King Wu of Zhou

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  • Reign: 1049 or 1045 BCE to 1043 BCE

King Wu was the first king of China's Zhou Dynasty, establishing that dynasty around 1045 BCE after leading armies from the west to invade the Central Plains of China, defeating the Shang Dynasty at Muye.

His defeat of the Shang is represented in the Book of Odes (Shijing) as a glorious victory, in which he had the support of Heaven, which had revoked its Mandate from the corrupt Shang. The Zhou concept of Heaven, and of the Mandate of Heaven, which was not shared by the Shang, would be retained throughout later Chinese history (until the modern period).

When King Wu fell ill, his brother the Duke of Zhou prayed to the ancestors that his life be taken in place of the king's, so that the dynasty might continue in strength. The king recovered for a time, but when he eventually died, the Duke of Zhou became regent for Wu's young son, who ruled as King Cheng of Zhou.[1]

Preceded by:
King of Zhou Dynasty
c. 1045-1043 BCE
Succeeded by:
King Cheng of Zhou


  • Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 16.
  1. Patricia Ebrey, Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, Second Edition, The Free Press (1993), 6-7.