Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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King Zhou of Shang Di Xin -- Cryptic Last King of Shang Dynasty in History of China

Di Xin (1105 B.C. — 1045 B.C.), also known as King Zhou of Shang or Zhou Wang, was the last king of the Shang Dynasty, who had long been considered responsible for perish of his kingdom.


As one of the most controversial kings in history of China, he was always described as aggressive, outrageous and extravagant; together with his beloved evil queen, they destroyed the kingdom together.


Many other historical events, however, indicated that probably he was not the only reason for the perdition of the Shang Dynasty; instead, he might be quite an ambitious and exceptional king. 


Resentment of Ancestors 

When Di Xin’s grandfather was the king, he felt threatened by one of his vassal state named Zhou, which kept expanding through battles.


Though Zhou’s lord paid tribute and never behaved impolitely to the king, Di’s grandfather took advantage of the Zhou’s current lord and then put him in prison conspiratorially.


Zhou’s lord passed away in the captivity soon. This event made Zhou take Shang Dynasty as their biggest and only enemy. 


Then Di Xin’s father ascended to the throne and thought what they did to Zhou was inappropriate. So he tried to unite Zhou again by marriage.


Zhou’s new lord, the son of the lord who died in Shang’s prison, pretended to comply but still kept preparing for revenge.


Therefore, when Di Xin became the king, the Zhou regime have been preparing their vengeance for a long time. 


King Zhou of Shang Di Xin -- Achievement and Crisis 

Di Xin got the throne because of his exceptional strength and talent, also for the reason that his birth mother was the noble Queen. Di Xin himself was very strong, courageous, aggressive and confident.


However, many officers still support Di’s older brother, the first son of Di’s father, whose mother was only an imperial concubine.


Consequently, in the beginning of Di Xin’s regin, he spent lots of time suppressing and fighting those nobles and officials who were against the legality of his throne.


After Di Xin successfully stabilized his government and strengthened his dominance, he published some encouragement policies to develop agriculture and economy; in addition, he included more places in China into Shang’s territory through his excellent military skills.


But some of his political enemies later escaped to Zhou, and many expanding wars caused the Shang Empire severe loses.


Meanwhile, Di Xin himself was also a luxurious monarch. He asked people to build a pond that was filled with good wines, and hang delicious meat in a forest in his palace; together with his beloved queen and other beautiful concubines, they spent lots of time having fun in those places. 


Final Failure and Suicide with Honor

Years later, when Zhou's Lord Ji Fa heard that Shang’s major army was fighting far away in the east of China, they decisively attacked Shang’s capital city.


So King Di Xin had to arm many slaves to fight back.

Zhou’s soldiers were brave and well trained, however, the Shang’s hastily organized slaves, most of whom were captives of wars and had never been treated well, had mutinied out of sudden.


Di Xin and his few remaining loyal soldiers and generals, most of which sacrificed in the end, fought bravely but still failed.


After hearing Zhou’s army succeed and was marching toward the royal palace, King Di Xin wore his most valuable outfit and fancy jade jewelries, climbed to the tallest building in his palace and burnt himself.


Zhou’s lord, then cut Di’s head out of his body and killed his beloved queen.

Di Xin’s achievements were glorious from a modern perspective: he promoted and accelerated cultural fusion by extending his territory, refuse to hold fancy and tremendous worship ceremonies and further restrained noble’s power.


On the other hand, for people of his time, him being over drinking, tremendously luxurious, pugnacious and credulous of women was highly indecent; his distrust to nobles and cease of holding big sacrifice ceremonies were also quite critical in ancient Chinese culture. 

Ending of Shang Dynasty in History of China 

Afterwards, the Shang Dynasty was officially perished; some of Di’s offsprings refused to surrender to Zhou and moved to the north, while some of them complied and were given some land and noble titles by the king of the new dynasty.