King Kang of Chu

King Kang of Chu (Chinese: 楚康王; pinyin: Chŭ Kāng Wáng, died 545 BC) was from 559 to 545 BC the king of Chu, a major power during the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China. Born Xiong Zhao (Chinese: 熊招), he succeeded his father King Gong of Chu.[1] His reign was marked by constant wars with Jin, Chu's traditional enemy, and Wu, its new enemy. He ruled for 15 years and was succeeded by his son, Jia'ao, who would four years later be murdered by King Kang's younger brother King Ling of Chu.[2]

Xiong Zhao
King of Chu
Reign559–545 BC
Full name
Posthumous name
King Kang of Chu

Battle of YongpuEdit

When King Kang's father King Gong died in 560 BC, Chu's enemy Wu seized the opportunity to invade Chu. Chief military commander Zigeng (子庚) and general Yang Youji (养由基) led the Chu army to repel the invaders. After the initial fight Zigeng feigned defeat. The Wu army chased the retreating Chu army to Yongpu (庸浦, in present-day Wuwei County, Anhui Province), where they fell into an ambush and were soundly defeated. Prince Dang, the commander of the Wu army, was captured.[3]

Battle of ZhanbanEdit

In 557 BC, just three years after the Battle of Yongpu, Chu fought the last major battle with its traditional enemy Jin at Zhanban (湛阪, in present-day Pingdingshan, Henan Province). Chu was defeated and lost all of its territory north of Fangcheng, the Great Wall of Chu. The Battle of Zhanban marked the end of the eight-decade-long Jin-Chu rivalry,[4] as a weakened Chu would be consumed by numerous wars with its new enemy Wu, culminating in the 506 BC Battle of Boju, when the Wu army would capture and destroy the Chu capital Ying.[5] Meanwhile, Jin was increasingly riven by internal strife that would ultimately lead to its partition into the new states of Han, Zhao, and Wei.

Conquest of ShujiuEdit

In 549 BC Duke Ping of Jin attacked the Chu ally Qi. To help Qi, Chu attacked the Jin ally Zheng. King Zhufan of Wu seized the opportunity and induced the Chu vassal state Shujiu (舒鸠, in present-day Shucheng County, Anhui Province) to switch its allegiance to Wu. The next year, Chu prime minister Qu Jian (屈建, also known as Zimu) and general Zijiang (子彊) led an army to punish Shujiu, again ambushing and routing the Wu army. Chu then annexed Shujiu.[6][7]

Battle of ChaochengEdit

In 548 BC, soon after Wu's defeat at Shujiu, King Zhufan personally led an army to again invade Chu, attacking the Chu city Chaocheng (巢城). Greatly outnumbered by the Wu army, Chu general Niu Chen (牛臣) pretended to give up Chaocheng and left the city gate wide open. When the unsuspecting Zhufan entered the city, Niu Chen shot and killed him with an arrow. The Wu army fell into chaos and was again defeated. Zhufan's brother Yuji succeeded him as king of Wu.[3]


King Kang was the eldest of King Gong's five sons, four of whom would ascend the throne. When King Kang died in 545 BC after 15 years of reign he was succeeded by his son Xiong Yuan (posthumous title Jia'ao) and King Kang's younger brother Prince Wei served as the prime minister. Four years later, Prince Wei murdered Jia'ao and his two sons when he was ill, and usurped the throne. Prince Wei was later given the pejorative posthumous title King Ling of Chu.[2]

In 529 BC when King Ling was on an expedition against the State of Xu, his three younger brothers staged a coup d'etat and killed his son Crown Prince Lu. Xiong Bi, the third brother, ascended the throne (posthumous title Zi'ao), and the fourth brother Prince Zixi became the prime minister. When news of the coup reached King Ling's troops they abandoned him en masse, and in desperation King Ling killed himself.[2]

However, Xiong Qiji, the fifth brother, concealed the truth about King Ling's death from Zi'ao and Zixi. Instead, he pretended to be defeated by King Ling and said the king would soon return to the capital. Zi'ao and Zixi were so fearful that they both committed suicide; Zi'ao had been king for less than twenty days. Prince Qiji then ascended the throne and would come to be known as King Ping of Chu.[2]

Family treeEdit

King Gong
(r. 590–560 BC)
King Kang
(r. 559–545 BC)
King Ling
(r. 540–529 BC)
(r. 529 BC)
ZixiKing Ping
(r. 528–516 BC)
(r. 544–541 BC)
Crown Prince LuKing Zhao
(r. 515–489 BC)


  1. ^ Major, John S. "Defining Chu: image and reality in ancient China". University of Hawaii Press, 2004. p. 71.
  2. ^ a b c d Sima Qian. "楚世家 (House of Chu)". Records of the Grand Historian (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 10 March 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b 巢湖历代战争及其影响 (in Chinese). Anhui Culture Network. 29 July 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ 湛阪之战遗址 (in Chinese). Government of Xinhua District, Pingdingshan. Retrieved 24 February 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "柏舉之戰 (Battle of Boju)" (in Chinese). China Ministry of Defense. 22 July 2009. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 22 February 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "Battle of Shujiu" (in Chinese). Jiangxi News. Retrieved 24 February 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "Battle of Shujiu" (in Chinese). Wangchao Net. Retrieved 24 February 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
King Kang of Chu
 Died: 545 BC
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King Gong of Chu
King of Chu
559–545 BC
Succeeded by