Duke of Zhou

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Duke of Zhou
Zhou gong.jpg
Portrait of the Duke of Zhou in Sancai Tuhui
Issue Bo Qin
Junchen, Duke Ping of Zhou
Full name
Ancestral name: Ji (姬)
Given name: Dan (旦)
Posthumous name
Duke Wen of Zhou (周文公)
Father King Wen of Zhou
Mother Tai Si
Duke of Zhou
Chinese 周公旦
Literal meaning "Dàn, Duke of Zhou"
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 姬旦
Literal meaning (personal name)

Dan, Duke Wen of Zhou (11th Century BC), commonly known as the Duke of Zhou (Chinese: 周公; pinyin: Zhōu Gōng), was a member of the royal family of the Zhou dynasty who played a major role in consolidating the kingdom established by his elder brother King Wu.[1][2] He was renowned for acting as a capable and loyal regent for his young nephew King Cheng, and for successfully suppressing the Rebellion of the Three Guards and establishing firm rule of the Zhou dynasty over eastern China. He is also a Chinese culture hero credited with writing the I Ching and the Book of Poetry,[3] establishing the Rites of Zhou, and creating the yayue of Chinese classical music.


His personal name was 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 BC, 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.[4][5]:52 The Duke of Zhou successfully attained the regency and administered the kingdom himself,[5]:54 leading to revolts not only from disgruntled Shang partisans but also from his own relatives, particularly his older brother Guan Shu.[6] Within five years, the Duke of Zhou had managed to defeat the Three Guards and other rebellions[4] and his armies pushed east, bringing more land under Zhou control.

Statue of the Duke of Zhou who founded a city on the site of modern Luoyang c. 1038 BCE[7]

The Duke of Zhou was credited with elaborating the doctrine of the Mandate of Heaven, which 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.[8]

On a more practical level, the Duke of Zhou expanded and codified his brother's feudal system,[4] granting titles to loyal Shang clansmen and even establishing a new "holy" city at Chengzhou around 1038 BC.[7] Laid out according to exact geomantic principles, Chengzhou was the home of King Cheng, the Shang nobility, and the nine tripod cauldrons symbolic of imperial rule, while the Duke continued to administer the kingdom from the former capital of Haojing. Once Cheng came of age, the Duke of Zhou dutifully gave up the throne without trouble.


The duke's eight sons all received land from the king. The eldest son received Lu; the second succeeded to his father's fief.[9][10]

In later centuries, subsequent emperors considered the Duke of Zhou a paragon of virtue and honored him with posthumous names. The empress Wu Zetian named her short-lived 8th-century Second Zhou Dynasty after him and called him the Honorable and Virtuous King (, Bāodé Wáng).[11] In 1008, the Zhenzong Emperor gave the Duke the posthumous title King of Exemplary Culture (s , t , Wénxiàn Wáng). He was also known as the First Sage (s , t , Yuán Shèng).

In 2004, Chinese archaeologists reported that they may have found his tomb complex in Qishan County, Shaanxi.[12]

God of Dreams[edit]

Duke of Zhou is also known as the "God of Dreams". The Analects record Confucius saying, "How I have gone downhill! It has been such a long time since I dreamt of the Duke of Zhou."[13] This was meant as a lamentation of how the governmental ideals of the Duke of Zhou had faded, but was later taken literally. In Chinese legends, if an important thing is going to happen to someone, the Duke of Zhou will let the person know through dreams: hence the Chinese expression "Dreaming of Zhou Gong".[citation needed]


東野家族大宗世系 Family Tree of the descendants of the Duke of Zhou in Chinese

The main line of the Duke of Zhou's descendants came from his firstborn son, the State of Lu ruler Bo Qin's third son Yu (魚) whose descendants adopted the surname Dongye (東野). The Duke of Zhou's offspring held the title of Wujing Boshi (五經博士; Wǔjīng Bóshì).[14] One of the Duke of Zhou's 72 generation descendants family tree was examined and commented on by Song Lian.[15]

Duke Huan of Lu's son through Qingfu (慶父) was the ancestor of Mencius. He was descended from Duke Yang of the State of Lu 魯煬公 Duke Yang was the son of Bo Qin, who was the son of the Duke of Zhou. The genealogy is found in the Mencius family tree (孟子世家大宗世系).[16][17][18]

See also[edit]

  1. Family tree of ancient Chinese emperors



  1. ^ Anne Birrell (7 April 1999). Chinese Mythology: An Introduction. JHU Press. pp. 254–. ISBN 978-0-8018-6183-3. 
  2. ^ Thomas H. C. Lee (January 2004). The New and the Multiple: Sung Senses of the Past. Chinese University Press. pp. 208–. ISBN 978-962-996-096-4. 
  3. ^ Hinton, David. (2008). Classical Chinese Poetry: an Anthology. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0-374-10536-7
  4. ^ a b c Chin, Annping. (2007). The Authentic Confucius. Scribner. ISBN 0-7432-4618-7
  5. ^ a b Keay, John (2009). China A History. Harper Press. ISBN 978-0-00-722178-3. 
  6. ^ Edward L. Shaughnessy in Cambridge History of Ancient China, page 311.
  7. ^ a b Schinz, Alfred. The Magic Square: Cities in Ancient China, pp. 69 ff. Axel Menges (Stuttgart), 1996. Accessed 8 Jan 2014.
  8. ^ Hucker, Charles O. (1978). China to 1850: a short history. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-0958-0
  9. ^ 姬伯龄为周公第四子---中华蒋氏祖根文化网 Archived 2011-07-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ 《元圣裔周氏族谱》世系表 Archived July 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Old Book of Tang. 《旧唐书》记载为天授三年追封.
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Confucius. The Analects. vii, 5, trans. D. C. Lau. 
  14. ^ H.S. Brunnert; V.V. Hagelstrom (15 April 2013). Present Day Political Organization of China. Routledge. pp. 493–494. ISBN 978-1-135-79795-9. 
  15. ^ Thomas H. C. Lee (January 2004). The New and the Multiple: Sung Senses of the Past. Chinese University Press. pp. 337–. ISBN 978-962-996-096-4. 
  16. ^ 《三遷志》,(清)孟衍泰續修
  17. ^ 《孟子世家譜》,(清)孟廣均主編,1824年
  18. ^ 《孟子與孟氏家族》,孟祥居編,2005年

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]