Wu Ding

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
King of Shang dynasty
Reign1250–1192 BC (58 years)
PredecessorXiao Yi
SuccessorZu Geng
Died1192 BC
SpouseFu Jing
Fu Hao
Fu Gui
IssueZu Ji
Zu Geng
Zu Jia
Xiao Chen Tao
Family name: Zi (子)
Given name: Zhao (昭)
Posthumous name
Wu Ding (武丁)
Temple name
Gaozong (高宗)
FatherXiao Yi

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]


According to later tradition, 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] The Shiji says that 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]

According to Bamboo Annals, 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]). However, the Book of Documents passage in question is attributed to Zu Ji, who is evidently still alive.

According to the Bamboo Annals, 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 () 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. Exactly how this is related to the campaigns in the oracle bone divinations is unclear, where the Gui fang appears once, but the Gong Fang and Tu Fang campaigns have hundreds of divinations.

He died in the fifty-ninth year of his reign according to all the sources available, none of which are contemporary. Widely regarded in later tradition 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.
  2. ^ S J Marshall (14 December 2015). The Mandate of Heaven: Hidden History in the Book of Changes. Taylor & Francis. p. 145. ISBN 978-1-317-84928-5.
  3. ^ Bai, Shouyi (2002). An Outline History of China. Beijing: Foreign Language Press. ISBN 7-119-02347-0.
  4. ^ "The Shang Dynasty Rulers". China Knowledge. Retrieved 7 August 2007.
  5. ^ "Shang Kingship And Shang Kinship" (PDF). Indiana University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 April 2008. Retrieved 7 August 2007.
  6. ^ "Woman General Fu Hao". All China Women's Federation. Archived from the original on 27 August 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2007.
  7. ^ Zeng 曾, Wenqing 文清 (1993). "关于"司母戊""司母辛"大方鼎的"司"字质疑" [On the question of the si character on the Simuwu-Simuxin great square ding]. Huaihua Shizhuan Xuebao (in Chinese). 21 (4): 71–73.
Wu Ding
Preceded by
Xiao Yi
King of China Succeeded by
Zu Geng