Wu (Chinese: 吳; Old Chinese: *ŋʷˤa) was one of the states during
Zhou Dynasty and the Spring and Autumn period. It was also
known as Gouwu (勾吳) or Gongwu (工吳) from the pronunciation of
the local language.
Wu was located at the mouth of the
Yangtze River east of the State of
Chu. Its first capital was at
Meili (probably in modern Wuxi) and was
later moved to Gusu (modern central Suzhou) and then Helu City (the
old town of present-day Suzhou).
2 Kings of Wu family tree
4.1 Possible connection with ancient Japan
4.2 Wu in astronomy
5 See also
7 Further reading
The rulers of the State of Wu had the surname Ji (姬), the same as
the Zhou royal family. According to the Records of the Grand
Historian, this was because the rulers of Wu are descended from Taibo,
the elder uncle of King Wen. Realizing that his youngest brother,
Jili, was wiser than he and deserved to inherit the throne, Taibo fled
to Wu and settled there with his other brother Zhongyong. They
established their first capital at
Meili (梅里), believed to be
Meicun in Wuxi.
The State of Jin aided Wu's rise to power as a useful ally against the
State of Chu. In 584 BC, Wu rebelled against Chu upon the advice of
Wuchen, a Jin minister who defected from Chu.
Afterwards, Wu would be a constant threat to the Chu until its demise.
Wu fomented rebelliousness among Chu's vassals in the Yangtze valley.
In 506 BC, Wu launched a surprise attack and occupied the capital of
Chu. Afterwards, Wu was briefly the most powerful nation and turned to
other campaigns, defeating the
State of Qi
State of Qi in 484 BC.
Ironically, Wu was later threatened by an upstart state to its own
south, Yue; Chu then aided Yue's rise as a counter to Wu. Although Wu
won a major victory against Yue in 494 BC, it failed to completely
subjugate it, in part because of Yue's timely bribing of an important
Wu minister. While Wu was engaged in a military campaign in the north,
Yue launched a surprise attack on Wu in 482 BC and conquered the
capital. Over the next decade, Wu was unable to recover and Yue
absorbed the state in 473 BC.
Wu, Yue, and Chu all proclaimed themselves kings in the 6th century
BC, showing the drastic weakening of the Zhou court's authority during
the Spring and Autumn period.
Wu and Yue were masters of metallurgy, fabricating excellent swords
with incised messages, geometric patterns, and inlaid gold or silver.
Wu and Yue swords tend to use much more tin than copper compared to
those of other states. Wu often sent swords as gifts to northern
states, such as Qi and Cai. Examples include the spearhead of King
Fuchai and the sword of Prince Guang.
Kings of Wu family tree
The kings of Wu claimed descent from Wu Taibo, the uncle of King Wen
of Zhou. Their ancestral name was Ji and their clan name was Gufa.
State of Wu
King of Zhou
King of Zhou
Wen of Zhou
Wu of Zhou
State of Yu
Crown Prince You
Records of the Grand Historian
Records of the Grand Historian states that the people in Wu wore
their hair short and sported tattoos. This observation is likely meant
to illustrate their supposed barbarism, as in Sima Qian's time neither
men nor women were allowed to cut their hair or otherwise modify their
body - doing so was considered an offence against the ancestors from
which one had inherited one's physical features.
Wu rulers did not receive Chinese-language posthumous names after
Sun Zi served under King Helü, his
Art of War
Art of War was possibly written
or edited in Wu.
"Wu" continues to be used as a name for the region around
Shanghai and their regional speech, Wu Chinese. It was employed by
other states and princes holding power in the region, most notably
Eastern Wu of the Three Kingdoms, and Wu and
Wuyue of the Ten
Possible connection with ancient Japan
Ambassadorial visits to
Japan by the later Chinese dynasties Wei and
Jin recorded that the Wō people(Yamato) of
Japan claimed to be
descendants of Taibo of Wu, traditionally believed to be the founder
of Wu. Genetic and archeologic researches link the early Japanese
people(Yayoi) with the
Yangtze river and the early inhabitants, the
Yue people, which are also the source of the later Wu people.
Wu in astronomy
Wu, together with Yue, is represented with the star
Zeta Aquilae in
asterism Left Wall,
Heavenly Market enclosure
Heavenly Market enclosure (see Chinese
King of Wu
^ 曹锦炎 [Cao Jinyan]. 吴王寿梦之子剑铭文考释 ["Textual
Research on King Shou Meng of Wu's Son's Sword Inscription"]. 文物
[Wénwù, Cultural Relics]. Feb 2005. (in Chinese)
^ Encounters of the Eastern Barbarians, Wei Chronicles
^ AEEA (Activities of Exhibition and Education in Astronomy)
天文教育資訊網 2006 年 6 月 23 日 (in Chinese)
Zhengzhang Shangfang 1990. "Some Kam-Tai Words in Place Names of the
Ancient Wu and Yue States" [古吴越地名中的侗台语成份]. In
Minzu Yuwen 6. (in Chinese)
Zhou dynasty states
Spring and Autumn