Who is Zhou Gong 周公? (Duke of Zhou)

Yes, I’m referring to the ancient Chinese figure, not our Singapore Zhou Chong Qing, DJ of 93.3FM (who referred to himself as Zhou Gong too)

Duke of Zhou

Also known as: Chou; Duke of Chou; Chou T’ai-Kung;

Date: fl. ca. 1100 BCE

Occupation: brother of King Wu and regent of Zhou dynasty

In Chinese tradition King Wen (the Accomplished), King Wu (the Martial), and the Duke of Zhou are revered as the wise founding fathers of the Zhou (Chou) dynasty (ca. 1122–256 BCE) and their era is considered a the golden age. King Wen prepared the way; King Wu overthrew the Shang dynasty but died shortly after, leaving his young son King Cheng (Ch’eng) under the care of his uncle, the Duke of Zhou, as regent.

The Duke of Zhou then pressed further east and brought all peoples to the coast under Zhou rule. The Zhou territory was larger than that of modern France. To consolidate the conquests the duke sent loyal relatives to establish strongholds in strategic locations and set up a second capital at Luoyang (Loyang), strategically located at the junction of the Luo (Lo) and Yellow Rivers.

The Duke of Zhou is also credited with creating the well-field system that equitably distributed farmland to cultivators; eight families grouped together farmed plots for themselves and together farmed the ninth one for their lord. The Duke of Zhou explained to the Shang people that the change of dynasties was the will of heaven, which punished the last Shang king for his wickedness and rewarded the house of Zhou for its virtue. He also lectured his nephew that the concept of “Mandate of Heaven” was a double-edged sword and could be cut when the personal and political conduct of the new rulers did not measure up to heaven’s expectations. After a seven-year regency, and having accomplished his mission, he returned power to his nephew and retired to his own fief called Lu in eastern Shandong (Shantung).

Confucius really admired the duke of Zhou and claimed that his admiration was so intense that he would dream of the Zhou Gong. Hence, nowadays, we would use the Chinese phrase “play chess with Zhou Gong” (与周公下棋) to refer to the state of being asleep and dreaming blissfully. 🙂

Sources: Ancient and medieval history online, Encyclopedia of World History: The Ancient World, Prehistoric Eras to 600 CE, vol. 1.

Upshur, Jiu-Hwa Lo. “Duke of Zhou.” In Ackermann, Marsha E., Michael Schroeder, Janice J. Terry, Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur, and Mark F. Whitters, eds. Encyclopedia of World History: The Ancient World, Prehistoric Eras to 600 CE, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2008. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com.libproxy.nlb.gov.sg/activelink2.asp?
ItemID=WE49&iPin=WHI107&SingleRecord=True (accessed November 3, 2012).

Zhou Gong

For short concise information on Chinese history, I would like to recommend this e-resources found in Singapore National Library Board E-resources. It is known as “Ancient and medieval history online”.

URL: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/index.aspx

You have to login to the system to access the database. As a professional librarian, I can’t help being skeptical about Wikipedia where knowledge generation is shared among regular users. Even though Wikipedia is extremely easy to use and convenient, I would like to counter-check with credible sources that I prefer. At least, for these databases, authors are of professional background, whereas for Wikipedia, contribution could be from anybody. So do check out the database I shared when you have the time. It’s really good and informative. Stay tuned for more short history facts.

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