King Wu of Zhou

King Wu of Zhou was the first king of the Zhou dynasty of China. The chronology of his reign is disputed but is generally thought to have begun around 1046 BC and ended three years later in 1043 BC.[1]

King Wu of Zhou
King Wu
King Wu painted by Ma Lin
King of China
Reign1046–1043 BC
PredecessorKing Zhou of Shang
SuccessorKing Cheng of Zhou
Died1043 BC
SpouseYi Jiang
IssueKing Cheng of Zhou
Yu, Marquis of Tang
Da Ji
DynastyZhou dynasty
FatherKing Wen of Zhou
MotherTai Si
Chinese name
Literal meaningMartial King of Zhou
Personal name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese姬发

King Wu's ancestral name was Ji and given name Fa. He was the second son of King Wen of Zhou and Queen Taisi. In most accounts, his older brother Bo Yikao was said to have predeceased his father, typically at the hands of King Zhou, the last king of the Shang dynasty; in the Book of Rites, however, it is assumed that his inheritance represented an older tradition among the Zhou of passing over the eldest son.[2] (Fa's grandfather Jili had likewise inherited Zhou despite two older brothers.)

Upon his succession, Fa worked with his father-in-law Jiang Ziya to accomplish an unfinished task: overthrowing the Shang dynasty. During the ninth year of his reign, Fa marched down the Yellow River to the Mengjin ford and met with more than 800 dukes.[3] He constructed an ancestral tablet naming his father Chang King Wen and placed it on a chariot in the middle of the host; considering the timing unpropitious, though, he did not yet attack Shang. In 1046 BC, King Wu took advantage of Shang disunity to launch an attack along with many neighboring dukes. The Battle of Muye destroyed Shang's forces and King Zhou of Shang set his palace on fire, dying within.

King Wu – the name means "Martial" – followed his victory by establishing many feudal states under his 16 younger brothers and clans allied by marriage, but his death three years later provoked several rebellions against his young heir King Cheng and the regent Duke of Zhou, even from three of his brothers.

A burial mound in Zhouling town, Xianyang, Shaanxi was once thought to be King Wu's tomb. It was fitted with a headstone bearing Wu's name in the Qing dynasty. Modern archeology has since concluded that the tomb is not old enough to be from the Zhou dynasty, and is more likely to be that of a Han dynasty royal. The true location of King Wu's tomb remains unknown, but is likely to be in the Xianyang-Xi'an area.

Wu is considered one of the great heroes of China, together with Yellow Emperor and Yu the Great.



  • Yi Jiang, of the Lü lineage of the Jiang clan of Qi (邑姜 姜姓 呂氏), the first daughter of the Great Duke of Qi; the mother of Song and Yu


  • Prince Song (王子誦; 1060–1020 BC), ruled as King Cheng of Zhou from 1042 to 1021 BC
  • Second son, ruled as the Monarch of Yu (), the ancestor of the surname Yu (于)
  • Third son, Prince Yu (王子虞), ruled as the Marquis of Tang from 1042 BC
  • A son who ruled as the Marquis of Ying ()
  • A son who ruled as the Marquis of Han


  • First daughter, Da Ji (大姬)
  • Youngest daughter, personal name Lan ()


Zulei (1192–1158 BC)
King Tai of Zhou
King Ji of Zhou
Tai Jiang of Pang
King Wen of Zhou (1125–1051 BC)
Tai Ren of Zhi
King Wu of Zhou (d. 1043 BC)
Tai Si of Youshen

See alsoEdit

Family tree of ancient Chinese emperors


  1. ^ These dates are those of the People's Republic of China's official Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project, although they remain controversial.
  2. ^ Book of Rites, Tan Gong I, 1. Accessed 4 Nov 2012.
  3. ^ Sima, Yi. Records of the Grand Historian.
King Wu of Zhou
 Died: 1043 BC
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Zhou
c. 1050–1043 BC
Succeeded by