Duke of Zhou

Duke of Zhou
Ji Dan
Duke of Zhou
Portrait of the Duke of Zhou in Sancai Tuhui
Boqin, Duke of Lu
Junchen, Duke Ping of Zhou
Full name
Family name: Ji (姬)
Given name: Dan (旦)
Posthumous name
Wen (文)
Duke Wen of Zhou 周文公
Father King Wen of Zhou

The Duke of Zhou (Chinese: 周公旦; pinyin: Zhōu Gōngdàn; Wade-Giles: Chou Kung-tan) played a major role in consolidating the newly-founded Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BC). He was the brother of King Wu of Zhou, the first king of the ancient Chinese Zhou Dynasty. Because his fiefdom was based around the Zhou capital of Chengzhou (later Luoyang), the Duke of Zhou was also known as Zhou Gong (周公), Zhou Gong Dan (周公旦), Shu Dan (叔旦) or Zhou Dan (周旦).

According to Chinese legend, he annotated the 64 hexagrams and completed the classic of I Ching, established the Rites of Zhou, and created the Yayue of Chinese classical music.

In 2004, Chinese archaeologists reported that they may have found the tomb complex of Zhou Gong in Qishan County, Shaanxi Province.


Regent to King Cheng

Only three years after defeating the Shang Dynasty, King Wu died, and the kingship—following Zhou custom—passed to his young son, King Cheng of Zhou.[1] Being too young and inexperienced to run the newly founded empire, King Cheng was assisted by the Duke of Zhou, who served as his regent for seven years, until he was old enough to rule. The Duke of Zhou fought in a war against his two brothers, who were conspiring with the feudal rulers and the remnants of the Shang to oppose the Zhou. Within five years, he had managed to defeat all the rebellions that were taking place in the Eastern regions and had one brother executed and the other banished.[1] After defeating the rebels the armies continued east bring more land under Zhou control. (Some[2] have questioned Zhou Gong Dan's actions, claiming the King Cheng may have been old enough to rule and that the "rebel" brothers may have had a better right to the regency than he. In any case, he was near the capital when the old king died and his brothers were not.)

In order to counter the Shang's claims to divine right of rule due to their descent from the god Ti, the Duke of Zhou formulated the doctrine of the Mandate of Heaven. According to this doctrine, the Shang had grossly offended Heaven: thus Heaven had commanded the reluctant Zhou to replace them and restore order.[3] He is also credited with the creation of the fengjian enfeoffment system, a political ideology that used ranking methods and regional governors to keep control of the expanding Zhou Dynasty.[1]

The Duke of Zhou is also credited with writing many of the poems collected in the Shi Jing, or Book of Songs, the earliest surviving collection of Chinese poems. These poems were collected by Confucius, whose thought was influenced by the Duke of Zhou's conception of the ideal ruler.[4]

God of Dreams

Duke of Zhou is also known as the 'God of Dreams'. It comes from a saying of Confucius: "I must be slipping. It has been so long since I dreamt of the Duke of Zhou."

According to the folk legend, if an important thing is going to happen to someone, the Duke of Zhou will let the person know through dream. Hence the Chinese expression "Dreaming of Zhou Gong."

Zhou Gong's Book of Auspicious and Inauspicious Dreams (周公解梦)

There is a book called Zhou Gong's Book of Auspicious and Inauspicious Dreams (周公解梦), which is about dreams in traditional Chinese culture. People use it to analyse the dreams in order to predict the future.


His eight sons all received land from the king. The eldest son received the Lu (state) and the second son succeeded to his father's dukedom. Some names of the dukes are listed in the Zuo Zhuan but there is also a complete genealogy.[5][6] In later centuries, leaders of many dynasties considered the Duke of Zhou a paragon of virtue. Chinese empress Wu Zetian (r. 690–705 CE) named her short-lived Second Zhou Dynasty after him and conferred on the Duke the posthumous title King Baode (Chinese: 褒德王; pinyin: Bāodé Wáng; literally "Honorable and Virtuous King").[7] In 1008 CE, Emperor Zhenzong of Song gave the Duke the posthumous title King Wenxian (simplified Chinese: 文宪王; traditional Chinese: 文憲王; pinyin: Wénxiàn Wáng; literally "King of Exemplary Culture"). Subsequent generations would refer to the Duke as Yuán Shèng (simplified Chinese: 元圣; traditional Chinese: 元聖; literally "First Sage")


  1. ^ a b c Chin, Annping. (2007). The Authentic Confucius. Scribner. ISBN 0743246187
  2. ^ Edward L. Shaughnessy in Cambridge History of Ancient China, page 311
  3. ^ Hucker, Charles O. (1978). China to 1850: a short history. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804709580
  4. ^ Hinton, David. (2008). Classical Chinese Poetry: an Anthology. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. ISBN 0374105367
  5. ^ 姬伯龄为周公第四子---中华蒋氏祖根文化网
  6. ^ 《元圣裔周氏族谱》世系表
  7. ^ Book of Tang (《旧唐书》记载为天授三年追封)

External links

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