King Wu of Zhou

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King Wu of Zhou
King Wu
King Wu painted by Ma Lin
King of China
Reign 1046–1043 BC
Predecessor King Zhou of Shang
Successor King Cheng of Zhou
Died 1043 BC
Spouse Yi Jiang (邑姜), daughter of Jiang Ziya
Issue King Cheng of Zhou
Full name
Ancestral name: Jī (姬)
Given name: Fā (發)
House Zhou dynasty
Father King Wen of Zhou
Mother Tai Si
King Wu of Zhou
Literal meaning "The Martial King of Zhou"
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 姬發
Simplified Chinese 姬发
Literal meaning (personal name)

King Wu of Zhou (Chinese: 周武王; pinyin: Zhōu Wǔ wáng) was the first king of the Zhou dynasty of ancient China. The chronology of his reign is disputed but is generally thought to have begun around 1046 BC and ended three years later in 1043 BC.[1]

King Wu's ancestral name was Ji () and given name Fa (). He was the second son of King Wen of Zhou and Queen Tai Si. In most accounts, his older brother Bo Yikao was said to have predeceased his father, typically at the hands of King Zhou, the last king of the Shang dynasty; in the Book of Rites, however, it is assumed that his inheritance represented an older tradition among the Zhou of passing over the eldest son.[2] (Fa's grandfather Jili had likewise inherited Zhou despite two older brothers.)

Upon his succession, Fa worked with his father-in-law Jiang Ziya to accomplish his father's unfinished task: overthrowing the Shang dynasty. In 1048 BC, Fa marched down the Yellow River to the Mengjin ford and met with more than 800 dukes.[citation needed] He constructed an ancestral tablet naming his father Chang King Wen and placed it on a chariot in the middle of the host; considering the timing unpropitious, though, he did not yet attack Shang. In 1046 BC, King Wu took advantage of Shang disunity to launch an attack along with many neighboring dukes. The Battle of Muye destroyed Shang's forces and King Zhou of Shang set his palace on fire, dying within.

King Wu – the name means "Martial" – followed his victory by establishing many feudal states under his 16 younger brothers and clans allied by marriage, but his death three years later provoked several rebellions against his young heir King Cheng and the regent Duke of Zhou, even from three of his brothers.

A burial mound in Zhouling town, Xianyang, Shaanxi was once thought to be King Wu's tomb. It was fitted with a headstone bearing Wu's name in the Qing dynasty. Modern archeology has since concluded that the tomb is not old enough to be from the Zhou dynasty, and is more likely to be that of a Han dynasty royal. The true location of Wu's tomb remains unknown, but is likely to be in the Xianyang-Xi'an area.



  1. These dates are those of the People's Republic of China's official Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project, although they remain controversial.
  2. Book of Rites, Tan Gong I, 1. Accessed 4 Nov 2012.
King Wu of Zhou
Died: 1043 BC
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King Wen of Zhou
King of Zhou
c. 1050–1043 BC
Succeeded by
King Cheng of Zhou