The Nine Cauldrons


The Nine Cauldrons are synonymous with China and a symbol of the supremacy of kingship and national unity and prosperity. It was the heirloom of national power during the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties. During the Warring States period, Qin and Chu both went to Luoyi, the royal city of Zhou, for the tripods. In the time of King Xian of Zhou, the Nine Cauldrons were lost under the Si River. Later emperors valued the power symbols and significance of the Nine Cauldrons and recast them repeatedly, including Wu Zetian and Song Huizong.

According to legend, in the early years of the Xia Dynasty, King Dayu of Xia divided the world into nine states and made the state shepherds of the nine states contribute bronze to cast nine tripods to symbolize the nine states, engraving the famous mountains and rivers and strange things of the nine states in the body of the nine tripods and concentrating the nine tripods in the capital of the Xia Dynasty. Although the earliest record of the Nine Cauldrons is not found in the Zuo Zhuan, it is mentioned that the engraving of the Nine Cauldrons with the map of Kyushu is actually a symbol of the Xia Dynasty, and such an ambitious ambition made the Nine Cauldrons the national treasure of the Xia Dynasty.

We will find that the last tripod refers to a tripod, whether it is molten copper or engraved with Kyushu, but whether the nine tripods are one tripod or nine tripods remains to be proven.

Successive generations inherited

Xia Dynasty

According to the legend, after the establishment of the Xia Dynasty, the Nine Cauldrons were cast from the copper tributed by the nine masters of the world. During the Shang Dynasty, there were strict rules for the tripod to represent the status of royalty: one tripod or three tripods for a scholar, five tripods for a ruler, seven tripods for a vassal, and only nine tripods for the Son of Heaven, who performed the nine tripod ceremony when sacrificing to the ancestors of heaven and earth. Therefore, the ‘tripod’ naturally became a symbol of the state’s power, and thus a national heirloom.

Shang Dynasty

After Shang Tang expelled Xia Jie, the Nine Cauldrons were moved to his capital. After Pan Geng set the capital at Yin, the Nine Cauldrons were moved there.

Western Zhou Dynasty

After King Wu of the Zhou Dynasty destroyed the Shang Dynasty, he publicly displayed the Nine Cauldrons. After the reign of King Cheng of Zhou, Duke Dan of Zhou built Luoyi and placed the Nine Cauldrons in the city, and asked King Cheng himself to officiate at the rituals and place the Nine Cauldrons in the Hall of Brightness. It is written in the Records of the Zhou Dynasty that when King Cheng was in Feng, he asked Duke Zhaogong to resume the construction of Luoyi, as King Wu wanted. The Duke of Zhou rebuilt and built the city and placed the Nine Cauldrons there.

Eastern Zhou Dynasty

After the beginning of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, the royal family of the Zhou Dynasty declined and the vassals began to covet the royal power. In the time of King Ding of the Zhou Dynasty, King Zhuang of Chu first “asked for the importance of the tripod” in Luo Yi, but was rejected by Wang Sunman, a great official of the Zhou Dynasty. Later, King Ling of Chu also wanted to ask for the tripod, but he failed to do so because of the rebellion in the country. (In the eighth year of the rebellion, the king came to Luo and observed the troops in the suburbs of Zhou. King Ding of Zhou sent Wang Sunman to work for the king of Chu. The king of Chu asked him about the importance of the tripod, and he said, “It is in the virtue but not in the tripod. Although Zhou’s virtue is declining, the order of heaven has not changed. He said, “Although the virtue of Zhou is declining, the order of heaven has not changed. The weight of the tripod cannot be asked.” (The king of Chu then returned.)

During the reign of King Huai of Qin, Zhang Yi formulated a strategy to seize the Nine Cauldrons and command the lords with the map of the Nine Cauldrons, while King Ha Xiang of Chu and the king of Qi also wanted to fight for the precious cauldrons. The king of Chu and the king of Qi also wanted to fight for the Nine Cauldrons. King Blushing of Zhou was able to keep the two countries, Wei and Korea under control of each other to keep the Nine Cauldrons intact. In the fourth year of King Wu of Qin (307 BC), Qin captured the important town of Yiyang in Korea. King Wu of Qin was so happy that he led a group of warriors, Ren Zai and Meng Ben, to visit Yiyang, and then went straight to Luoyang to see the Zhou dynasty. When King Hu of Zhou sent an ambassador to welcome him, King Wu of Qin entered the temple hall to see the Nine Cauldrons. King Wu of Qin went to the temple to see the Nine Cauldrons. He pointed to one of the tripods in Yong and sighed, “This tripod in Yong is a Qin tripod, I should bring it back to Xianyang.” The official guarding the tripod said, “This King Wu set the tripod here, has not moved, each tripod has a thousand pounds of weight, no one can lift.” King Wu lifted the tripod half a foot off the ground with all his strength. He was about to take a step when he lost his grip and the tripod fell to the ground, crushing his right foot with a click and breaking his tibia. The crowd hurriedly helped him back to the public hall. King Wu died of pain and blood flowing until midnight. When King Wu of Qin was reigning, he said, “If I can travel to Gong and Luo, I can live and die without regret.” Today, he died in Luoyang. King Wu went to Zhou and died there. His younger brother was crowned King Zhaoxiang. During the reign of King Zhaoxiang of Qin, King Huo of Zhou died and the people of Zhou died in the east. Qin took the Nine Cauldrons and moved the Duke of Western Zhou to the Dreaded Fox. After seven years, King Zhuangxiang of Qin destroyed the Eastern Zhou. Both the Eastern and Western Zhou came to Qin, and the Zhou was not worshipped.

Qin Dynasty

It is said that in the second year after the destruction of the Zhou Dynasty, the Nine Cauldrons of the Zhou royal family were moved westward to Xianyang. However, by the time Qin Shi Huang destroyed the six kingdoms and unified the country, the whereabouts of the Nine Cauldrons were unknown. Some people say that the Nine Cauldrons were sunk in the city of Pangcheng in Surabaya, where the Qin Emperor sent divers to salvage them, but to no avail. Some historians believe that the Nine Cauldrons were not nine, but only one, because they represent nine states and are also called the Kyushu Cauldrons, or the Nine Cauldrons for short.

Suribachi Tripod Painting Brick


Later emperors also repeatedly recast the Nine Cauldrons, with Wu Zetian in the first year of Wan Tongtian and Huizong in the fourth year of Song Dynasty being the two most famous.

After Wu Zetian ascended to the throne, the empress had to use Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism to consolidate her position. Rituals and music have always been the emperor’s ability to do. Wu Zetian enjoyed the Hall of Brightness, set up the Seven Treasures, sealed the sacred mountains, made great music, and cast the Nine Cauldrons. The Nine Cauldrons were ancient heirlooms symbolizing the power of the state. According to legend, Yu cast nine tripods to resemble nine states. Wu Zetian knew

The Nine Cauldrons were hard to find, so they were recast.

In April of the first year of Shen Gong (697), the tripod was completed and placed in the middle of the Ming Hall in Luoyang. The Tripod of Shen Du, named Yong Chang, is 1.8 feet high and has a capacity of 1,800 stones. The tripod was named Wuxing in Jizhou, Chang’an in Yongzhou, Rikuan in Yanzhou, Shaoyang in Qingzhou, Dong Yuan in Xuzhou, Jiangdu in Yangzhou, Jiangling in Jingzhou, and Chengdu in Liangzhou, all with a height of one zhang and four feet and a capacity of 1,200 stones.

As recorded in the History of the Song Dynasty, “In March of the fourth year of Chongning (1105), nine tripods were cast, using gold very thickly, and taking water and soil from Kyushu into the tripods.” Emperor Huizong of Song Dynasty cast nine tripods with 220,000 catties of copper, decorated with gold, and built Jiucheng Palace in the south of Taiyi Palace in Bianjing, with nine rooms and nine tripods on display. The central tripod is the Emperor Tripod, the east is the Cang Tripod, the south is the Tong Tripod, the north is the Bao Tripod, the northeast is the Mud Tripod, the southeast is the Gang Tripod, the southwest is the Fuding, the west is the Jing Tripod and the northwest is the Kui Tripod. In the seventh year of Zhenghe (1112), the “Nine Cauldrons of God’s Heaven” were cast, named as “the Cauldrons of Taiji Flying Clouds”, “the Cauldrons of Cangwu Sacrificing Heaven and Storing Alcohol”, and “the Cauldrons of Mountain Five Gods”. “The Tripod of the Five Gods of the Mountains”, “The Tripod of the Essence of Dong Yuan”, “The Tripod of the Yin and Yang of Heaven and Earth”, “The Tripod of Chaos”, and “Tripod of Floating Light and Cave”, “Tripod of Spiritual Light and Shaking Yao Refining God”, and “Tripod of Cang Gui, Big Snake, Insect and Fish Golden Wheel”.

In 2006, the National Museum of China in Beijing recast the nine tripods and placed them on permanent display for visitors to see.

Patterns and Ornaments

There is no record of the style of the Nine Cauldrons cast by Dayu.

The only one mentioned in “The Records of the Grand Historian” is that the Yongzhou Tripod, one of the Nine Cauldrons, was red in color: “In the eighteenth year, King Wu of Qin and Meng said that they raised the red tripod with the dragon, and died from the dead.” Song dynasty Hu Sanshou note “Zizhi Tongjian” said: “August, the king and Meng said lift the tripod, extinguished the pulse and died. Pulse, Mo get turned. Vein, the system contact organs, its blood reasoning branches in the branch between the body, people lifting heavy and force can not win, so the pulse is extinguished and died. According to the “Historical Records – Gan Mao biography” cloud: King Wu to Zhou and died in Zhou. Gai lift the tripod, lift the nine tripods. The “family” is thought to be the Dragon Wen red tripod.” And “Gleanings” Volume 2 says: “Yu cast nine tripods, five to respond to the Yang law, four to the Yin number. He made the worker to use female gold as the yin tripod and male gold as the yang tripod. The tripod was always full to account for the rest of the weather. When the Xia and Jie dynasties, the water of the tripod suddenly boiled. And Zhou will be the end of the nine tripods, salty earthquake. All should be the signs of the demise. Later sages, because of the traces of Yu, cast tripods from generation to generation.”

The above meaning of male gold and female gold is not explained in the books, but probably refers to the hardness of the alloy. The meaning of “to account for the rest of the weather” is to measure the rise and fall of national fortune. It can be seen that the tripod has evolved from a vessel, a cooking utensil, a sacrificial vessel, a ritual vessel, a treasure vessel, and a sacred vessel, and has completely changed its practical use from generation to generation, turning it into a sacred object of state worship. Although there is no physical evidence of the decoration of the nine tripods of Dayu, according to the unearthed pottery of that time, it is presumed that the ornaments were no more than animal faces, dragons and phoenixes, animals, clouds and thunder, fire, geometry, etc.


Bronze casting industry in the Xia Dynasty, has been quite developed. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, low melting point, easy to cast smelting.

Xia Dynasty copper smelting industry is also recorded in the ancient literature. The Yue Jie Shu” Volume 11: “Yu cave of the time, to copper for soldiers.” On the casting of the nine tripods, “Mozi – plow column” said: “In the past, after the summer open (Kai) so that Goulian folded gold in the mountains and rivers, and Tao cast in Kunwu,…… nine tripods are completed, moved to the three states.” The Three Kingdoms refers to Xia, Shang and Zhou. Zuo Zhuan” said in the third year of Duke Xuan: “Jie has faint virtue, the tripod moved in Shang.” That is to say, the matter.

According to the archaeological materials, when slaves cast such a large device as the nine tripods, they generally first made a model with fine clay, then used charcoal as fuel, smelted copper and tin ore blocks with a copper crucible, and finally injected the copper and tin solution into the model to become bronze ware. However, the Zuo Zhuan talks about the casting of the nine tripods as follows: In the early years of the Xia Dynasty, Dayu divided the world into nine states and set up state shepherds in the states. Later, Xia Qi ordered the nine state shepherds to contribute bronze and cast the nine tripods. The famous craftsmen were then sent to engrave the pictures on the bodies of the nine tripods, so that one tripod would symbolize one state. The engraved pictures also reflected the scenery of the famous mountains and rivers in the state, and the nine tripods symbolized the nine states, reflecting the unification of the whole country and the high concentration of royal power, showing that the Xia king had become the common lord of the world and was obedient to the “Mandate of Heaven”. As the saying goes, “Under the sky, no one is a king’s land, and on the shores of the land, no one is a king’s subject.” From then on, Kyushu became a synonym for China, and “Ding Ding” became a synonym for the establishment of national power.

Historical Records

The nine tripods, a milestone at the entrance of the Chinese civilization era, have been lost for more than 2,000 years, and people are often concerned about whether they can break through the earth.

History records that ancient China was highly developed in bronze craftsmanship and handed down many rare treasures, but none of them were as valuable as the nine tripods of the Xia Dynasty in terms of historical value. Later people called the struggle for power “Ding Ding” because the nine tripods had been regarded as a symbol of kingship since three generations.

Regarding the casting of the Nine Cauldrons, “Mozi – Kengzhu” says: “In the past, the Queen of Xia opened (Kai) …… The Nine Cauldrons were completed and moved to the Three Kingdoms.” The Three Kingdoms refer to Xia, Shang and Zhou. According to the record of Zuo Zhuan, the third year of Duke Xuan (606 B.C.), in the early years of the Xia dynasty, the pastors of the nine states were ordered to pay bronze tribute to cast the nine tripods, and the strange objects of the mountains and rivers all over the country were drawn into figures beforehand and then engraved on the bodies of the tripods respectively. After the nine tripods were cast, they were displayed outside the palace gate so that people could know at a glance which ghosts, gods and spirits were present in the places they were going to in order to avoid bad luck. Once the Nine Cauldrons came into existence, it was covered with a layer of mystery. In fact, it is not difficult to see its political value through the mythological factor. The bronze of Kyushu was cast into the Nine Cauldrons, and then the Nine Cauldrons were used to symbolize Kyushu, just to show that he was the lord of Kyushu and achieved the unification of the world. Since then, the Nine Cauldrons became the heirloom of the state for three generations. After the death of Xia, the tripods were moved to Shang, and after the death of Shang, the tripods were moved to Zhou. King Cheng of Zhou formally set the tripod in Jia (now in Luoyang, Henan Province), indicating the return of the Mandate of Heaven.

During the Spring and Autumn Period, as the power of the royal family declined, powerful vassals coveted the Nine Cauldrons. In 606 B.C., King Zhuang of Chu, one of the five hegemons of the Spring and Autumn Period, in the situation of reorganizing the internal affairs, constructing water conservancy, carrying out reforms, and making the country rich and strong, raised an army to attack the Rong of Luhun, and approached the outskirts of Luoyi, and King Ding of Zhou was forced to send him a welcome ceremony of consolation. From then on, later people would call the struggle for power “asking for the tripod”.

The story of Qin invading Zhou to seize the Nine Cauldrons is recorded in the first chapter of the Warring States Strategy, “Qin Rises to Seek the Nine Cauldrons from Zhou”. Yan Rui of Zhou had a strategy and first encouraged Qi to help drive Qin away by promising to give the Nine Cauldrons to Qi. When Qi came to ask for them, Yan Rui asked the king of Qi which way to go, but it turned out that none of them was suitable, and said that the nine cauldrons would take 90,000 people, and that all 91,000 people could pull them away. I am worried for the king.” The king of Qi said, “The son of the number of those who come, there is still no with the ear.” Yan rate said, “I dare not deceive the great state, the disease is determined from the out, the disadvantage of the eup to move the tripod to wait for the order.” The king of Qi then stopped mentioning about pulling the nine tripods. The nine tripods are really heavy from here, but there must be exaggeration, but from this document, the nine tripods must be very heavy, or nine. In the first year of King Ding’s reign, King Zhuang of Chu invaded Luhun and asked for the Nine Cauldrons. The king made the king’s son, Wang Sun, to set up and resign, and the Chu soldiers left.” The Book of History – The Book of Feng Chan: “Yu collected the gold of nine mushrooms and cast nine tripods. All tasted the gods and goddesses. By the holy then rise, the tripod moved in the summer and Shang. When Zhou’s virtue declined and Song’s society died, the tripod was lost and disappeared.” The Book of History – Xiaowu Benji: “Yu collected the gold of the nine masters and cast nine tripods, all of which were used to cook the gods and demons.” Later, the Nine Cauldrons were also used to refer to the power of the state.

In the Song Dynasty, Xie Zhan’s poem “Zhang Zifang” reads, “The government swallowed the Nine Cauldrons, and the harsh and evil thoughts violated the three deaths.” In the Song Dynasty, Yang Wanli’s poem “Reading the Biography of Yan Ziling” reads, “The early dispatch of Ah Huo moved the Nine Cauldrons, where on earth is Yan Ling.” Ming Feng Menglong “Eastern Zhou Li Guozhi” 51st: “I heard that the Great Yu cast nine tripods, three generations, as a world treasure, now in Luoyang. I wonder what the size of the tripod and its weight? I would like to hear about it!” Qing Gong Zizhen “Myoho Lotus Sutra forty-two questions”: “The scriptures have “Fahua”, the king has nine tripods, the family business has the general ledger.” The Nine Cauldrons”. The Records of the Grand Historian: “Mr. Mao came to Chu, and made Zhao heavy in the Nine Cauldrons and the Great Lü.” Sima Zhen Suo Yin: “Mao Sui came to Chu and made Zhao heavier than the Nine Cauldrons and the Great Lü, saying that the world was heavy.” Huang Tingjian of the Song Dynasty, “In the second rhyme, I replied to Shu Yuan’s speech in the Silent Light Room and presented it to Zhi Chuan”: “The reputation of Mao Sui is heavy, and the crown is expected by ten thousand people.” Ming Zhang Huanyan’s poem “Huai Gu”: “Man can win over heaven, one word weighs nine tripods.”

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