An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Zhou Xuanwang 周宣王, King Xuan of Zhou

Dec 19, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Zhou Xuanwang 周宣王 (r. 827-782 BC), King Xuan of Zhou, personal name Ji Jing 姬靜 (also written 靖), was the last glorious ruler of the Zhou period 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE).

He was a son of King Li 周厲王 (r. 878-841), at the end of whose reign an internal rebellion forced him to flee the capital. The loyal ministers called for help with Duke Mu of Shao 召穆公, who hid Crown Prince Jing in his own house. When the crowds gathered before his mansion and forced him to hand over the Prince, the Duke sacrified his own son in order to save Prince Jing.

In 828, King Li died in exile, and Prince Jing could mount the throne. He made use of competent councelors, like Duke Mu of Shao, Duke Ding of Zhou 周定公, or Yin Jifu 尹吉甫 (Xi Bo Jifu 兮伯吉父). With their support, the house of Zhou could regain its former strength.

Part of the politics was to repel the barbarian tribes in the west (Rong 戎, Di 狄) and the east (Huaiyi 淮夷). The lord of Qin 秦 in the west, Qin Zhong 秦仲 (r. 845-822), was appointed grand master (dafu 大夫) and thus entered the ranks of the regional rulers (zhuhou 諸侯). He was entrusted with the war against the Rong tribes. His son was, after victory over the barbarians, bestowed the title of a duke, i.e. Duke Zhuang of Qin 秦莊公 (r. 821-778).

Yin Jifu led an army to punish the intruding Xianyun 玁狁 tribes in the northwest. The southeastern campaigns against the unruly Huai tribes were led by the Duke of Shao, Nan Zhong 南仲, Dashi Huang Fu 大師皇父 and Cheng Bo Xiu Fu 程伯休父. Ju Fu 駒父 and Gao Fu 高父 received the submission of the Huaiyi and the tributes presented to the king.

The barbarian tribes of the Jing 荊蠻 in the south were pacified by Fangshu 方叔. The king's uncle, Shen Bo 申伯, was made regional ruler of Xie 謝 in order to supervise the southern region. In 806 the younger brother of King Xuan appointed regional ruler of Zheng 鄭.

Although the southern regions stayed quiet for the next time, the northern Rong tribes permanently harassed the settlements in Zhou territory. The Taiyuan Rong 太原戎, Tiao Rong 條戎, Shen Rong 申戎 and Jiangshi Rong 姜氏戎 kept encroaching on the northern borderlands and could never really be pacified, in spite of a large contingent of troops garrisoned at Taiyuan 太原 (modern Taiyuan, Shanxi).

In 782, King Xuan died. He was succeeded by his son, King You 周幽王 (r. 781-770), who was to lose control over the northwestern region.

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