King You of Zhou

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  • Reign: 781-771 BCE

King You of Zhou was the last king of China's Western Zhou Dynasty. As is typical of the final ruler of a dynasty, Chinese records traditionally regard him as terribly corrupt and/or inept, and as losing the Mandate of Heaven, which then passes to the founder of a new dynasty. In the case of King You, he is said to have been so infatuated with a particularly favored concubine that he spared no expense to please her, and devoted much of his attention to her, distracting him from the matters of governing the country.

The downfall of the Western Zhou came, according to legend, when King You began lighting the country's warning beacons simply to amuse his concubine. After issuing such false alarms a number of times, when the steppe nomads known as the Quan Rong actually attacked in 771 BCE, You's nobles and armies failed to heed the warning beacons. The nomads sacked the capital city and killed King You, leading to the beginning of the Eastern Zhou, a period of considerable disunity and chaos.

Preceded by:
King Xuan of Zhou
King of Zhou Dynasty
c. 781-771 BCE
Succeeded by:
King Ping of Zhou


  • Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 17.