The Three Supervisors’ Rebellion


The Three Supervisors’ Rebellion is also known as the Guan Cai Rebellion or the Wugeng Rebellion. It was the first rebellion of three noblemen in the Shang region (near Anyang City in Henan Province) in the early Western Zhou Dynasty.

After King Wu of the Zhou Dynasty conquered the Shang Dynasty, he listened to the advice of Zhou Gong Dan and adopted the policy of “ruling Yin with Yin”, and used Wu Geng, son of King Zhou, to rule the Yin people. At the same time, King Wu sent his brothers Guan Shu, Cai Shu and Huo Shu to establish three states near the capital of Yin, namely, Name, Yong and Wei, to monitor Wu Geng. It is generally believed that the area north of the Shang capital was called Name; the area south of the Shang capital was called Yong; and the area east of the Shang capital was called Wei.

After the death of King Wu of Zhou, King Cheng of Zhou ascended to the throne at a young age and the Duke of Zhou took the reins. The Duke of Zhou also launched the Duke of Zhou’s Eastern Expedition, killing Wu Geng and Guan Shu; exiling Cai Shu; and abolishing Huo Shu as a concubine, which put an end to the Three Supervisors’ Rebellion.

The Three Supervisors’ Rebellion



The Records of the Grand Historian – The Records of the Zhou Dynasty” said: “King Cheng was young, and the Zhou Dynasty was first established, so the Duke of Zhou was afraid that the vassals would be in the Zhou Dynasty, so the Duke took the administration of the state. Guan Shu and Cai Shu were suspicious of the Duke of Zhou and rebelled against him with Wu Geng.” The “Historical Records – Duke of Zhou’s Family” also says: “After King Wu had collapsed, King Cheng was young and in infancy. The Duke of Zhou was afraid that the world would hear that King Wu had collapsed and was on the shore, so the Duke of Zhou trampled on the eastern door and took over the administration of the state on behalf of King Cheng. Guan Shu and his group of brothers rumored in the country: ‘The Duke of Zhou will be detrimental to King Cheng.'” The “Shang Shu – Golden Cord” also said: “King Wu was mourning, Guan Shu and his group of brothers were rumors in the country. They said: ‘The Duke will be unfavorable to the children.'” The three accounts of the Chinese history book “Shang Shu” and “Shi Ji” made the reason for the “three supervisors’ rebellion” perfectly clear, that is: “Guan Shu and Cai Shu’s group of brothers suspected the Duke of Zhou” “would be detrimental to King Cheng. “Therefore, “rumors were spread in the country” and “rebelled against Zhou with Wu Geng.”


In 1043 B.C., King Wu died of illness. King Cheng reigned as a young king, and the Duke of Zhou took over the reign. King Wu’s younger brother, Guan Shu, was the eldest, and according to the custom of brother’s death, he was the most qualified to take over the government. Therefore, King Wu’s last order was considered by him to be tampered with by the Duke of Zhou, and the ritual system formulated by the Duke of Zhou strictly limited the power of the vassals, which aroused the discontent and suspicion of King Wu’s group of brothers. The Shangshu-Jinbao (The Golden Cord) states, “Guan Shu and his group of brothers were rumored to the state saying, “The Duke will be detrimental to the children.” Under such circumstances, Guan and Cai joined hands with Wu Geng to rebel.

Wugeng had ambitions to recover his kingdom, and at this time, he not only united with the three superintendents, but also conspired with Xu, Am and Bo Gu of the former Eastern barbarians of Yin Shang to rebel against Zhou, and the situation was very serious.

The rebellion of Guan, Cai, Wu Geng and the Dongyi region seriously threatened the security of the Zhou Dynasty. The Duke of Zhou united with Zhaogong Shi and took decisive measures to lead a large army to the east. The eastern expedition played an important role in consolidating the Western Zhou dynasty and expanding the jurisdiction of the Zhou. It is recorded in the “Shang Shu – Golden Cord”: “The Duke of Zhou lived in the east for two years, and then the sinners got it.” The Duke of Zhou first suppressed the “Three Supervisors”, stopped the rumors, killed Guan Shu and banished Cai Shu; he also killed Wu Geng and succeeded King Zhou’s concubine brother, Weizi, with the sacrifice of Yin and established a state in Song (now Shangqiu, Henan Province), which was called the State of Song.


After the destruction of Wu Geng, the Duke of Zhou continued his Eastern conquest, and it took three years of hard struggle before the turmoil was settled. The scope of the conquest seemed to be wider, and it was pursued so hard that it reached Jiangnan.

It is recorded in Lü’s Spring and Autumn Period – Ancient Music: “When King Cheng was established, the people of Yin rebelled, and the king ordered the Duke of Zhou to trample on them. The Shang people served the elephant and were abused in the East, so the Duke of Zhou expelled them to Jiangnan with his division.”

The Duke of Zhou’s expedition to Jiangnan can be found in the bronze inscriptions. Dantu unearthed the “Hou racks of bronze” inscription says: “Only in April, the eighth month in Dingwei King Wu, King Cheng invaded the Shang figure, so the province of the East or figure. The king in the chopping block, and served. The king ordered Yu Hou racks said: ‘Hou in the chopping block. …… tin earth, the Turk river three hundred, the Turk hundred and eup thirty and five, hundred and 40, tin in the Yi. The king’s people and seven surnames; tin Zheng seven Bo, the conviction of fifty; tin altar common people six hundred and six. The racks of the chopped marquis Yang Wang Huo, made Yu Gong Ding Zun Yi.


After the destruction of the Shang Dynasty, the Zhou Dynasty divided its army into three parts: the eight divisions of Yin, the eight divisions of Cheng Zhou and the six divisions of Xi to defend the whole country. (According to one theory, the Zhou Dynasty army was divided into two parts: the six divisions in Zongzhou were called the “Western Six Divisions”, and the “Yin Eight Divisions” were set up in Chaoge, the old capital of Shang, after King Wu’s conquest of Zhou; after the Duke of Zhou’s eastern expedition, the “Yin Eight Divisions (After the Duke of Zhou’s Eastern Expedition, the “Eight Divisions of Yin” were located in Luoyi, the capital of the Shang Dynasty, which was called the “Eight Divisions of Cheng Zhou”.) The Eight Divisions of Yin were stationed in Chaoge, the hometown of Yin, mainly to deal with the Yin and the eastern barbarians. The inscription of the “Small Minister’s Word of Speed Gui” reads: “Hold! (Today) the eastern barbarians are revolting, so Bo Maofu is conquering them with the eight divisions of Yin.” It can be seen that the eight divisions of Yin suppressed the rebellion of the eastern barbarians.

The six western divisions were stationed in the west to guard the land of Feng and Zongzhou. After the construction of the eastern capital of Luo Yi, the eight divisions of the Zhou were stationed in Luo Yi to defend the Zhou. The inscription on the Recorded Wine Container says: “The king’s order says: ! (Now) Huaiyi dares to attack the inner country, and you will take the eight divisions of Cheng Zhou to the division of Ye.” The inscription on the “Cheng Zhou Shishi” is the Shishi of the eight divisions of the Zhou; the inscription on the “Competitive Wine Container” reads, “But the father of the subsidiary company of the Chinese king, in order to become the Shishi, that is, the East, ordered that the Shishi should be south.” The eight divisions of Cheng Zhou were used to conquer the rebellious southern Huaiyi.

In order to control the East and conquer the southern lands, the Duke of Zhou decided to “make the great town of Chengzou in the middle of the earth.” The Duke of Zhou set up the place of Jia (Jia functioning place in Luoyang City) and built the Dao in modern Henan Province.

The Duke of Zhou’s Eastern Expedition was built in the area of Luoyi. It is located in the middle of the world, is the Yi, Luo, Chanshui, Jian four water flow through the place, the land is wide and flat, thousands of miles of fertile land, is a natural granary. In the east of it, and the danger of Yi Que, is into the attack, retreat can defend the strategic location. In this way, from Zhou Yuan in the west to Luo Yi in the east, i.e. Wei, Jing, He and Luo, were all the territory of the Zhou Dynasty. The western side, centered on Haojing, was the birthplace of the Zhou people, called “Zongzhou”; the eastern side, centered on Luoyi, was the center of gravity of the Zhou dynasty ruling the East, called “Chengzhou”. The Zhou dynasty moved the Yin “naughty people” to this area and kept a close watch on them. On the west bank of the Chanshui River, a royal city was built, and it was the eastern capital of the dynasty to meet the lords. The eight divisions of Cheng Zhou stationed in Luo Yi, east can control the eastern vassal states, west can guard the Zong Zhou, south can serve Huaiyi, north can choke the Yan. Luoyi became the eastern capital of the Zhou Dynasty and played an irreplaceable role in consolidating the rule of the Zhou Dynasty.


The rebellion of the Three Supervisors seriously threatened the ruling order of the Zhou dynasty, and the Duke of Zhou spent three years on an eastern expedition to completely destroy the remnants of the Yin Shang dynasty and expand the territory in the East. In order to consolidate the rule of the Zhou Dynasty in the East, the Duke of Zhou further established the eastern capital of Luo Yi and feudal lords. The period of the Duke of Zhou, King Cheng and King Kang was a period of stability and development for the Western Zhou Dynasty, and “the punishment was not used for forty years”, which was called the “rule of Cheng and Kang”.

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