Wu Ding (Chinese: 武丁), personal name Zǐ Zhāo, was a king of the Shang dynasty in ancient China, whose reign lasted approximately 1250–1192 BC.[1] According to the traditional chronology, his reign was 1324–1266 BC.[2]

Wu Ding is the earliest figure in the histories of the Chinese dynasties who has been confirmed by contemporary records. The annals of the Shang dynasty compiled by later historians were long thought to be little more than legends until oracle script inscriptions on bones dating from his reign were unearthed at the ruins of his capital Yin (near modern Anyang) in 1899.[3]


In the sixth year of his father's reign, he was ordered to live at He () and study under Gan Pan (甘盤). These early years spent among the common people allowed him to become familiar with their daily problems.

In the Records of the Grand Historian he was listed by Sima Qian as the twenty-second Shang king, succeeding his father Xiao Yi (小乙). The oracle bone script inscriptions unearthed at Yinxu (Ruins of Yin) alternatively record that he was the twenty-first Shang king.[4][5] He was enthroned in the year of Dingwei (丁未) with Gan Pan (甘盤) as his prime minister and Yin () as his capital.

He cultivated the allegiance of neighbouring tribes by marrying one woman from each of them. His favoured consort Fu Hao entered the royal household through such a marriage and served as military general and high priestess.[6] Another of Wu Ding's wives, Fu Jing, was probably responsible for overseeing agricultural production, as this was the subject she divined about most frequently.[7]

In the twenty-fifth year of his reign, his son Zu Ji (祖己) died at a remote area after being exiled.

In the twenty-ninth year of his reign, he conducted rituals in honour of his ancestor King Tang, the first king of the Shang dynasty, at the Royal Temple. Angered by the presence of a wild chicken standing on one of the ceremonial bronze vessels, he condemned his vassals and wrote a proclamation called Day of the Supplementary Sacrifice to Gao Zong (高宗肜日, presently in the Book of Documents [1]).

In the thirty-second year of his reign, he sent troops to Guifang (鬼方) and after three years of fighting he conquered it. The Di () and Qiang () barbarians immediately sent envoys to Shang to negotiate. His armies went on to conquer Dapeng (大彭) in the forty-third year of his reign, and Tunwei (豕韋) in the 50th year of his reign.

He died in the fifty-ninth year of his reign according to all the sources available. Widely regarded as one of the best kings of the Shang dynasty, he was given the posthumous name Wu Ding (武丁) and was succeeded by his son Zu Geng (祖庚).


  1. ^ Thorp, Robert L. (2006). China in the Early Bronze Age: Shang Civilization. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0812239105.