Xu (state)

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Not to be confused with the state of Xu (許國) at the site of the present city of Xuchang.
State of Xu
c. 2000 BC–512 BC
Capital Tancheng County (郯城), Shandong Province
Government Monarchy
 -  Established c. 2000 BC
 -  Disestablished 512 BC

The State of Xu (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: 徐國; pinyin: Xú Guó) was a vassal state of ancient China during the Zhou dynasty and Spring and Autumn period ruled by descendants of the Yíng family. Xu was a Dongyi state also known as Xurong (Chinese: 徐戎), Xuyi (Chinese: 徐夷) or Xufang (Chinese: 徐方), all meaning either "Xu barbarians" or "Xu Proper". Xu was one of the largest and most powerful non-Han states in eastern China. It led the Huaiyi Confederation of Dongyi tribes. From the time of the Xia dynasty until the Zhou dynasty the state spread throughout the middle and lower reaches of the Huai River. Xu submitted to the Zhou dynasty during the reign of King Mu of Zhou, and was gradually assimilated into the Han Chinese nation and culture. It gradually lost power and various smaller states branched off, such as the Zhongli (钟离) State. At that time the center of the state lay in the Xizhou (Chinese: 泗州) region that today forms part of Anhui Province. The State of Xu ceased to exist in 512 BC following attacks by the states of Wu and State of Chu.


The Yuanhe Xing Zuan, a Tang dynasty compilation of information on the origins of Chinese surnames, as well as the Tong Zhi (Chinese: 通志), a Southern Song dynasty historical book, state that the Xu peoples were descendants of the ancient Chinese king Zhuanxu, and that Zhuanxu's grandson Ruomu (Chinese: 若木) was enfeoffed as Lord of Xu during the reign of Yu the Great. The two books' sources for these statements are unknown.


King Shoumeng of Wu had four sons, respectively named Zhufan, Yuzhai, Yiwei and Jizha. Shoumeng favoured Jizha, but Jizha insisted that the throne should be inherited by Zhufan. In order to fulfill the will of his father, King Zhufan claimed that the throne should be passed to Yuzhai then Yimei and finally Jizha. However, in 527 BC, when King Yiwei was dying, Jizha renounced the throne again. The new king, named Liao (born Zhouyu), was the son of Yiwei. He had two younger brothers named Yanyu and Zhuyong. But Guang, son of King Zhufan, was reluctant to support them. In 515 BC, Guang persuaded Liao to instruct troops led by Yanyu and Zhuyong to attack the State of Chu, and then recruited an assassin named Zhuan Zhu who managed to kill Liao. Although Zhuan Zhu was killed immediately afterwards, Guang eventually usurped the throne and changed his name to Helü. When Yanyu and Zhuyong heard this, they escaped. Yanyu fled to Xu whilst Zhuyong ran to the State of Zhongwu. King Helü of Wu ordered Xu and Zhongwu to hand over Yanyu and Zhuyong. Viscount Zhangyu of Xu sympathized with Yanyu and let him go. Yanyu met Zhuyong and they both went to Chu for help. However, this gave King Helü a reason to attack Xu. In 512 BC, King Helü conquered Xu and Zhangyu fled to Chu. The state was overthrown. Remnants of the Xu nobility were relocated to the northwestern part of modern Jiangxi province near Jing'an, where several Xu bronze artifacts and a tomb were discovered.

Xu in astronomy[edit]

Xu is represented with the star Theta Serpentis in asterism Left Wall, Heavenly Market enclosure (see Chinese constellation).[1]