The Tyrant Emperor of Shang Dynasty: Zhou


Emperor Yi’s eldest son was Qi, viscount of Wei. Qi’s mother being of low caste, he could not be heir to the throne. His younger son was Xin, whose mother was the principal consort, and so he became the heir-apparent.

Emperor Yi died, and his son Xin sat on the throne. Emperor Xin was called by everybody in the empire Zhou (the tyrant).

Emperor Zhou’s discrimination was acute, his hearing and sight particularly good, his natural abilities extraordinary, and his physical strength equal to that of a wild beast. He had cunning enough to evade reproofs, and volubility enough to gloss over his faults. He boasted that he was above his minsters on the ground of ability, and that he surpassed the people of the empire on account of his reputation. He indulged in wine, women, and lusts of all sorts.

His partiality for Daji caused him to carry out whatever she desired, so that his ministers had to devise new forms of dissipation, the most depraved dances and extravagant music; he increased the taxation in order to fill the Stag tower with money, and to store the granary at ‘Big bridge.’ He made a collection of dogs, horses, and curiosities, with which he filled his palaces; and enlarging his parks and towers at Shangqiu, procured numbers of wild beasts and birds and put them therein. He slighted the spirits, assembled a great number of play actors at Shangqiu, made a pond of wine, hung the trees with meat, made men and women chase each other about quite naked, and had drinking bouts the whole night long.

The people murmured, and when the nobles rebelled zhouxin increased the severity of his punishments, instituting the punishment of roasting.

He appointed Chang the Chief of the West, the prince of Jiu, and the prince of Ou his three principal ministers. The prince of Jiu had a beloved daughter who was sent in to the emperor, and when she disapproved of his debaucheries the tyrant killed her in his rage, and made mincemeat of her father. The prince of Ou objected, and vehemently remonstrated with him, whereupon he was sliced to pieces. Chang Chief of the West, hearing of all this, sighed furtively, but ‘Tiger’ the prince of zhong, being aware of it, informed the tyrant, who thereupon cast Chief of the West into prison at Youli. His servant Hongyao and others procured a pretty girl, rare curiosities, and fine horses, which they presented to the tyrant, who thereupon pardoned Chief of the West. The latter went forth and gave the country to the west of the Lo river to the tyrant, and begged that he would abolish the punishment of roasting. The emperor agreed to this, and gave him bows, arrows, axes, and halberds, with a commission to start on a warlike expedition. He was appointed Chief of the West, and Feizhong was employed in the government.

Feizhong was fond of flattery and greedy of gain, so the men of Yin were not attached to him. The tyrant also gave Alai an appointment, but Alai was fond of vilifying persons, so the princes bacame more and more estranged from the court.

Now Chief of the West, on returning from his expedition, secretly cultivated virtue, and was charitable; many of the princes revolted from the tyrant and gave their allegiance to Chief of the West, who from this time gained in influence, while the tyrant rather lost his authority. The monarch’s son Bigan remonstrated with his father, but he was not listened to. Shangrong praised his worth, and the people loved him, but the tyrant set him aside.

Chief of the West marched against and conquered the Ji State, and the tyrant’s minister Zuyi heard of it, and blaming the house of Zhou hurried off in alarm to report it the tyrant. He said: ‘Heaven is bringing to an end the destiny of our dynasty of Yin; great men and the ancient tortoise do not venture to foretell good fortune. It is not that the former kings do not aid us men of his later time; but you, O king, by our dissoluteness and oppression are cutting yourself off. Heaven has therefore rejected us; we do not eat our meals in peace, we do not consider our heavenly nature, we do not follow and observe the statutes. Our people are no all longing for the destruction of the dynasty, saying, Why does not Heaven send down its awe-inspiring authority? Why is not its great decree manifested? What remedy is there against the present king?’

The tyrant said:’Is not my life secured by decree of Heaven?’

Zuyi returned, and said, ‘The tyrant cannot be remonstrated with.’

Chief of the West having died, King Wu of Zhou in his march eastward arrived at the ford of Meng. The princes revolted, and 800 princes of the house of zhou having assembled declared that the tyrant ought to be attacked.

King Wu said, ‘You know nothing of Heaven’s decree,’ and retired.

The tyrant abandoned himself all the more to lust and dissipation, and the viscount of Wei remonstrated with him several times, but he would not heed, so having consulted with the senior and junior tutors the viscount of Wei withdrew from court.

Bigan said, ‘A minister cannot but argue to the death’; he accordingly remonstrated vehemently with the tyrant, who in a rage said,’I have heard that the heart of a holy man has seven apertures,’ and cut Bigan open to look at his heart.

The viscount of Ji, in terror, then feigned himself mad, and became a slave, and the tyrant again imprisoned him.

The senior and junior tutors of Yin, accordingly, taking the sacrificial and musical implements, hastened to the zhou State, and King Wu of Zhou upon this marched at the head of the princes to attack the tyrant, who also sent out an army to withstand him in the plain of Mu. On the day of Jiazi the tyrant’s troops were beaten, and he himself fled to the Stag tower, which he ascended, and, putting on his gorgeous robes and jewels, burnt himself to death.

King Wu of Zhou then cut off the tyrants head and exhibited it on a pole; he also slew Daji, released the viscount of Ji from prison, raised a tumulus over the grave of Bigan, and made a eulogy to the memory of Shangyong.

His son Wugeng and Lufu, were appointed to continue the sacrifices to the Yins. He restored Pangeng’s mode of administration, and the people of Yin were greatly rejoiced. Whereupon King Wu of Zhou became Son of Heaven(Emperor). His descendants abolished the title of Di (divine emperor), and called themselves kings (Wang); and the descendants of the Yins were made princes subordinate to the house of Zhou.

After the death of King Wu of Zhou, Wugeng, Guanshu, and Caishu rebelled. King Cheng ordered the duke of Zhou to execute them, and the viscount of Wei was established in the Song State to continue (the ancestral worship as) a descendant of the Yins.

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