Background of the war
After more than 600 years since the Shang Dynasty was founded by Shang Tang, the 31st king, Di Xin (King Zhou of Shang), was already in danger.
According to “The Records of the Grand Historian”, Emperor Xin was “a man of great talent, quick in speech and quick in insight.
In politics, Dixin spent a lot of money to build a deer platform, a bridge, and a wine pond, leaving the treasury empty. He favored his concubine Daji and a group of sycophants such as Fei Lian and Xilai, killed the important minister of the royal family, Bigan, and imprisoned Ji Zi, causing the vassals to rebel.
Although he won the war, capturing “hundreds of millions of barbarians”, and was known as “a hundred grams (a hundred victories in a hundred battles)”, the main force of the Shang army was far away from the eastern barbarians, leaving the Shang capital of Chao Ge (now Qi County) empty and defenseless. There was no army to defend it.
Zhou was originally an ancient tribe from the middle reaches of the Wei River, living in some areas of present-day central Shaanxi Province, and gradually developed by virtue of its superior natural environment. At the time of Ji Chang, he relied on a group of virtuous officials such as Lu Shang, San Yisheng, Tai Beng, Ma Yao, and Nangong Shi to strengthen the state; externally, Ji Chang preached virtue and education, and actively mediated disputes between various states, which made the vassals follow each other. Ji Chang took advantage of the opportunity to make a united front, and the countries were already suffering from the suspicion and restraint of the king of Shang because they wanted to supply a large amount of troops and materials for the attack on the eastern barbarians, so of course they were happy to lean on “Xibo”. According to the Records of the Grand Historian, “The world was divided into three parts, two of which went to the Zhou, with most of Taigong’s schemes and plans”.
Ji Chang and his staff began to build up public opinion again, laying the ideological foundation for the destruction of Shang. The Shang king claimed that his kingship came from the “Mandate of Heaven”, and the Zhou people said that “the Mandate of Heaven is impermanent, but virtue is the only complement”, saying that the Shang king had no virtue, but Xibo had virtue, so the Mandate of Heaven had been transferred to Ji Chang, and in 1056 B.C., Ji Chang claimed the king internally, namely King Wen of Zhou.
On the other hand, King Wen was still careful and attentive to the Shang dynasty and paid tribute to it, even worshiping the Shang ancestors at his own ancestral hall (there are still relevant oracle bone inscriptions unearthed in Zhou Yuan) to paralyze the ears of Emperor Xin.
In 1055 B.C., Ji Chang sent an army to conquer Injun. The following year, he also crushed Mishu, who was invading the neighboring countries, and relieved his worries about the invasion of Shang. In 1053 BC, Ji Chang sent troops to the east to attack Li (southwest of Changzhi City, Shanxi Province); in 1052 BC, he attacked Yu (present-day Qingyang City); in 1051 BC, he captured the Chong state of Chong Houhu, the favorite of the Shang king. After winning these three wars, Zhou cut off the Shang dynasty’s connection with the western vassal states. In the same year, Ji Chang moved the capital to Feng (the southwest corner of Xi’an, Shaanxi Province), which made the capital less vulnerable to the invasion of the Rong Di and more conducive to the eastward advancement of troops. At this point, Ji Chang’s strategic deployment to invade Shang was basically completed.
In 1050 B.C., King Wen of Zhou Ji Chang died of illness and his son Ji Fa succeeded to the throne, namely King Wu of Zhou. After his succession, King Wu continued to take advantage of the Shang dynasty’s temporary lack of time to expand to the east, as a sign that he was still adhering to King Wen’s mandate. In 1048 B.C., two years before the Battle of Muye, King Wu of Zhou observed his troops in Mengjin (present-day Mengjin County). According to the oracle bone inscriptions, the army had already been contacted, and many states between Guanzhong and Jianghan were involved, but the number of vassals was not as high as 800.
History of the war
On January 26, 1046 B.C. (adopting the viewpoint of “Xia Shang Zhou Dating Project”), King Wu of Zhou saw the main force of the Shang dynasty invading the eastern barbarians, and with the support of Duke Lu Shang and other people, he attacked the Shang dynasty with 300 chariots and 3,000 Huben (elite warriors), with a total strength of 45,000 soldiers. Before the departure, Yuxin advised against it.
On February 21, the Zhou army arrived at Mengjin (now Mengjin County, Henan Province) and met with the tribal forces of the Fang States (Shang was the kingdom and its vassals were the Fang States), such as You, Lu, Peng, Pu, Shu, Qiang, Wei, and Bang. On the 28th, the Zhou army marched eastward from Mengjin in the rain, crossed the Yellow River from Bixi (present-day Xingyang Bishui Town, Henan Province) to Baiquan (present-day northwest of Hui County, Henan Province) and marched eastward at a speed of nearly 30 kilometers a day, directly attacking Dixin’s home town of Chaoge (present-day Qi County, Henan Province) and arrived at Muye (present-day Xinxiang City, Henan Province) on the 26th of February.
When Di Xin learned of the news, he had to deploy his army in a hurry, but at that time his main force was far away in the southeast and could not be drafted immediately. He had to arm a large number of slaves to meet the Zhou division, and the history says that there were
700,000 (one says 170,000). This number is mostly exaggerated, but the Shang army was certainly much larger than that of King Wu. In the early morning of the 27th, the Zhou army took a solemn vow to enumerate all the atrocities committed by Di Xin, which is the “pastoral vow” recorded in Shang Shu.
At the end of the vow, King Wu ordered to launch a general attack, and first sent the Duke Lv Shang to attack with hundreds of elite troops, and King Wu himself led the main force to follow up and kill, the slaves and prisoners of war in the Shang army were completely defenseless and surrendered, and the Zhou army was able to directly attack Di Xin’s forbidden army, King Zhou was escaped, causing the general collapse of the Shang army, and the Zhou army broke the Shang army in Muye (present-day Xinxiang City, Henan Province), and the Shang army was instantly disintegrated. Seeing that the situation was over, Di Xin fled back to Chao Ge in a panic, climbed the Deer Terrace and “burnt himself to death in the fire with his pearls and jade on”, which is known as the “Battle of Muye”.
According to “Shang Shu – Zhou Shu – Wucheng” describes the battle of Muye: “…… A son of obscure cool, receive rate of its brigade if the forest, will be in Muye. There is no enemy in my division, the future inverted, attacked in the back to the north, blood flowing. ……”, the battlefield is extremely bloody and cruel.
Mencius thought that the description of “Shang Shu – Zhou Shu – Wucheng” was not credible after viewing this book, and proposed: “It is better to believe in the book than to have no book at all, I am in Wucheng, take two or three strategies only. Benevolent people are invincible in the world; to benevolent to cut down to unbenevolent, and what its blood flowing pestle also!”
However, looking objectively at the situation at that time, the situation recorded in “Shang Shu – Zhou Shu – Wucheng” may be closer to the truth.
Wang Chong of the Han Dynasty commented, “Looking at the chapter of Wucheng, the battle of Muye, the blood flowed in a pestle and mortar, and the ground was a thousand miles bare. The battle of Muye was a bloodbath, with a thousand miles of red land. From this, it is clear that Zhou’s taking of Yin was the same as that of Han and Qin. And the cloud took Yin easy, the army did not bloodshed, the virtue of King Wu, gain actually.”
There is also a theory based on the “Qingming Dynasty” that there were many days of heavy rain, and that there was already standing water, so the blood flowed.
In addition, the “slave reversal” is a modern slave scholars according to the history of the book of conjecture, but in fact, the Shang Dynasty does not belong to the real sense of the slave society, and it is not possible to arm hundreds of thousands of slaves. It is not certain whether the soldiers were not fully subdued prisoners of war, or whether they were Shang civilians, or whether they were led by noblemen who opposed Di Xin.
Results of the War
According to the Book of Yi Zhou (The Book of Yi Zhou), King Wu won the Battle of Muye, killing 180,000 people and taking 330,000 prisoners, hunting rhinoceroses, tigers, bears, deer and other animals, acquiring a lot of jewels and treasures, and giving armor to all the participants in the battle. After the victory, King Wu used the “light lute” to stab the corpse of King Zhou, and then he went around to conquer all the vassals of the Shang Dynasty, expelling the Shang general Fei Lian from the seashore and purging the remnants of the Yin and Shang dynasties one by one.
Before the Qin dynasty, China had a tradition of “raising a destroyed state to succeed an extinct one”, so Wu Geng’s fiefdom was still preserved. In addition, King Wu of Zhou had a limited force, and after the Battle of Muye, the merchants’ southern armies were not completely eliminated, and part of their force remained in Dongyi until the time of King Cheng of Zhou and the Duke of Zhou’s eastern expedition.