Duke of Zhou
|Duke of Zhou|
Portrait of the Duke of Zhou in Sancai Tuhui
Junchen, Duke Ping of Zhou
|Father||King Wen of Zhou|
|Duke of Zhou|
|Literal meaning||Dan, Duke of Zhou|
|Alternative Chinese name|
|Literal meaning||(personal name)|
The Duke of Zhou (Chinese: 周公; pinyin: Zhōu Gōng) was a member of the Zhou Dynasty who played a major role in consolidating the kingdom established by his elder brother King Wu. He was renowned in Chinese history for acting as a capable and loyal regent for his young nephew King Cheng and successfully suppressed a number of rebellions, placating the Shang nobility with titles and positions. He is also a Chinese culture hero credited with writing the I Ching and the Book of Poetry, establishing the Rites of Zhou, and creating the yayue of Chinese classical music.
His personal name was Dan (旦). He was the fourth son of King Wen of Zhou and Queen Tai Si. His eldest brother Bo Yikao predeceased their father (supposedly a victim of cannibalism); the second-eldest defeated the Shang Dynasty at the Battle of Muye around 1046 BC, ascending the throne as King Wu. King Wu distributed many fiefs to his relatives and followers and Dan received the ancestral territory of Zhou near present-day Luoyang.
Only two years after assuming power, King Wu died and left the kingdom to his young son King Cheng.:52 The Duke of Zhou successfully attained the regency and administered the kingdom himself,:54 leading to revolts not only from disgruntled Shang partisans but also from his own relatives, particularly his older brother Guan Shu. Within five years, the Duke of Zhou had managed to defeat the Three Guards and other rebellions and his armies pushed east, bringing more land under Zhou control.
The Duke of Zhou was credited with elaborating the doctrine of the Mandate of Heaven, which countered Shang propaganda that as descendants of the god Shangdi they should be restored to power. According to this doctrine, Shang injustice and decadence had so grossly offended Heaven that Heaven had removed their authority and commanded the reluctant Zhou to replace the Shang and restore order.
On a more practical level, the Duke of Zhou expanded and codified his brother's feudal system, granting titles to loyal Shang clansmen and even establishing a new "holy" city at Chengzhou around 1038 BC. Laid out according to exact geomantic principles, Chengzhou was the home of King Cheng, the Shang nobility, and the nine tripod cauldrons symbolic of imperial rule, while the Duke continued to administer the kingdom from the former capital of Haojing.
In later centuries, subsequent emperors considered the Duke of Zhou a paragon of virtue and honored him with posthumous names. The empress Wu Zetian named her short-lived 8th-century Second Zhou Dynasty after him and called him the Honorable and Virtuous King (褒德王, Bāodé Wáng). In 1008, the Zhenzong Emperor gave the Duke the posthumous title King of Exemplary Culture (s 文宪王, t 文憲王, Wénxiàn Wáng). He was also known as the First Sage (s 元圣, t 元聖, Yuán Shèng).
God of Dreams
Duke of Zhou is also known as the "God of Dreams". The Analects record Confucius saying, "How I have gone downhill! It has been such a long time since I dreamt of the Duke of Zhou." This was meant as a lamentation of how the governmental ideals of the Duke of Zhou had faded, but was later taken literally. In Chinese legends, if an important thing is going to happen to someone, the Duke of Zhou will let the person know through dreams: hence the Chinese expression "Dreaming of Zhou Gong".
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- Confucius. The Analects. vii, 5, trans. D. C. Lau.