carrie Gracie of BBC News wrote: “ The Duke of Zhou is also credited with the creation of imperial rituals - a process reinforced by Confucius, who helped make China a nation of ritual. These rituals, many of which persist today, often express someone's position in society, or within the family. "Confucianism is particularly strong on [ideas such as] that a son must obey his father, a wife must obey her husband," says Wood. "The ritual within the family, the pecking order, all of those things are established by ritual." [Source: Carrie Gracie BBC News, October 9, 2012 \=\]

“Trumping all the other Confucian duties is the duty of the living to the dead. The ancestor is at the very top of the family hierarchy. "Ancestral worship in China is so important, because the Chinese don't have any particular religion, they don't believe in God," Wang Tao explains. "But they all worship ancestors. If you want to establish yourself in a society, you have to have a good ancestor. And you also have to have a good relationship to that ancestor." The Duke of Zhou is the good ancestor par excellence. And he looked back himself even further, to China's legendary ancestors, Tao says, "using that to form the nation or the culture of China". \=\

Duke of Zhou, Confucius and Modern China

20080220-Kongzi8.jpg
Confucius
Carrie Gracie of BBC News wrote: “In 1949, a revolution occurred. A political culture built around venerating ancestors and learning lessons from their perfect rule was turned on its head. "Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun," said Mao. You could try teaching those who disagreed with you, but if that failed you should destroy them.For a century, China had been haemorrhaging territory to Western and Japanese colonialists. For the first time in history, a self-consciously mighty civilisation felt poor and backward. To many Chinese, their ancient philosophy seemed like part of the problem. And when the communists took power in 1949, Confucius and the Duke of Zhou were thrown off their pedestals. The Duke of Zhou is also credited with the creation of imperial rituals - a process reinforced by Confucius, who helped make China a nation of ritual. These rituals, many of which persist today, often express someone's position in society, or within the family. "Confucianism is particularly strong on [ideas such as] that a son must obey his father, a wife must obey her husband," says Wood. "The ritual within the family, the pecking order, all of those things are established by ritual." [Source: Carrie Gracie BBC News, October 9, 2012 \=\]

"The Chinese past was the enemy! It was held responsible," says Peter Bol of Harvard University. "If China had once been the great power in the world, if it had once been the source of models for the rest of east Asia, the Chinese past was used to explain why it no longer was, and it had to be destroyed." Mao's Cultural Revolution set out to destroy the Four Olds - Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas. In 1966, 11 million Red Guards, Mao's young shock troops, flooded Beijing and destroyed thousands of relics and temples - all of China's history that they could find. \=\

“But when Chairman Mao died 10 years later, the Cultural Revolution and the assault on history died with him. It was time for China to go back to the beginning. "After the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese government, people, desperately want a new ideology, because Mao's philosophy or thought has caused so much damage to the country, to the people. So Confucianism came in conveniently, to fill the gap," says Wang Tao. "And the Duke of Zhou has also regained his popularity, and a lot of people now talk about the Duke of Zhou, the ancestral worship, or the old order cosmos mandate of heaven, in much more favourable way now. And I think it does reflect the change of the society." So the Duke of Zhou and Confucius are back on their pedestals. Politically fashionable again. \=\

Duke’s Role in the Zhou Conquest of the Shang

Sima Qian wrote in “The Shinji”: “Dan, the Duke of Zhou, was the younger brother of King Wu. When their father King Wen was alive, Dan was a filial son, deeply humane; in this he was different from the other sons. When King Wu succeeded to the throne, Dan was his constant aide and was in charge of many government affairs. [Source: Shiji 33.1515-1523 by Sima Qian, via Robert Eno, Indiana University. The story of the Duke of Zhou appears in a chapter of the “Shiji” that records the annals of the state of Lu, where the Duke’s descendants ruled until the last era of the Zhou Dynasty: “Lu Zhou Gong shijia” (The Duke of Zhou’s hereditary house of Lu). indiana.edu /+/ ]

“In the ninth year of King Wu’s reign, the Duke of Zhou accompanied the king in his eastern campaign to the Ford of Meng. In the eleventh year of the reign, when the king marched to Muye to attack the Shang king Zhòu, the Duke of Zhou was his chief aide and composed the “Oath at Mu.” After the Shang had been defeated the Shang palace was entered, Zhòu being already dead. The Duke of Zhou stood holding a great battle axe, flanking the king along with his cousin, the Duke of Shao, who held a lesser battle axe. There they performed a blood rite at the altar of state and proclaimed the crimes of Zhòu to Heaven and to the people of the Shang. Then they released the Shang Prince Ji from prison and bestowed a patrimonial estate upon Lufu, the son of Zhòu, appointing King Wu’s brothers Guanshu and Caishu to act as Lufu’s aides and so perpetuate the sacrifices of the house of Shang. /+/

“Subsequently, the king bestowed patrimonial estates on all of his most meritorious officers and fellow clan members. The Duke of Zhou received a patrimonial estate at Qufu, the abandoned site of the city of the ancient ruler Shaohao. Thus he became the Duke of Lu. But the Duke of Zhou did not move to his estate, remaining instead to assist King Wu. /+/

Dr. Robert Eno of Indiana University wrote: “The Duke’s fief, Lu, was in the far east, on the Shandong peninsula. Because of his ability in government, the Duke remained at the Zhou capital in the far west to help King Wu organize the new government, along with his cousin the Duke of Shao, and sent his son out to Lu to act as its first ruler. It is because the Duke remained in the capital districts of Zhou rather than traveling to his estate that he is known as the Duke of Zhou, rather than as a duke of Lu. /+/

Duke’s Attempt at Self-Sacrifice


Sima Qian

Sima Qian wrote in “The Shinji”: “The year after the conquest, before the empire had been fully pacified, King Wu fell gravely ill and his ministers were deeply fearful. The Grand Duke Wang and the Duke of Shao planned to make a solemn divination. But the Duke of Zhou said, “It is too soon to presume upon our former kings.”Thereupon, the Duke of Zhou took it upon himself to serve as hostage for the king’s welfare. He had three earthen altars constructed and stood before them facing north, having capped them with ceremonial round jades and clasping a long ceremonial jade in his fist. He called upon his great-grandfather, King Tai, his grandfather King Ji, and his father King Wen. The scribal liturgist read out his prayer. [Source: Shiji 33.1515-1523 by Sima Qian, via Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

““Your eldest descendant, the king Fa, has through his arduous labors been struck by illness. If it be the heavenly charge of you three kings to determine his fate, then take me, Dan, in place of him. I am skillful and able, with many talents, many arts. I am well able to serve the spirits. The king is not so talented nor so able as I; he is not skilled at serving the spirits. Moreover, he has been mandated by the court of the Lord on High to possess the four quarters, and thus he has the power to settle your descendants upon the lands below such that none in the four quarters will not act with respect, all in awe. Do not destroy the mandate that Heaven has sent down. You, our former kings, would then have none upon whom to rely for sustenance. I will now entrust my destiny through a charge to the great diviner’s tortoise. Should you grant my request, I shall carry with me these round jades and my long jade and await your decree. If you will not grant my request, I shall have these ceremonial jades removed.” /+/

“Having ordered the scribe to inform Kings Tai, Ji, and Wen of his wish to take the place of King Wu, the Duke of Zhou divined concerning the response of the three kings. The diviners all prognosticated that the cracks would be auspicious, and when the divination inscriptions were examined, this was indeed the case. The Duke of Zhou was pleased. He then opened the tube containing divination texts and those which he selected were also auspicious. /+/

“The Duke of Zhou went back to encourage King Wu. “My king, you shall encounter no harm from this. I have just received a command from the three kings, and you shall be allowed to continue your enterprise to the end. This shows that they are concerned for your royal person!” Then the Duke of Zhou hid the text of his prayer in a coffer bound with metal bands, enjoining those who guarded it never to dare speak of it. The following day, King Wu recovered.” /+/

Eno wrote: This entire episode is based on a text called “The Metal Banded Coffer,” which is included in the canonical “Book of Documents”. (Sima Qian attempted to refer to or include in his narrative all the texts collected in that work. His citations generally modify the language of the original, making its meaning more comprehensible.) Most scholars date “The Metal Banded Coffer” to the late Eastern Zhou, during a time when Confucians, whose home base was in Lu, the Duke of Zhou’s patrimonial state, were promoting a cult celebrating the Duke as a sage in the Confucian style.” /+/

Duke of Zhou, Serving as Regent, Puts Down a Rebellion

Sima Qian wrote in “The Shinji”: “Later, when King Wu did die, his son King Cheng was only a child in swaddling clothes. The Duke of Zhou was fearful that when the empire heard that King Wu had died it would revolt. So the Duke of Zhou tread the steps to the throne and replaced King Cheng in the administration of governmental affairs. Guanshu and the other younger brothers of the Duke spread word throughout the states saying that the Duke of Zhou planned criminal acts against King Cheng. [Source: Shiji 33.1515-1523 by Sima Qian, via Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“Thereupon, the Duke of Zhou addressed the Grand Duke Wang and Shi, the Duke of Shao. “The reason why I have assumed a regency rather than step away has been my fear of revolt in the empire. If this were to happen, I would have no way to explain it to our three former rulers, Kings Tai, Ji, and Wen. Those three kings were long careworn, laboring on behalf of the empire. Now, their labors have finally borne fruit. But King Wu has died too early, and King Cheng is but a child. It is on behalf of the Zhou that I have acted.” /+/

“The Duke of Zhou therefore determined to remain to minister to King Cheng and sent his own son, Bo Qin, to take up the title and duties of the patrimonial estate in Lu. The Duke of Zhou enjoined Bo Qin, saying, “I am the son of King Wen, the brother of King Wu, the uncle of King Cheng; my place in the empire is no lowly role. Yet each time I bathe, I am called away three times, wringing out my hair in haste; each time I dine, I rush off three times, spitting out my food in haste, in order to wait upon some gentleman. I do so because I am always fearful that I may otherwise fail to gain the service of a worthy man. When you reach Lu, take care that you do not behave arrogantly towards others on account of your estate.” In the end, the brothers Guanshu and Caishu, together with Lufu, scion of the Shang house, did indeed rise in revolt, leading a force drawn from the Yi tribes of the Huai River valley. Arrogating the powers of King Cheng to himself, the Duke of Zhou raised an army and set off to fight in the east, composing the “Great Announcement.” /+/

“Subsequently, the Duke sentenced Guanshu to execution, had Lufu killed, and banished Caishu. He gathered together the remaining people of the Shang and entrusted them to Kangshu, whom he endowed with a patrimonial estate in Wey. He endowed the Shang Prince Wei with a patrimonial estate in Sung, in order that the Shang sacrifices should be continued. He pacified the lands of the Yi tribes who lived in the valley of the Huai River, and in two years the lands of the east were settled. The patrimonial lords all came to the Zhou ancestral capital in the west to offer their submission. /+/

“Heaven sent down rich blessings. Tangshu harvested identical grains from fields sown differently, and presented them to King Cheng. The king ordered him to send them to the Duke of Zhou in the east, and composed the text “Presentation of Grain.” The Duke of Zhou received the grain as mandated and, to celebrate the beauty of the mandate of the Son of Heaven he composed “Beautiful Grain.”“ /+/

Eno wrote: The “Great Announcement” refers to a text in the “Book of Documents”. In it the Duke of Zhou, speaking on behalf of King Cheng, rallies his troops to repel the revolt in the east. The text particularly stresses that the outcome has been carefully divined and will be favorable, and that the battle’s purpose will be to carry out the will of Heaven, who thus supports the royal armies. Many scholars date this text to the early Western Zhou period, and some believe that it is, indeed, the Duke’s original call to his troops.” /+/

Some of “these passages illustrate very well the difficulty of relying on historical texts. Tangshu was the younger brother of King Cheng, who was himself, during the campaign in the east, still a callow pre-teen. What are we to make of this account of their solemn behavior? Other histories tell us that at some short time earlier, the two boys were playing together, and the young king, in imitation of the royal ritual ceremony, grabbed a fistful of grass and playfully presented it to his brother saying, “With this I bestow on you the patrimonial estate of Tang.” The court scribe standing nearby asked the king to name the date of the formal installation. “I was only joking!” said the boy. “The Son of Heaven’s words can never be said in jest,” replied the scribe. Hence the smaller boy became the lord of Tang. The two texts referred to in this section are lost chapters of the “Book of Documents”.” /+/

The Owl

Sima Qian wrote in “The Shinji”: “When the lands of the east had been fully brought under control, the Duke of Zhou returned and reported the outcome to King Cheng. Then he inscribed a poem and sent it to the king. He titled it “The Owl.” Thus King Cheng did not presume to speak harshly to the Duke. [Source: Shiji 33.1515-1523 by Sima Qian, via Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

Eno wrote: ““The Owl” appears in the “Book of Songs”, and its association with the Duke of Zhou probably postdates its composition by many centuries. Its function (which is made clearer in the text of the “Metal Banded Coffer”) concerns suspicions that it was the Duke’s intention to usurp the throne after a time, rather than to fulfill his regency and install King Cheng, a notion which “slanderers” at the Zhou court were whispering in the young king’s ear while his uncle was off on the eastern campaign. /+/


Shang-Zhou Ritual wine vessel shaped like an owl

The poem reads as follows:
Owl, oh owl,
You’ve taken my children,
Don’t shatter my home!
With love and with toil,
How I nurtured my young. /+/

“Before the dark rain,
Gathering mulberry brush,
I thatched windows and doors;
Yet villains now dare
To fling insults at me. /+/

“Fingers chafed rough
From the reeds have I picked,
From the straw have I plucked
My mouth is so sore,
Yet no dwelling have I. /+/

“My wings are all withered,
My tail worn away,
My home toppling down,
Wind tossed in the rain,
My call a pale cry.

Eno wrote: “This was taken to represent the Duke of Zhou’s regret that the affections of the young king had been stolen from him, and now his patrimonial estate of Lu would be in danger as well. The phrase concerning “speaking harshly” to the Duke refers to the alienation between the two which had resulted from the King’s suspicions.” /+/

Founding of the Capital at Cheng-Zhou and the Close of the Regency

Sima Qian wrote in “The Shinji”: “In the seventh year of the reign of King Cheng, in the second month, on the day, the king walked in a dawn procession from the city of Zhou to the royal precincts of Feng. He ordered the Grand Protector, the Duke of Shao, to precede him and go to survey the lands by the River Luo. A full three months later, the Duke of Zhou traveled to construct the earthworks marking the new city by the Luo, Cheng-Zhou. He divined the proper alignments, and when the omens were auspicious he had the walls of the state constructed. [Source: Shiji 33.1515-1523 by Sima Qian, via Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“When King Cheng grew to adulthood and was able to manage the affairs of state, the Duke of Zhou returned to him the reins of government, and King Cheng took his place upon the throne at court. The regency during which the Duke of Zhou ruled in place of King Cheng, facing south and wearing the royal robes as he assembled the patrician lords at dawn court, altogether lasted seven years. Then he returned the government to King Cheng and took up his position facing north as a subject minister, thoroughly manifesting an attitude of awe. /+/

“Earlier, when King Cheng was still a boy, he had fallen ill. The Duke of Zhou plucked a tick from his body and submerged it in the river, offering a prayer to the spirit of the river. “The king is a youth and as yet has no understanding; the one who has offended against the mandates of the spirits is I, Dan.” He also stored a text of this prayer in the royal storehouse. King Cheng then recovered. When King Cheng came into his majority and assumed the throne, some slandered the Duke of Zhou, and the Duke fled south to the lands of Chu. Then King Cheng, inspecting the storehouse came across the record of the Duke’s prayer. It brought tears to his eyes, and he ordered that the Duke of Zhou be brought back to the capital. /+/

Eno wrote: “Early texts frequently record several versions of what is clearly a single folktale. This story of the Duke’s prayer is surely an alternative of the “Metal Banded Coffer” story. Sima Qian, our historian, has valued completeness over reliability. Nevertheless, plausible arguments supporting the validity of the tradition that the Duke of Zhou was forced into exile have recently been offered, and it may be that this tale, in itself probably spurious, is the only place in which that piece of valid information was preserved.7

Instructions of the Duke of Zhou


Duke of Zhou Temple in Qufu

“When the Duke of Zhou returned, he was concerned that, King Cheng being in the prime of youth, the affairs of government might become dissolute or slack. Accordingly, he composed two texts, “You Many Gentlemen” and “Be Never Slack.” [These are both texts from the “Book of Documents”. The passages below are Sima Qian’s selections.] [Source: Shiji 33.1515-1523 by Sima Qian, via Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“Be Never Slack” said: “Fathers and mothers work long and hard, but their children and grandchildren are often arrogant wastrels and forget them. Thus they bring down their families. Is it not important that children take care? It was thus that in the past, the Shang king Zhongzong solemnly attended to Heaven’s mandate with the utmost care, fashioning ordinances to rule the people, always fearfully alert lest he should dare to become self-indulgent. For this reason, Zhongzong enjoyed his throne for seventy-five years. /+/

“When the throne passed to Gaozong, who had toiled long away from the capital, joining together with the common people, he observed the three-year mourning period in perfect silence, living in a hut by his father’s grave. And when he did, at last, speak, his words were joyful, yet he did not dare become self-indulgent. He brought peace to the state of Shang, and none, whether great or small, had any complaint. For this reason, Gaozong enjoyed his throne for fifty-five years. /+/

“When it came to Zujia, he was at first unrighteous as king and was forced to dwell for long away from his throne, and so came to know the lot of the common people. He learned to succor the common people and never to disgrace those who were alone, without husbands or wives. For this reason, Zujia enjoyed his throne for thirty-three years.”

“You Many Gentlemen” said: “From the reign of the Shang founder Tang to that of Di Yi, none did not perform the proper sacrifices and make their virtue bright; none was not a suitable match for Heaven. But then his son, the king Zhòu, was greatly dissolute and lax, he attended neither to Heaven, nor to the needs of the people. His people were all as under sentence of death. In the meantime, King Wen did not take the time even to eat a meal while the sun was in the sky, and so he enjoyed the throne of the Zhou people for fifty years.” And the Duke cautioned King Cheng by means of these texts.” /+/

Eno wrote: “The significance of these passages is, in large part, that the legend of the Duke of Zhou, which in many respects seems to have crafted the portrait of the Duke specifically as a model for the dissolute rulers of the later Zhou, pictures the Duke recreating the history of the Shang in order to edify the first long-term ruler of the Zhou. The “lessons” of history are manifold here.” /+/

Duke Creates the Zhou Political Code and Dies

Sima Qian wrote in “The Shinji”: “With King Cheng on the throne in the royal precincts of Feng, the empire was at last at peace. But organization of the offices of the Zhou government was not yet determined. Thereupon, the Duke of Zhou wrote “The Offices of Zhou,” and offices and their duties were then properly distinguished. He wrote “The Establishment of Government” in order to aid the common people, and the common people were happy. [Source: Shiji 33.1515-1523 by Sima Qian, via Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“The Duke of Zhou was ill and on his deathbed in Feng. “I must be buried in Cheng-Zhou in order to make it clear that I will never depart from King Cheng.” But when the Duke of Zhou died, King Cheng, wishing to express his former desire to yield the throne, buried the duke in Bi alongside the tomb of King Wen. “This is to make it clear that I never presumed to treat the Duke of Zhou as a subject.” /+/

“The year of the Duke of Zhou’s death, before the autumn harvest, a fierce wind blew, rattling with thunder. All of the grain was bent low, and even great trees were uprooted. The state of Zhou was in terror. King Cheng and the officers of court dressed in ritual robes in order to open the metal banded coffer. Therein, the king discovered the prayers of the Duke of Zhou to substitute his own death for King Wu’s. The king and the two dukes attending him then questioned the scribe and minor officers of the temple. They said, “Yes, this truly happened. But the Duke of Zhou ordered us not to speak of it.” The king held the prayer text and wept. “There is no further need for divination,” he said. “Formerly, the Duke of Zhou served the royal house with assiduous effort, but I, young and foolish, understood nothing. It is that Heaven has now moved in its awesomeness to bring the virtue of the Duke of Zhou to light. I myself shall receive the spirit of the Duke, following the sacrificial rituals of the state.” Then the king went out to the suburbs. It began to rain and a reverse wind began to blow such that the grain was all blown upright again. The two attendant dukes ordered the people of the state to replant all the trees that had been toppled. In the end, there was a great harvest. /+/

“Thereupon King Cheng ordered that the dukes of Lu would have the right to perform the royal suburban sacrifice during which offerings were presented to King Wen, and that Lu would be permitted to employ the court rituals and music appropriate to the king’s court alone. All this was to celebrate the virtue of the Duke of Zhou.” /+/

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, University of Washington

Text Sources: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ; Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated September 2016

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