Yue (state)

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State of Yue
?–306 BC
Map of the Chinese plain in the 5th century BC. The state of Yue is located in the southeast corner.
Map of the Chinese plain in the 5th century BC. The state of Yue is located in the southeast corner.
CapitalKuaiji, later Wu
• 496–465 BC
Historical eraSpring and Autumn period
Warring States period
• Established
• Conquered by Chu
306 BC
Succeeded by
Yue (Chinese characters).svg
"Yue" in seal script (top) and modern (bottom) Chinese characters

Yue (Chinese: , Old Chinese: *[ɢ]ʷat), also known as Yuyue (于越), was a state in ancient China which existed during the first millennium BC – the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods of China's Zhou dynasty – in the modern provinces of Zhejiang, Shanghai and Jiangsu. Its original capital was Kuaiji (modern Shaoxing); after its conquest of Wu, Yue relocated its court north to the city of Wu (modern-day Suzhou). Yue was conquered by Chu in 306 BC.


A statue of a man, dating from the State of Yue era

The name "Baiyue" (百越) was applied indiscriminately to many non-Han Chinese peoples who had been mentioned in numerous classical texts. A specific kingdom, which had been known as the "Yue Guo" (越國) in modern Zhejiang, was not mentioned until it began a series of wars against its northern Yue neighbor Wu during the late 6th century BC. According to the Records of the Grand Historian and Discourses of the States, the Yue are descended from Wuyu, the son of Shao Kang which as known as the sixth king of the Xia dynasty.

The bronze sword of the Yue king Goujian, 771 to 403 BC

With help from Wu's enemy Chu, Yue was able to be victorious after several decades of conflict. The famous Yue King Goujian destroyed and annexed Wu in 473 BC. During the reign of Wuqiang (無彊), six generations after Goujian, Yue was partitioned by Chu and Qi in 306 BC.

During its existence, Yue was famous for the quality of its metalworking, particularly its swords. Examples include the extremely well-preserved Swords of Goujian and Zhougou.

The Yue state appears to have been a largely indigenous political development in the lower Yangtze. This region corresponds with that of the old corded-ware Neolithic, and it continued to be one that shared a number of practices, such as tooth extraction, pile building, and cliff burial. Austronesian speakers also still lived in the region down to its conquest and sinification beginning about 240 BC.[1]

What set the Yue apart from other Sinitic states of the time was their possession of a navy.[2] Yue culture was distinct from the Chinese in its practice of naming boats and swords.[3] A Chinese text described the Yue as a people who used boats as their carriages and oars as their horses.[4]

Rulers of Yue family tree[edit]

[5] Their ancestral name is rendered variously as either Si () or Luo (雒 or 駱).[6]

Rulers of Yue family tree
(1) Marquis Wuyu of Yue
(2) Marquis Wuren of Yue
(3) Marquis Wushen of Yue
(4) Marquis Futan of Yue
(r. 565─538 BC)
(5) Marquis Yunchang of Yue
(d. 497 BC)
(6) King Goujian of Yue
(496─465 BC)
(7) King Luying of Yue
(465─459 BC)
(8) King Bushou of Yue
(459─449 BC)
(9) King Weng of Yue
(449─412 BC)
(10) King Yi of Yue
(412─376 BC)
(11) King Zhihou of Yue
(376─375 BC)
(12) King Chuwuyu of Yue
(375─365 BC)
(13) King Wuzhuan of Yue
(365─357 BC)
(14) King Wuqiang of Yue
(357─333 BC)


A model of a warship used by the state of Yue during the Warring States period. From the Zhejiang Provincial Museum in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China.

After the fall of Yue, the ruling family moved south to what is now northern Fujian and set up the Minyue kingdom. This successor state lasted until around 150 BC, when it miscalculated an alliance with the Han dynasty.

Mingdi, Wujiang's second son, was appointed minister of Wucheng (present-day Huzhou's Wuxing District) by the king of Chu. He was titled Marquis of Ouyang Ting, from a pavilion on the south side of Ouyu Mountain. The first Qin dynasty emperor Qin Shi Huang abolished the title after his conquest of Chu in 223 BC, but descendants and subjects of its former rulers took up the surnames Ou, Ouyang, and Ouhou (歐侯) in remembrance.

When the religious leader Xu Chang launched a rebellion against the Han dynasty in 172 CE, he declared the state of Yue restored and appointed his father Xu Sheng as "King of Yue". The rebels were crushed in 174.[7]


In Chinese astronomy, there are two stars named for Yue:


The virus genus Yuyuevirus and the virus family Yueviridae are both named after the state.[12]

People from Yue[edit]

  • Yuenü, swordswoman & author of the earliest-known exposition on swordplay[13]
  • Xi Shi, a famous beauty of the ancient Yue Guo.


Possible languages spoken in the state of Yue may have been of Tai-Kadai and Austronesian origins. Li Hui (2001) identifies 126 Tai-Kadai cognates in Maqiao Wu dialect spoken in the suburbs of Shanghai out of more than a thousand lexical items surveyed.[14] According to the author, these cognates are likely traces of 'old Yue language' (gu Yueyu 古越語).[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Goodenough, Ward Hunt (1996). Prehistoric Settlement of the Pacific, Volume 86, Part 5. American philosophical society. p. 48. ISBN 9780871698650.
  2. ^ Holm 2014, p. 35.
  3. ^ Kiernan 2017, pp. 49–50.
  4. ^ Kiernan 2017, p. 50.
  5. ^ Theobald, Ulrich. China Knowledge. "Chinese History – Yue  (Zhou period feudal state)". 2000. Accessed 5 December 2013.
  6. ^ Chinese Text Project. Wu–Yue Chunqiu. 《越王無余外傳》 ["Yuèwàng Wúyú Wàizhuàn"]. Accessed 5 December 2013.(in Chinese)
  7. ^ de Crespigny (2016), pp. 402–403.
  8. ^ "AEEA (Activities of Exhibition and Education in Astronomy) 天文教育資訊網". 23 Jul 2006. (in Chinese)
  9. ^ Allen, Richard. "Star Names – Their Lore and Meaning: Aquila".
  10. ^ "Star Tales – Capricornus". www.ianridpath.com. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  11. ^ Allen, Richard. "Star Names – Their Lore and Meaning: Capricornus".
  12. ^ Wolf, Yuri; Krupovic, Mart; Zhang, Yong Zhen; Maes, Piet; Dolja, Valerian; Koonin, Eugene V.; Kuhn, Jens H. "Megataxonomy of negative-sense RNA viruses" (docx). International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  13. ^ Hong Lee and Stefanowsky (2007). Biographical dictionary of Chinese women: antiquity through Sui, 1600 B.C.E.-618 C.E. M.E. Sharpe. p. 91.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  14. ^ a b Li 2001, p. 15.


Further reading[edit]

  • Zhengzhang Shangfang 1999. "An Interpretation of the Old Yue Language Written in Goujiàn's Wéijiă lìng" [句践"维甲"令中之古越语的解读]. In Minzu Yuwen 4, pp. 1–14.
  • Zhengzhang Shangfang 1998. "Gu Yueyu" 古越語 [The old Yue language]. In Dong Chuping 董楚平 et al. Wu Yue wenhua zhi 吳越文化誌 [Record of the cultures of Wu and Yue]. Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 1998, vol. 1, pp. 253–281.
  • Zhengzhang Shangfang 1990. "Some Kam-Tai Words in Place Names of the Ancient Wu and Yue States" [古吴越地名中的侗台语成份]. In Minzu Yuwen 6.

External links[edit]