An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Jie 桀

Feb 5, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Jie 桀, also called Xia Jie 夏桀, personal name Lü Gui 履癸, was the last ruler of the Xia dynasty 夏 (17th-15th cent. BCE). He is known is history as the first in a series of depraved tyrants that brought their dynasty to an end. He was the son or younger brother of King Di Fa 帝發.

Jie's style of government was rude and careless, he assembled the regional rulers (zhuhou 諸侯) at Youreng 有仍 (modern Jining 濟寧, Shandong) and had them attacked the Lord of Min 有緡氏. A story in the Huainanzi 淮南子 talks of the extraordinary physical strength of King Jie. According to historiography, Jie was fond of wine and women.

When he had a conflict with the Lord of Shi 有施氏 and besieged his castle, Lord Shi offered to the king to present him with his daughter Mo Xi 妹喜, so that the king ended the siege. From that time on he was a slave to Mo Xi and indulged in pleasures, built palaces and pavillions (the Qing Palace 傾宮 and the Yao Terrace 瑶臺) financed by heavy taxation. Mo Xi loved the sound of silk textiles being torn apart, so that Jie squandered a lot of funds for this play. This story, told in the Diwang shiji 帝王世紀, is enriched by more detailed narrations in the Lienüzhuan 列女傳, where talk of orgies and excesses is to be found.

Whoever remonstranted against the luxury and neglicence of government, was executed, like Guan Longfeng 關龍逄, as is told in the Hanshi waizhuan 韓氏外傳. Jie incarcerated Tang the Perfect 成湯 at Xiatai 夏臺 (or Zhongquan 中泉) but soon released him. Tang, famous for his virtue, assembled rebels around him and finally lead an army against King Jie. He defeated the royal army at Mingtiao 鳴條 (modern Fengqiu 封丘, Henan), so that King Jie fled to Sanzong 三朡 (modern Dingtao 定陶, Shandong). Tang sent King Jie into exile to Nanchao 南巢 (modern Shouxian 壽縣, Anhui) and founded the Shang dynasty 商 (17th-11th cent. BCE).

Huang Banghe 黄邦和, Pi Mingxiu 皮明庥, ed. (1987). Zhong-wai lishi renwu cidian 中外歷史人物詞典 (Changsha: Hunan remin chubanshe), 386.
Wang Songling 王松齡, ed. (1991). Shiyong Zhongguo lishi zhishi cidian 實用中國歷史知識辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 392.
Xiong Tieji 熊鐵 基, Yang Youli 楊有禮, ed. (1994). Zhongguo diwang zaixiang cidian 中國帝王宰相辭典 (Wuhan: Hubei jiaoyu chubanshe), 13.
Xue Hong 薛虹 et al., ed. (1998). Zhongguo huangshi gongting cidian 中國皇室宮廷辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 746.
Yi Xingguo 衣興國, ed. (1988). Shiyong Zhongguo mingren cidian 實用中國名人辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 13.
Yuan Ke 袁珂, ed. (1985). Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian 中國神話傳說詞典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), 320.
Zhang Huizhi 張撝之, Shen Qihui 沈起煒, Liu Dezhong 劉德重, ed. (1999). Zhongguo lidai renming da cidian 中國歷代人名大辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1971.