The reign of Chengkang, also known as the reign of Chengkang, refers to the reign of Ji Chant and Ji Zhao in the early Western Zhou Dynasty. Historians say that “during the reign of Chengkang, the world was peaceful, and the punishment was not used for more than 40 years”.
During the reigns of King Cheng and King Kang of the Western Zhou Dynasty, they inherited the achievements of King Wen and King Wu, and internally they implemented the idea of the Duke of Zhou of “clear virtue and prudent punishment”, and were frugal in order to ease the class conflicts; externally they constantly attacked the Huaiyi and controlled the eastern minority areas by force, and achieved great victories. The reign of King Chengkang was the strongest period of Zhou, so it was praised as the reign of Chengkang.
During the reign of King Kang, the state was strong, the economy was prosperous, the culture was flourishing and the society was stable. This period and the reign at the end of King Chengkang’s reign were known as the “Reign of Chengkang”.
After the death of King Wu, who was instrumental in the destruction of the Shang Dynasty, Prince Zhan succeeded him as King Cheng. When King Cheng was young, he assisted Duke Dan of Zhou, the brother of King Wu, who had conquered Shang, to take over the reign of the state. The Duke of Zhou was a great politician, and based on the original system of the Zhou state, he took into consideration the Yin rituals and made some gains and losses, and came up with a set of systems to consolidate the feudal rule, which is the “Zhou Gong Rituals” or “Zhou Code” highly praised and respected by later Confucians. At this time, King Wu’s two brothers, Guan Shu and Cai Shu, suspected that the Duke of Zhou would usurp the throne, so they denigrated him and liaised with the Yin legacy led by Wu Geng. Wu Geng himself saw the opportunity to take advantage of the situation and actively tried to regain his kingdom. So, they colluded with each other and gathered the tribes of Xu, Am, Bo Gu, Xiong and Ying to rise against Zhou. The Duke of Zhou was in a very difficult position of internal and external difficulties. So, he first explained to Duke Zhaoge and sought help, and then resolutely led his army and carried out an eastern expedition.
After three years of hard fighting, the Duke of Zhou killed Wu Geng, deposed Guan Cai, conquered seventeen states including Am and Xu, and took the Shang nobles and remnants of the Shang as captives, who were called by the king of Zhou as stubborn people or Yin stubborn because of their stubborn resistance to Zhou’s rule.
In order to eliminate the residual power of the Shang and to consolidate the rule of the Western Zhou, the Duke of Zhou first ordered the lords to build a new city in the Yiluo region, the eastern capital of Luoyi. After the construction of Luoyi, the “Yin hardcore” people who had opposed the Zhou dynasty were relocated to this area and tightly controlled.
At the same time, the brother of King Zhou who had surrendered to the Western Zhou Dynasty, Weizi Qi, was appointed to the former capital of the Shang Dynasty and founded the State of Song, which was to manage the remaining Yin Shang people; Kang Shu, the brother of King Wu, was appointed to the capital of Zhou and founded the State of Wei, which was given to seven Yin people; and Bo Zu, the son of the Duke of Zhou, was appointed to the former land of the State of Am and founded the State of Lu, which was given to six Yin people.
In this way, the remaining Yin Shang people were divided and ruled, and the world was generally at peace.
After the completion of the eastern capital city of Zhou, which was built to subdue the recalcitrant Shang people, the Duke of Zhou returned to the government of King Cheng and the Zhou Dynasty entered a period of consolidation.
King Cheng and his son King Kang inherited the achievements of King Wen and King Wu, and made it a point to be frugal and restrain their desires in order to ease the class conflicts. They also made the Duke of Zhou make rites and music, that is, the creation and implementation of various rules and regulations of the dynasty.
Since the territory of the Western Zhou Dynasty was unprecedentedly vast, in order to rule effectively, the feudal system was implemented, i.e. the son of Zhou carried out the policy of “building a country by enfeoffment”. In the Western Zhou Dynasty, the feudal system was based on patriarchal blood ties, and a local administrative system was established under the control of the Son of Zhou, in which land and its people were given to the feudal lords (most of them were vassals) according to the distance of the territory from the capital. On the one hand, the feudal lords held political, economic and military powers in the land they were enfeoffed and exercised full rule; on the other hand, the feudal lords were obligated to the Zhou Emperor to guard the territory, serve the king with troops, pay tribute and follow the king’s rituals. The feudalization of the Western Zhou Dynasty started in the time of King Wu, but the large-scale feudalization took place in the time of King Cheng and King Kang. The feudalization of the Western Zhou strengthened the ruling role of the Zhou dynasty for a certain period of time and maintained the ritual system of the hierarchical sequence of the Son of Heaven, vassals, ministers, dafu and shis. All the vassals in the Chengkang era were under the direct control of the central government. During the reign of King Kang, Zhou also ordered the lords to conquer Huaiyi and Dongyi to strengthen the control over foreign states. In the late reign of King Cheng, Ji recited, politics was clear and the people lived in peace and happiness.
Later, when Ji recited fell ill, he was worried that his son Ji Zhao was not capable of handling the affairs of state, so he ordered Zhaogong and Bi Gong to assist him. Soon, Ji Chanting died of illness, and King Kang Ji Zhao succeeded to the throne. After succeeding to the throne, Duke Zhaogong and Duke Bi led the lords to accompany Ji Zhao to the ancestral temple and told King Kang about the hardships of King Wen and King Wu, admonishing him to be frugal and diligent in government and to keep the foundation of his ancestors.
During the reign of Ji Zhao, he continued to invade the minority groups in the southeast, plundered slaves and land, and distributed them to the vassals and dafu.
Combining documents and gold texts, the achievements of the reign of Chengkang and its influence can be summarized in the following three aspects.
Continuing the conquest of the four directions since Wen, Wu and the Duke of Zhou, and finally establishing the scale of the Zhou family.
During the Cheng and Kang Dynasties, the Zhou people continued to conquer the four lands in order to finally realize the rule of the Zhou people over the world.
The Zhou people also carried out nationwide feudalism and established the pattern of the common cultural circle of China and Xia with the Zhou people as the head.
During the reign of King Cheng of Zhou, the Zhou people created a new method of ruling by “granting people and territories”. The inscription on the wall plate of King Gong’s reign says that King Cheng of Zhou “started the Zhou state” and that King Kang of Zhou “divided the Yin billion frontier”, which shows that the feudal construction was also carried out during King Kang’s reign, and the scale of the feudal construction was even larger.
In order to consolidate the Zhou dynasty, the system construction was carried out, and the foundation of Chinese civilization of ritual and music and system civilization was laid.
The Duke of Zhou made rituals and music in various aspects, such as establishing the patriarchal system, the first-born son succession system, the temple system and the costume system. After the death of King Kang of Zhou, his son King Zhaoge succeeded him. In the 16th year of King Zhaoge, he led a large army to conquer Chu and Jing in the south, up to the region of Jianghan. After three years of conquest, King Zhaoge drowned and his army was wiped out when he crossed the Han River.
He was succeeded by his son King Mu of Zhou, who reigned for 55 years. He was very happy with his achievements and still wanted to develop in all directions. King Mu was so processional that the government was lax. In the east, the state of Xu led nine barbarians to invade Zhou. King Mu made a southern expedition and was able to pacify it by uniting the power of Chu.
After the era of Zhaomu, the Zhou dynasty was weakened. During this period, the Rong Di in the northwest gradually flourished. At the time of King Yi of Zhou, there was a situation of invasion by the Rong and Di, and the Zhou people were deeply distressed.
The “Reign of Chengkang” is the earliest recorded period of peace in Chinese history. During the period of Chengkang of the Western Zhou Dynasty, agricultural production flourished, people’s lives were relatively improved, and minority groups from all directions came to congratulate each other. It is pointed out that this was the result of the early years of the Western Zhou Dynasty when the state was ruled by rituals, moral education, the implementation of policies to benefit the people and the strict enforcement of the legal system.
However, the “reign of Chengkang” had already shown various signs of decline and chaos by the late period of King Kang, such as indulgence in women, constant conquests, and imprudent punishments; it was not the decline from later King Zhaoge, as historians have always said. Studying this period of history, the experience and lessons left to future generations are extremely profound.