Thursday, 12 December 2013

Cheng Tang - The King who Founded the Shang Dynasty

Compiled from The Great Chinese Emperors

        Cheng Tang’s name was Zi Lu. He won the support of the people with his benevolence and generosity. He toppled the cruel regime of Xia Jie and founded the Shang Dynasty. It was the second dynasty in China and lasted for a long period in history.
         Cheng Tang’s ancestor, Qi, had helped Yu in controlling the floodwaters. He was rewarded with the land of Shang and given a title. By Cheng Tang’s 14th generation, Shang had grown into a big state in the east. He invited Yi Yin of the Hua tribe to the palace by offering him gifts. After three failed attempts, Cheng Tang personally paid Yi Yin a visit. Touched by his sincerity, Yi Yin agreed to serve him. He then appointed Yi Yin as Right Premier and Zhong Hui as Left Premier.
        With the help of able men like Yi Yin, the state of Shang prospered and gradually grew strong. However, King Jie of Xia was still stronger than Cheng Tang despite Cheng Tang successfully defeating his minions, Shiwei and Gu. As such, he had no choice but to continue offering tributes. Fortunately, Yi Yin managed to erode King Jie’s alliance with the nine tribes by establishing good relations with them. Prior to launching an attack against King Jie, Cheng Tang called a meeting with the commanders to raise the spirits of the people and troops. The speech given by Tang to mobilize his men was referred to in history as the Pledge of Tang. The text of this speech has been kept to this day.
        Tang and King Jie fought in Mingtiao. King Jie was subsequently defeated, caught and locked up in Nanchao. Cheng Tang established the Shang Dynasty after toppling the Xia regime. When Shang Tang came into power, there was a drought for several years. Shang Tang prayed hard to the Heavens and his self-reproach apparently ‘moved’ Heaven, as it began to pour and the drought came to an end. 

Thought of the day:

  1. Why did Cheng Tang make the decision to attack Shang?                            Sixteen monarchs followed Yu’s son, Qi. The last of them, Jie, was a vicious ruler. He not only neglected the country and his people, but also terrorized them, letting tigers loose in the market. The people were also forced to go to war frequently to exact children, as well as jade and silk from neighbouring tribes. Filled with hatred for Jie, they fled in large numbers. Even court officials cursed Jie and pleaded with Heaven to get rid of him.                                                                                    Jie, however, still thinking of restoring and strengthening his control over all other tribes, gathered all of the tribal leaders for a punitive expedition against the Youmin clan. Unfortunately, this only made the existing conflicts more acute and alienated the tribes further. There were also other inauspicious omens such as unseasonal weather changes which caused hardship to the people. Shang Tang took this opportunity to revolt and overthrow the Xia Dynasty. 
  2. How was the existence of the Shang Dynasty proven?                                  Historian Sima Qian of the Han Dynasty had written in about 100 BC an account of 30 Shang rulers but they were believed to be legendary until the discovery of oracle bones in the 1920s by archaelogists. For years, peasants near the modern city of Anyang in Henan province had been unearthing mysterious pieces of bones which had notches cut into them. They were assumed to be the bones of dragons, a popular ingredient in Chinese medicine in those days, and they were bought as such. In 1899, some of the bones came into the hands of an antique dealer. He sold them to collectors and in 1903, a number of the inscriptions were published. Subsequently, excavations were done and in the 1920s and 1930s, large numbers of oracle bones used in divination were discovered. In later excavations, royal tombs and artifacts were found. Thus, the existence of the Shang Dynasty was confirmed.

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