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King Tai Wu — A Remarkable Monarch Inspired by Supernatural Power

King Tai Wu, named Zi Zhou, was an accomplished monarch of the Shang Dynasty.

Born into a royal family and raised as the empire's heir, Tai Wu didn't do well initially.


Partly because he was still a teenager when he ascended the throne, he paid more attention to having fun or pursuing an extravagant lifestyle instead of political issues and administration work. 

One day, a paper mulberry grew under a big mulberry in Tai Wu's palace; more surprisingly, those two trees grew very tall within seven days.

Ritual Jade (Yu Cong) of the Shang Dynasty

Ritual Jade (Yu Cong) of the Shang Dynasty — National Museum of China

In the era when people highly respected and worshiped supernatural powers, the young king was quite scared. 

His prime minister Yi Zhi, the son of great official Yi Yin, told Tai Wu that this unusual phenomenon happened because the king did something politically wrong. 

Tai Wu started to listen to his brilliant minister and work diligently to suppress those abnormal monsters.

Delightfully, those two unusual trees withered very soon after he became a good king. 

During the following 75 years of wearing the crown, King Tai Wu was always diligent and caring. Agriculture, handicrafts, and culture were all well-developed under his reign.

Bronze Wine Container (You) of the Shang Dynasty

Bronze Wine Container (You) of the Shang Dynasty — Sen-oku Hakuko Kan (Photo by Dongmaiying)

King Pan Geng — Monarch of Renascent

After Tai Wu’s son, the tenth king of the Shang Dynasty passed away, some powerful royal members abolished the primogeniture inheritance system.


The king’s brothers, uncles, and even cousins all fought over the throne, which caused a considerable decline in the empire.

Consequently, the kingdom experienced much chaos, and nearly all the vassal states stopped paying tribute to the royal family. 

Zi Xun, respected as King Pan Geng, ascended the throne after his brother died.

Jade Deer of the Shang Dynasty

Jade Deer of the Shang Dynasty — Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Migrating the Capital to Yin


Pan Geng insisted on moving the capital to another place in China in about 1300 BC to ameliorate the current situation. 

King Pan Geng believed that the new capital had better farmland that could develop their agriculture and make it easier to defend themselves from strong enemies. 

But most nobles disagreed for not being willing to give up everything they had and start from scratch. 

King Pan Geng was strong and kept debating and fighting against all opponents. With his insistence, they finally moved their capital city to a place named Yin, which is now called Yin Xu. 

Site of Xin Yu, the Last Capital City of the Shang Dynasty

Site of Xin Yu — Anyang City, Henan Province

After years of diligent work, this migration proved to be an intelligent and contributive decision: a brand new capital city with abundant material and hardworking people was established, the king's authority was reestablished, and Shang's agriculture and the economy were further developed. 

All of Shang's vassal states started to visit and pay tribute again because of respecting and worshiping Pan Geng's exceptional achievements and reign. 

He was one of the most influential and remarkable kings in the Shang Dynasty, who brought back his kingdom the long-lost power and prosperity. 

Site of Yinxu


After this migration, Yin was the capital city and economic and cultural center of the Shang Dynasty until it perished in 1046 BC. 

Most of the excavated oracle inscriptions of Shang and large numbers of exquisite artifacts were from Yin, which now is the Anyang City of Henan Province.

Scripts on Oracle Bones of the Shang Dynasty

Scripts on Oracle Bones of the Shang Dynasty — National Museum of China

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