The Battle of Mingjiao


The Battle of Mingjiao was a decisive battle between Shang Tang, who led the Shang tribal soldiers, and the Xia army at Mingjiao (west of Xia County, Yuncheng City, Shanxi Province, or near Luoyang City, Henan Province) in the late Xia Dynasty (about 1600 B.C.).

The Battle of Mingjiao
In about the 16th century B.C., the reign of the Xia king Jie was in crisis. The Shang, a vassal state of the Xia Dynasty in the east, took the opportunity to conquer the neighboring Xia state of Ge (north of present-day Ningling County) and secure the Shang capital of Nanbo (20 miles south of Cao County, Shandong Province). He also sent his important minister Yi Yin to the capital of the Xia king to detect the reality of the situation. He then adopted the strategy of eliminating the Xia Dynasty’s wings separately, and broke the Xia Dynasty’s vassal states of Bo Wei (southeast of present-day Sli County), Gu (southeast of present-day Fan County) and Kun Wu (present-day Xuchang), which were located between Xia and Shang, leaving the Xia King Jie isolated and helpless. Then, Shang Tang led 70 chariots and 6,000 soldiers to attack the Xia capital. The Xia Jie had to hastily lead the king’s division to fight with the Shang army at Mingjiao, and the Xia army was defeated.

This war became the turning point of the Xia Dynasty’s downfall. As a result of the war, the Xia Dynasty fell and Shang Tang established the second Chinese dynasty, the Shang Dynasty.


After Kongjia succeeded to the throne as the king of Xia Dynasty, he ignored the government, believed in ghosts and gods, and focused on hunting and fun, which made the people resentful and the vassals rebel. Due to the weakness of the state, it was unable to control the development of the vassal states.

In the 16th century B.C., when Xia Jie was reigning, the vassal lords no longer came to celebrate. The Xia royal family did not repair the internal affairs, external problems, class conflicts became increasingly acute, the people did not want to live, the crisis. But the Xia Jie did not think about making progress and was extravagant and lascivious. He also searched for beautiful women from all over the world, hid them in the harem, drank wine and had fun with Xia Jie and his palace maids day and night, built a dumping palace, decorated a dazzling platform, and spent extravagantly, so that the country was empty and the people were hurt. Xia Jie ignored the suffering of the people and ordered to scavenge the people’s money and use soldiers to seize the wealth everywhere. He enslaved the people and their tribes and tribes, and lost the hearts of the people. The minister Guan Long Pang advised Xia Jie several times, but he reprimanded Guan Long Feng and said, “The earth is shaking, but the sun in the sky has not fallen yet. I am the sun in the sky, and as long as the sun does not fall, I will not die!” When he saw that Guan Longfang was saying some “alarmist” words again, he was furious and ordered to execute Guan Longfang.

The people pointed to the sun and cursed Xia Jie: “When are you going to perish, we are willing to perish with you.”

Xia Jie’s despicable tyranny eventually provoked the strong rebellion of his subjects, and the four vassals also betrayed each other, and Xia Jie fell into an isolated situation of internal and external affairs.

In the process of the gradual decline of the Xia Dynasty, the Shang tribe in the lower reaches of the Yellow River gradually became stronger. The Shang tribe gradually grew stronger after the destruction of Youyi by Shangjia. The development of agriculture and mu pastoralism and the increase of social wealth prompted the Shang tribe to transition from clan system to slavery. In order to develop their power outward and plunder more slaves and belongings, the six Shang marquises from Shangjia Wei to Lord Kui moved twice, once to Yin (Xiaotun village in Anyang City today) and once from Yin and back to Shangqiu. By the time of Lord Kuei, Shang was already a great vassal with the power of a king. After the death of Lord Kuei, he was succeeded by his son Tang, who moved the ruling center of his clan to Nanbo and actively planned to destroy Xia.


With the support of his left minister Zhong Wu and his right minister Yi Yin, Shang Tang first managed his internal affairs and encouraged the people of Shang’s ruling area to farm and raise livestock without fear. At the same time, he united the vassal states and other states that were friendly to Shang. Under the encouragement of Zhong Xu and Yi Yin, some lords rebelled against Xia and surrendered to Shang one after another. When the vassals heard the story of “opening the net on three sides” of Shang Tang, they all praised together and said: “Tang is a very benevolent man who is kind to all animals. Everyone thought that Tang was a virtuous ruler who could be trusted, and the number of vassals who returned to Shang soon increased to forty. The power of Shang Tang grew bigger and bigger.

In order to achieve the strategic goal of destroying Xia, Shang Tang decided to eliminate Xia’s wings and attack the weak enemy first by destroying the small Xia state of Ge, which was adjacent to Shang. When the ruler of Ge, Ge Bo Ge Bo, did not sacrifice his ancestors, Shang Tang sent someone to question him, but he replied that he had no cattle and sheep for sacrifice. When Shang Tang sent someone to send the cattle and sheep, Ge Bo slaughtered them and ate them. When Shang Tang sent someone to question him again, he replied that there was no grain for the sacrifice. Shang Tang sent another man to help cultivate the grain. But Ge Bo sent people to attack those who brought food to the cultivators, robbed them of wine and rice, and even killed children, which aroused the anger of the Shang people. On this pretext, Shang Tang led his army to attack Ge and defeated his army in one fell swoop, which opened the war against Xia.



Before the battle with Xia Dynasty, Yi Yin proposed to Shang Tang that Yi Yin should personally go to the capital of Xia for a period of time to observe the movement of Xia in order to observe the situation of Xia Dynasty. Shang Tang then prepared tributes such as local specialties and sent Yi Yin as an envoy to the Xia capital to pay tribute.

After observing the situation of Xia Jie and his dynasty clearly, Yi Yin returned to Shang and advised Shang Tang that he should not rush to invade Xia Jie, but should build up more strength and continue to weaken the power of the Xia dynasty and wait for the right time. Shang Tang accepted Yi Yin’s suggestion.

Shang Tang was imprisoned

When Xia Jie learned that Tang was still conquering the lords and expanding the power of Shang, he sent an envoy to summon Shang Tang to the capital of Xia and ordered him to be imprisoned in Xia Tai (a prison established by Xia Dynasty). When Yi Yin and Zhong Wu learned that Xia Jie had imprisoned Shang Tang, they gathered many treasures, playthings and beautiful women and offered them to Xia Jie, asking for Shang Tang’s release. Then Xia Jie ordered Shang Tang to be released to Shang. The imprisonment of Shang Tang by Xia Jie caused even greater panic among the vassals and states and they all came to Shang to help Shang Tang to destroy Xia.

Shang Tang who commanded the battle of Mingjiao
Among the vassals and states of the Xia Dynasty, there were three states in the eastern region that were loyal to Xia Jie: one was Bo Wei (southeast of present-day Sli County), one was Gu (southeast of present-day Fan County), and one was Kun Wu (present-day Xuchang). These three Xia states were not small in power, and they were located in areas close to the Shang.

After Shang Tang returned to Shang, he saw that more and more people were rebelling against Xia and returning to Shang, so he discussed with Yi Yin and Zhong Wu about conquering the states of Bo Wei and Gu. After some planning and preparation, Shang Tang and Yi Yin led a joint army to help the Shang and attacked the Bo Wei first, which was soon destroyed by the Shang army. After the destruction of the Swine, the state of Gu was left alone, so Shang Tang swung his army eastward and destroyed the state of Gu. The land, property, and people of the states of Swine and Gu all belonged to the Shang.

The king of Kunwu, a state located in the northern neighbor of the two states, was called “Xia Bo”. When Xia Bo saw that the states of Bo Wei and Gu were destroyed by Shang Tang, he immediately reorganized the army of Kunwu and prepared to fight against Shang. At the same time, he sent an ambassador to the capital of Xia by day and night to report to Xia Jie about the destruction of the states of Bo Wei and Gu by Shang Tang. Xia Jie was very angry, so he ordered to raise the “nine yi divisions” (the troops of the eastern yi tribes) to prepare to conquer Shang. Shang Tang wanted to lead his army to destroy Kunwu and then conquer the eastern barbarians to destroy Xia Jie. Yi Yin stopped Shang Tang and said, “The people of the eastern barbarians still obeyed Jie’s orders and listened to Xia’s commands, so they would not be victorious in the expedition at this time. Shang Tang took Yi Yin’s advice and temporarily withdrew his troops. He prepared a tribute, wrote a petition for sin, and sent an envoy to Xia Jie. After seeing the tributes and the petition, Jie discussed with his flatterers, who congratulated Jie, saying, “The king is so powerful that no one dares to rebel, and even the marquis of Shang confesses his guilt. So Jie ordered the army to stop, and continued to drink and enjoy himself all day long.

However, a year later, Xia Bo of Kunwu led an army to attack Shang. Shang Tang led his army to meet Kunwu. In one battle, he defeated Kunwu’s army, and in another battle, he killed Xia Bo and destroyed Kunwu, and annexed Kunwu’s land and people to Shang.

When Xia Jie learned that Shang Tang had destroyed Kunwu and stopped paying tribute, he ordered the army of the eastern barbarians to invade Shang Tang, but the chiefs of the eastern barbarians did not listen to his orders. When Yi Yin saw that the time was ripe to destroy Xia, he asked Shang Tang to lead an army to conquer Xia Jie.

Vowing to go to war

Around 1600 B.C., Shang Tang formally raised an army to invade Xia Jie. Before the battle began, he held a solemn oath to go to war, affirming that he was following the will of heaven to conquer Xia Jie, and that his purpose was to save the people from the fire.

Shang Tang read out an oath to conquer Xia, saying, “Listen to me, everyone, it is not that I dare to casually attack the king with my subjects and commit a crime. It is because of the many sins of Jie, the king of Xia, that Heaven has ordered me to put him to death. All of you know that Jie’s sin was that he disregarded our harvesting, and he took away the fruits of the people’s agricultural production and hurt the traditional government of the Xia Dynasty. As I have heard you say, Jie’s sin was not only to usurp the fruits of the people’s agricultural production with some of his adulterous ministers. For the sake of their lust and pleasure, he also gathered the property of the vassals for them to squander. The people of the Xia Dynasty were not allowed to live in peace. Everyone was unanimous in disagreeing with Jie, and pointed to the sun to curse him. This is already the anger of heaven and people’s discontent. Jie’s sins were so many that God ordered me to conquer him, and I was afraid that God would punish me, so I dared not not lead the people to conquer him. If God punishes me, I alone will take it, and I will give you a great reward. Do not disbelieve my words, for I will not break my promise. If any of you disobey my oath, I shall kill without mercy, and I hope you will not be punished.”

Shang Tang also announced a strict discipline on the battlefield. After Shang Tang’s oath was taken, the Shang army’s morale was greatly boosted and they all expressed their willingness to fight to the death against the Xia army.

The Duel of Mingjo

After taking the oath, Shang Tang chose 70 cars and 6,000 death squads to unite the armies of various countries, and took a strategic detour to the west of the summer capital to raid the summer capital.

On the day of the battle between the two armies in Mingtiao, it was in the weather of heavy thunderstorm, the Shang army did not avoid the thunderstorm and fought bravely, the Xia army was defeated and retreated. Xia Jie see defeat is unmanageable, led 500 remnants of the army fled to the east to the Sanjiang (now Dingtao north of Shandong Province). Sanjiu is a square state of the Xia Dynasty, see Xia Jie defeated and fled, immediately set up an army to protect Xia Jie, and threatened to fight a battle with Shang Tang. Shang Tang and Yi Yin saw Xia Jie defected to the three Kingdoms, immediately waved the army east. The Shang army and the Three Kingdoms army engaged in a battle at Chenger (north of Wenshang in Shandong Province), and the Shang army defeated the Three Kingdoms army and captured the precious stones and property of the Three Kingdoms. When Xia Jie saw that the Three Kingdoms were destroyed by Shang Tang again, he fled south with 500 remnants of his army.

Shang Tang and Yi Yin led the army to press on and Xia Jie fled to Nan Chao (Chaohu City, Anhui Province today). Xia Jie said to people, “I regret that I did not kill Tang at Xia Tai before I ended up like this.” Xia Jie soon fell ill and died.


Shang Tang and Yi Yin, in order to completely destroy the remnants of the Xia dynasty, led their armies westward again and soon captured the Xia capital, Pei Xin. All the close ministers of the Xia Dynasty expressed their willingness to submit to Shang Tang. After pacifying the Xia subjects, Shang Tang held a ceremony to sacrifice to the heavens in Puxin to show the Xia subjects that they were doing the will of the heavens to execute the guilty Jie, officially announcing the demise of the Xia Dynasty. This was the end of the first slave dynasty in Chinese history.


The Records of the Grand Historian (Shi Ji Suo Yin): “Contemplating the Ming Jie, the end of which is not to be wished!

The General Principles of Literature and History: “The revolution of Tang and Wu was in accordance with heaven and in response to man”.


Shang Tang returned to Xi Bo (west of Yan Shi City) and held a meeting of “Jing Bo’s order”, which was attended by many lords, and was supported by 3,000 lords, and gained the position of the lord of the world.

Historical Records

The Records of the Grand Historian, Volume II and Volume III.


The Beauty Scourge

Xia Jie attacked and defeated the Youlin Clan. Legend has it that the ruler of the Youlin clan was forced to offer two beautiful women, Wan and Yan, for peace. Xia Jie took the two girls and abandoned his wife Mei Xi in the area of Luo Shui, leaving her alone. In order to realize his long-cherished wish to overthrow the Xia Dynasty, Mei Xi colluded with Yi Yin, a spy of the Shang Dynasty, to keep the Shang Dynasty informed of the Xia Dynasty’s ruling situation and eventually brought about the Xia Dynasty’s downfall.

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