Jiang Ziya

Jiang Ziya (fl. 11th 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 remained loyal to the regent Duke of Zhou during the Rebellion of the Three Guards; following the Duke's punitive raids against the restive Eastern Barbarians or Dongyi, Jiang was enfeoffed with their territory as the marchland of Qi. He established his seat at Yingqiu (in modern Linzi).

Lü Shang
Duke of Qi
Portrait of Jiang Ziya.jpg
Jiang Ziya's portrait in the Sancai Tuhui
Reign11th century BC
SpouseShen Jiang
IssueDuke Ding of Qi
Yi Jiang
Posthumous name
Duke Tai of Qi
Jiang Ziya
Hanyu PinyinJiāng Zǐyá
Jiang Shang
Hanyu PinyinJiāng Shàng
Lü Shang
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Hanyu PinyinLǚ Shàng
Hanyu PinyinShàngfù
Master Shangfu
Hanyu PinyinShī Shàngfù
Literal meaningMaster Shangfu
Grand Duke of Qi
Traditional Chinese太公
Simplified Chinese太公
Hanyu PinyinQí Tàigōng
Grand Duke Jiang
Hanyu PinyinJiāng Tàigōng
Grand Duke Wang
Hanyu PinyinTàigōng Wàng
Lü Wang
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Hanyu PinyinLǚ Wàng


The first marquis of Qi bore the given name Shang. The nobility of ancient China bore two surnames, an ancestral name and a clan name. His were Jiang and , respectively. He had two courtesy names, Shangfu and Ziya, which were used for respectful address by his peers. The names Jiang Shang and Jiang Ziya became the most common after their use in the popular Ming-era novel Fengshen Bang, written over 2,500 years after his death.[1]

Following the elevation of Qi to a duchy, his posthumous name became the Great Duke of Qi, often mistakenly translated as if it were a name ("Duke Tai"). It is under this name that he appears in Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian.[2][3] He is also less often known as "Grand Duke Jiang", the "Hopeful Great Duke", and the "Hopeful Lü".[1]


The last ruler of the Shang dynasty, King Zhou of Shang, was a tyrannical and debauched slave owner who spent his days carousing with his favourite concubine Daji and mercilessly executing or punishing upright officials and all others who objected to his ways. After faithfully serving the Shang court for approximately twenty years, Jiang came to find King Zhou of Shang insufferable, and feigned madness in order to escape court life and the ruler's power. Jiang was an expert in military affairs and hoped that someday someone would call on him to help overthrow the king. Jiang disappeared, only to resurface in the Zhou countryside at the apocryphal age of seventy-two, when he was recruited by King Wen of Zhou and became instrumental in Zhou affairs.[4] It is said that, while in exile, he continued to wait placidly, fishing in a tributary of the Wei River (near today’s Xi'an) using a barbless hook or even no hook at all, on the theory that the fish would come to him of their own volition when they were ready.

Hired by King Wen of the ZhouEdit

Dai Jin, Dropping a Fishing Line on the Bank of the Wei River, National Palace Museum

King Wen of Zhou, (central Shaanxi), found Jiang Ziya fishing. King Wen, following the advice of his father and grandfather before him, was in search of talented people. In fact, he had been told by his grandfather, the Grand Duke of Zhou, that one day a sage would appear to help rule the Zhou state.

The first meeting between King Wen and Jiang Ziya is recorded in the book that records Jiang's teachings to King Wen and King Wu, the Six Secret Teachings (太公六韜 / 太公六韬). The meeting was recorded as being characterized by a mythic aura common to meetings between great historical figures in ancient China.[4] Before going hunting, King Wen consulted his chief scribe to perform divination in order to discover if the king would be successful. The divinations revealed that, "'While hunting on the north bank of the Wei river you will get a great catch. It will not be any form of dragon, nor a tiger or great bear. According to the signs, you will find a duke or marquis there whom Heaven has sent to be your teacher. If employed as your assistant, you will flourish and the benefits will extend to three generations of Zhou Kings.'" Recognizing that the result of this divination was similar to the result of divinations given to his eldest ancestor, King Wen observed a vegetarian diet for three days in order to spiritually purify himself for the meeting. While on the hunt, King Wen encountered Jiang fishing on a grass mat, and courteously began a conversation with him concerning military tactics and statecraft.[5] The subsequent conversation between Jiang Ziya and King Wen forms the basis of the text in the Six Secret Teachings.

When King Wen met Jiang Ziya, at first sight he felt that this was an unusual old man, and began to converse with him. He discovered that this white-haired fisherman was actually an astute political thinker and military strategist. This, he felt, must be the man his grandfather was waiting for. He took Jiang Ziya in his coach to the court and appointed him prime minister and gave him the title Jiang Taigong Wang ("The Great Duke's Hope", or "The expected of the Great Duke") in reference to a prophetic dream Danfu, grandfather of Wenwang, had had many years before. This was later shortened to Jiang Taigong. King Wu married Jiang Ziya's daughter Yi Jiang, who bore him several sons.

Attack of the ShangEdit

After King Wen died, his son King Wu, who inherited the throne, decided to send troops to overthrow the King of Shang. But Jiang Taigong stopped him, saying: "While I was fishing at Panxi, I realised one truth – if you want to succeed you need to be patient. We must wait for the appropriate opportunity to eliminate the King of Shang". Soon it was reported that the people of Shang were so oppressed that no one dared speak. King Wu and Jiang Taigong decided this was the time to attack, for the people had lost faith in the ruler. The bloody Battle of Muye then ensued some 35 kilometres from the Shang capital Yin (modern day Anyang, Henan Province).

Jiang Taigong charged at the head of the troops, beat the battle drums and then with 100 of his men drew the Shang troops to the southwest. King Wu's troops moved quickly and surrounded the capital. The Shang King had sent relatively untrained slaves to fight. This, plus the fact that many surrendered or revolted, enabled Zhou to take the capital.

King Zhou set fire to his palace and perished in it, and King Wu and his successors as the Zhou dynasty established rule over all of China. As for Daji, one version has it that she was captured and executed by the order of Jiang Taigong himself, another that she took her own life, another that she was killed by King Zhou. Jiang Taigong was made duke of the State of Qi (today’s Shandong province), which thrived with better communications and exploitation of its fish and salt resources under him.

As the most notable Prime Minister employed by King Wen and King Wu, he was declared "the master of strategy"—resulting in the Zhou government growing far stronger than that of the Shang Dynasty as the years elapsed.

Personal views and historical influenceEdit

An account of Jiang Ziya's life written long after his time says he held that a country could become powerful only when the people prospered. If the officials enriched themselves while the people remained poor, the ruler would not last long. The major principle in ruling a country should be to love the people; and to love the people meant to reduce taxes and corvée labour. By following these ideas, King Wen is said to have made the Zhou state prosper very rapidly.

His treatise on military strategy, Six Secret Strategic Teachings, is considered one of the Seven Military Classics of Ancient China.

In the Tang Dynasty he was accorded his own state temple as the martial patron and thereby attained officially sanctioned status approaching that of Confucius.



  • Lady, of the Ma lineage (馬氏)
  • Shen Jiang, of the Jiang clan of Shen (申姜 姜姓)


  • First son, Prince Ji (公子伋; 1050–975 BC), ruled as Duke Ding of Qi from 1025–975 BC
  • Prince Ding (公子丁)
  • Prince Ren (公子壬)
  • Prince Nian (公子年)
  • Prince Qi (公子奇)
  • Prince Fang (公子枋)
  • Prince Shao (公子紹)
  • Prince Luo (公子駱)
  • Prince Ming (公子銘)
  • Prince Qing (公子青)
  • Prince Yi (公子易)
  • Prince Shang (公子尚)
  • Prince Qi (公子其)
  • Prince Zuo (公子佐)


His descendants acquired his personal Shang as their surname.[6]

In TaoismEdit

Jiang Ziya at Kunlun

In Chinese and Taoist belief, Jiang Ziya is sometimes considered to have been a Taoist adept. In one legend, he used the knowledge he gained at Kunlun to defeat the Shang's supernatural protectors Qianliyan and Shunfeng'er using the blood of a black dog.[7] He is also a prominent character in the Ming-era Romance of the Investiture of the Gods, in which he is Daji's archrival and is personally responsible for her execution.

There are two xiehouyu about him:

Liexian Zhuan, a book on Taoist immortals, contains his short legendary biography:

生而內智,預見[or 豫知]存亡。
避紂之亂,隱於遼東四[or 三]十年。

適西周,匿於南山,釣於溪[or 磻溪, or 卞谿]。


服澤芝地衣石髓[or 澤芝地髓],


Lü Shang was from Jizhou.
Born with inherent wisdom, he could foresee life and death.
Avoiding the chaos of king Zhou, he has been hiding in Liaodong for 40 [or 30] years.

Then at Western Zhou he fled to Nanshan, and fished in mountain creeks [or in Panxi, or in Bianxi].
For three years he hadn't caught any fish, and the villagers told him, "You maybe should stop".
But he said: "That's not what you can understand".
And after a while, he finally caught a large carp with a military book in its belly.

King Wen saw a sage in a dream, and then heard of Lü Shang, and ordered to bring him [to the Court].
And then, when king Wu fought king Zhou, Lü Shang suggested more than 100 military gimmicks.

He consumed zézhī lotus, lichen and rock-marrow [or zézhī lotus and earth-marrow],
lived two hundred years, and then announced his death.
Due to the difficulties, he wasn't buried.
His descendants buried him with no corpse,
only Six Chapters of Jade Tactics were placed to the coffin.

Lü Shang hid and fished, blessed with pale-red scales.
Passed in a dream of Lord Zhou, and was carried to him to become a minister.
He carefully planned his years, refined his body with lotus.
For generations it'll be said, "Oh, beautiful saint!"

Liexian Zhuan, with version according to Yiwen Leiju

In popular cultureEdit


  • The protagonist of Hoshin Engi, Taikoubou (Tai Gong Wang), is based on Jiang Ziya. However, his personality is quite comical.

Video gamesEdit

  • He is also playable in video games Aizouban Houshin Engi, Hoshin Engi 2 and Mystic Heroes.
  • Jiang Ziya is a playable character in Koei's Warriors Orochi 2. In the game, he is alternatively referred to as Taigong Wang. A stark contrast to the historical accounts however, would be that he is portrayed as a handsome young man, who is quite arrogant, although he is still a divinely gifted strategist and a good man at heart. He is often referred to by others, namely Fu Xi, Nüwa and Daji as "boy". The reason for his radically improvised design may be to emphasize his rivalry with Daji, whose character design depicts her as being young and beautiful as well. Their clashes are loosely inspired by the Fengshen Yanyi.
  • In Final Fantasy XI, the item "Lu Shang's Fishing Rod" is awarded to players for catching 10,000 carp. It is noteworthy for its ability to catch both small and large fish, and is notoriously hard to break.
  • In the online game War of Legends, Jiang Ziya is a playable monk, with 45 "ability".
  • In the popular game Eiyuu Senki, Tai Gong Wang is one female amongst the ancient heroes player will encounter in the game.
  • In Dragalia Lost, Jiang Ziya is the name of an obtainable female Qilin adventurer.


  • Jiang Ziya – 2020 Chinese 3D computer-animated fantasy adventure film directed by Cheng Teng and Li Wei. Featuring the popular Chinese mythological figure Jiang Ziya, the plot is loosely based on the classic novel Investiture of the Gods, attributed to Xu Zhonglin.


  • In the The Poppy War trilogy by R. F. Kuang, Jiang Ziya is the name of a loremaster at the Sinegard Academy, and the protagonist's primary mentor figure.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Long Jianchun (龙建春) (2003). Discussion on Taigong's surname, clanname, given name and titles 《"太公"姓氏名号考论》. <苏秦始将连横>臆说之一. Taizhou Academy Newspapers (台州学院学报) 2nd semester, 2003.
  2. ^ Sima Qian. 齐太公世家 [House of Duke Tai of Qi]. Records of the Grand Historian (in Chinese). Guoxue.com. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  3. ^ Han Zhaoqi (韩兆琦), ed. (2010). Shiji (史记) (in Chinese). Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company. pp. 2495–2510. ISBN 978-7-101-07272-3.
  4. ^ a b Sawyer, Ralph D. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China. New York: Basic Books. 2007. p. 27.
  5. ^ "T'ai Kung's Six Secret Teachings". Trans. Ralph D. Sawyer. In Sawyer, Ralph D., The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China. New York: Basic Books. 2007. p. 40.
  6. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland
  7. ^ Sam, Chris W.C.; et al. (28 September 2008), "The Goddess of the Sea and Her Guardians", The Macau Daily Times, Macao: Macau Times Publications.

External linksEdit

Duke Tai of Qi
Regnal titles
New creation Ruler of Qi
11th century BC
Succeeded by
Duke Ding of Qi