Stories from Ancient China: King Wu, the Zhou Dynasty’s First Emperor, Respected Heaven

King Wu, the first emperor of the Zhou Dynasty. (Jessica Chang/Epoch Times)

King Wu of Zhou was the son of King Wen of the Zhou Kingdom. In the twelfth year after King Wu succeeded to the throne, he started the Zhou Dynasty (B.C. 1122–B.C. 222). The Zhou Dynasty was an important period of Chinese history. 37 emperors ruled for nine hundred years before the Zhou Dynasty was conquered by the Qin Dynasty in 221 B.C.

Not only was the Zhou Dynasty the longest dynasty in Chinese history, but it was also the heyday of ancient Chinese civilization. Confucian and Taoist philosophies developed during the Zhou Dynasty have influenced generations throughout Chinese history.

At the beginning of King Wu’s rule, he asked Jiang Ziya, his military advisor, if there were a way that was easy to preserve, simple to operate, and effective to use that would enable future generations to keep forever the national foundation created by their ancestors.

Jiang Ziya told King Wu that there was such a method in a book handed down from preceding kings, and that he should be very sincere and respectful before reading this book.

Three days later, King Wu wore a crown and stood upright facing the east. He respectfully requested Jiang Ziya to grant to him the book.

Jiang Ziya then started to read out: “Whoever is diligent in administering the nation, respects heaven and gets rid of slothfulness and the desire for comfort, will prosper. Whoever neglects duty and covets comfort, that one’s affairs will decline. The affairs of one with a sense of righteousness more than personal desire will be successful; the affairs of one with a sense of personal desire more than righteousness will be thwarted. This is the way, which is easy to preserve, simple to operate, and effective to use, for future generations to follow forever.”

Upon hearing what Jiang read, King Wu felt more respectful and convinced. He ordered these words be written on the mirror, washbasin, pillars, doors and windows, so that he would warn and encourage himself with the words all the time.

Although he was the king and the emperor, King Wu could still ask a sage for beneficial advice to use as commandments to correct his conduct and thoughts; he thus strove to achieve a pure wisdom that allowed him to understand God’s will.

The Zhou Dynasty therefore lasted and reigned for nine hundred years, thanks to the emperors who kept the founder’s teachings, cultivated their moral character, respected heaven, and were compassionate to the people.

Published in The Epoch Times at

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