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King Zhou (/oʊ/; ) was the pejorative
posthumous name A posthumous name is an honorary name given to royalty, nobles, and sometimes others, in East Asia after the person's death, and is used almost exclusively instead of one's personal name or other official titles which had been used during the per ...
given to Di Xin of Shang (), the last king of the
Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and lower Yellow River valley in the second millennium BC, succeeding the Xia dynasty and followed by the Zhou dynasty. T ...

Shang dynasty
of ancient China. He is also called Zhou Xin (; Zhòu Xīn). In Chinese, his name Zhòu ( ) also refers to a horse
crupper A crupper (; occ. spelled crouper) is a piece of tack used on horses and other equids to keep a saddle, harness or other equipment from sliding forward. Construction The crupper consists of a loop (the crupper itself) and an adjustable strap (cru ...
, the part of a saddle or harness that is most likely to be soiled by the horse. It is not to be confused with the name of the succeeding dynasty which has a different character and pronunciation.


Early reign

In the ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Western Han Dynasty official Sima Qian after having been started by his father, ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'',
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty (206AD220). He is considered the father of Chinese historiography for his ''Records of the Grand Historian'', a general history of China in the ''Jizhuanti'' style (紀傳體) c ...

Sima Qian
wrote that Di Xin, in the early part of his reign, had abilities which surpassed those of the ordinary man, and was quick-witted and quick-tempered. According to legend, he was intelligent enough to win all of his arguments, and he was strong enough to hunt wild beasts with his bare hands. He was the younger brother of Zi Qi (子启) and Zi Yan (子衍) (later rulers of Zhou's vassal state
Song A song is a musical composition intended to be performed by the human voice. This is often done at distinct and fixed pitches (melodies) using patterns of sound and silence. Songs contain various forms, such as those including the repetition a ...
) and father of
Wu GengWu Geng or Wugeng (Chinese: ''Wǔgēng'') was an ancient Chinese noble who was the son of Zhou, the last king of the Shang. After his father executed Bigan by cutting out his heart, Wugeng fled to Feng, the capital of the Zhou state, together with h ...
. His father
Di Yi Di Yi (), personal name Zǐ Xiàn, was a king of the Shang dynasty of China from 1101 BC to 1076 BC. His capital was at Yin. According to the ''Bamboo Annals'', on the third year of his reign, he ordered Nanzhong to fight Kun Barbarians and built ...
had two brothers,
Ji Zi Jizi or Qizi or Kizi (; Gija or Kija in Korean) was a semi-legendary * :"Although Kija may have truly existed as a historical figure, Tangun is more problematical." * :"Most orean historianstreat the angunmyth as a later creation." * :"The Tangu ...
and
Bi Gan Prince Bi Gan or Bigan (, Bǐ Gān) was a prominent Chinese figure during the Shang dynasty. He was a son of King Wen Ding, and an uncle of the last Shang king, Di Xin. He is immortalized as a Taoist deity. His surname was "Zi" (子). Notoriou ...
. Di Xin added to the territory of Shang by battling the tribes surrounding it, including the
Dongyi The Dongyi or Eastern Yi () was a collective term for ancient peoples found in Chinese records. The definition of Dongyi varied across the ages, but in most cases referred to inhabitants of eastern China, then later, the Korean peninsula, and Japa ...
to the east.


Late reign

A significant amount of information regarding Di Xin's life had been falsified by following dynasties. Thus many modern day historians believe that he was in fact reasonable and intelligent without several of the cruelties attributed to him. The following are accounts of him written in records published in the millennium following his death, during which many misconceptions surrounding him arose. In his later years, Di Xin gave himself over to drinking, women and abandoned morals, preferring these to the proper governance of the country, and ignored almost all affairs of state. According to
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty (206AD220). He is considered the father of Chinese historiography for his ''Records of the Grand Historian'', a general history of China in the ''Jizhuanti'' style (紀傳體) c ...

Sima Qian
, he even hosted festive
orgies In modern usage, an orgy is a sex party consisting of at least five members where guests freely engage in open and unrestrained sexual activity or group sex. Swingers' parties do not always conform to this designation, because at many swinger p ...
where many people engaged in immoral things at the same time with his concubines and created songs with crude (erotic) lyrics and poor rhythm. In legends, he is depicted as having come under the influence of his wicked wife
Daji Daji () was the favorite consort of King Zhou of Shang, the last king of the Shang dynasty in ancient China. She is portrayed as a malevolent fox spirit in legends as well as novels. However, the real Daji was slain by the latter one. Her identif ...
, and committing all manner of evil and cruel deeds with her. In fictionalizations, including the novel ''
Fengshen Yanyi ''The Investiture of the Gods'' or even '' The Birth Of The Chinese Gods.'' also known by its Chinese names () and is a 16th-century Chinese novel and one of the major vernacular Chinese works in the gods-and-demons (''shenmo'') genre written d ...
'', she was said to be possessed by a malevolent
fox spirit The creature appearing under the name nine-tailed fox () in the ''Shanhaijing'', depicted in an edition from the Qing dynasty The fox spirit () or nine-tailed fox () is a mythical fox entity originating from Chinese mythology that is a common motif ...
. One of the most famous forms of entertainment Zhou enjoyed was the "Alcohol Pool and Meat Forest". A large pool, big enough for several canoes, was constructed on the Palace grounds, with inner linings of polished oval shaped stones from the seashores. This allowed for the entire pool to be filled with alcohol. A small island was constructed in the middle of the pool, where trees were planted, which had branches made of roasted meat skewers hanging over the pool. This allowed Zhou and his friends and concubines to drift on canoes in the pool. When they thirsted, they reached down into the pool with their hands and drank the wine. When they hungered, they reached up with their hands to eat the roasted meat. This was considered one of the most famous examples of decadence and corruption of a ruler in Chinese history. According to the
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Western Han Dynasty official Sima Qian after having been started by his father, ...

Records of the Grand Historian
, in order to please Daji, he created the "Punishment of burning flesh with a hot iron(炮格之刑)". One large hollow bronze cylinder was stuffed with burning charcoal and allowed to burn until red-hot, then prisoners were made to literally hug the cylinder, which resulted in a painful and unsightly death. Zhou and Daji were known to get highly aroused after watching such torture. Victims ranged from ordinary people and prisoners to high government officials, such as
Mei Bo Mei Bo (Chinese: 梅伯; Pinyin: Méi Bó) was an official of Shang dynasty and was killed by Di Xin, King Zhou of Shang. Plot in fiction In ''Fengshen Yanyi'', Mei Bo is renowned as the Number One Grand Counselor to King Zhou himself; thus Mei Bo ...
. In order to fund Zhou's heavy daily expenses, heavy taxes were implemented. The people suffered greatly, and lost all hope for the Shang dynasty. Zhou's brother
Wei Zi Wei Zi (; born January 1956) is a Chinese film and television actor. Early life Born and raised in Ningxia, he was originally named Wang Wei (). Education He graduated from the Ningxia College of Art in 1978 and was assigned to the Ningxia Reper ...
tried to persuade him to change, but was rebuked. His uncle
Bi Gan Prince Bi Gan or Bigan (, Bǐ Gān) was a prominent Chinese figure during the Shang dynasty. He was a son of King Wen Ding, and an uncle of the last Shang king, Di Xin. He is immortalized as a Taoist deity. His surname was "Zi" (子). Notoriou ...
similarly remonstrated with him, but Di Xin had his heart ripped out so he could see what the heart of a sage looked like. When his other uncle
Ji Zi Jizi or Qizi or Kizi (; Gija or Kija in Korean) was a semi-legendary * :"Although Kija may have truly existed as a historical figure, Tangun is more problematical." * :"Most orean historianstreat the angunmyth as a later creation." * :"The Tangu ...
heard this, he went to remonstrate with the kingly nephew and, feigning madness, was imprisoned.


Fall

When
Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty and preceded the Qin dynasty. The Zhou dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history (790 years). The military control of China by the royal house, surn ...
's army, led by
Jiang Ziya Jiang Ziya ( century BC), also known by several other names, was a Chinese noble who helped kings Wen and Wu of Zhou overthrow the Shang in ancient China. Following their victory at Muye, he continued to serve as a Zhou minister. He re ...

Jiang Ziya
, defeated the Shang dynasty at the
Battle of Muye The Battle of Muye or Battle of Mu () was a battle fought in ancient China between the rebel Zhou state and the reigning Shang dynasty. The Zhou army, led by Ji Fa, defeated the defending army of King Zhou of Shang at Muye and captured the Shang ...

Battle of Muye
in 1046 BC, Di Xin gathered all his treasures around himself in the Palace, and then set fire to his palace and committed suicide. The name "Zhou" actually appeared after the death of King Zhou, a posthumous name (although perhaps used furtively by his contemporaries). This name was a representation of his actions, both dishonorable and cold-hearted. King Zhou would go down in history as one of the worst examples of a corrupted king in China.


Mentions in literature and legend

Zhou is mentioned in the
Confucian Analects The ''Analects'' (; ; Old Chinese: ''ŋ(r)aʔ''; meaning "Selected Sayings"), also known as the ''Analects of Confucius'', is an ancient Chinese book composed of a large collection of sayings and ideas attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confuc ...
(19 "子張"); and also in the
Three Character Classic The ''Three Character Classic'' (), commonly known as ''San Zi Jing'', also translated as ''Trimetric Classic'', is one of the Chinese classic texts. It was probably written in the 13th century and is mainly attributed to Wang Yinglin (王應麟, 1 ...
.http://ctext.org/three-character-classic#n90610 Zhou is also one of the main subjects of ''
Fengshen Yanyi ''The Investiture of the Gods'' or even '' The Birth Of The Chinese Gods.'' also known by its Chinese names () and is a 16th-century Chinese novel and one of the major vernacular Chinese works in the gods-and-demons (''shenmo'') genre written d ...
'' (''Investiture of the Gods'') and its various derivations in popular media. Thus, Di Xin, also known as Zhou, has served as a (negative) exemplar of
Confucian , Shanxi Confucianism, also known as Ruism, is a system of thought and behavior originating in ancient China. Variously described as tradition, a philosophy, a religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, a way of governing, or simply a w ...
principles (presented as the wicked ruler who justifies regime change according to the
Mandate of Heaven Mandate most often refers to: * League of Nations mandates, quasi-colonial territories established under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, 28 June 1919 * Mandate (politics), the power granted by an electorate Mandate may also re ...
), as well as becoming an icon of popular culture. This makes for a biographically interesting figure, but one challenging a clear distinction between history, legend, and philosophical point-making. In ''Fengshen Yanyi'', Zhou visited the Goddess
Nüwa Nüwa, also read Nügua, is the mother goddess of Chinese mythology, the sister and wife of Fuxi, the emperor-god. She is credited with creating humanity and repairing the Pillar of Heaven. Name zh, t=女, p=nü, l=female is a common prefix on th ...
's temple and offended the Goddess with his lustful comments towards her beauty. In response, Nüwa decided that the Shang dynasty should end and sent her three subordinates to become three beautiful women (including Daji) to bewitch Zhou. Under the influence of these women, Zhou becomes a ruthless king, losing the support of people and triggering his downfall. Until now, nobody knows most of his lifestyle from the reduced amount of artifacts found regarding to him. According to the ''Fengshen Yanyi'',
Jiang Ziya Jiang Ziya ( century BC), also known by several other names, was a Chinese noble who helped kings Wen and Wu of Zhou overthrow the Shang in ancient China. Following their victory at Muye, he continued to serve as a Zhou minister. He re ...

Jiang Ziya
recognized that King Zhou was a well-versed and well-trained individual who became an incapable ruler only because of having fallen victim to seduction. After his death, Jiang Ziya deified King Zhou as the Tianxi Xing (天喜星 "Star of Heavenly Happiness"). As the Tianxi Xing, he had the responsibility of managing the marriage affairs of humans.


Notes


References

*Wu, K. C. (1982). ''The Chinese Heritage''. New York: Crown Publishers. . {{DEFAULTSORT:Zhou Of Shang Shang dynasty kings Suicides in China Suicides by self-immolation 1046 BC deaths Taoism Chinese gods Chinese mythology Investiture of the Gods characters Year of birth unknown 11th-century BC Chinese monarchs Ancient people who committed suicide