Shaokang (Chinese: 少康; pinyin: Shàokāng, his surname was Sì 姒) was the sixth ruler of the xia dynasty of China. He was the son of Xiang and was succeeded by his son Zhu of Xia. His father was killed in a battle against Han Zhuo's two sons, Han Jiao and Han Yi; Shaokang's mother managed to escape and had him after a few months.

In 2079 BC Si Shaokang and his followers engaged in a battle against Han Zhuo, defeated and killed him, and restored the xia dynasty.

Early history

Shaokang's restoration of Xia is considered as a significant Chinese legend/story. Prior to Shaokang, the Xia royal family had become corrupt, squandered away the family fortune, and lost the good will of the people. Shaokang's father was on the run, and only held the title of King in name. When Xiang was killed, Shaokang's mother supposedly escaped by crawling through a hole dug by dogs at the foot of a wall. She escaped to her parents' holding, and secretly gave birth to Shaokang. Because the world did not know about Shaokang, most presumed that the last of the Xia family had died.

Under the protection of his maternal grandfather, Shaokang grew up. From an early age, his mother taught Shaokang his birthright, the failing of his family in corruption, and the need to restore rule. Under his mother and grandfather's watchful eyes, Shaokang learned history, literature and the art of war, for the eventual goal of overthrowing Han Zhuo and restoring Xia.

By the time Shaokang turned 16, the rumor of his existence as the last heir of Xia had reached Han Zhuo. Soon Han Zhuo dispatched his two sons to find and kill Shaokang and he was forced to flee from his grandfather's estate.


He managed to find safety in the Kingdom of a Northern Tribe. The tribal leader had some past ties to the Xia family, and resented the rule of Han Zhuo and his tyrannical ways. He saw potential in the young exiled prince of Xia. So he decided to grant Shaokang his daughter's hand in marriage, and 100 sq. "li" (about 25 sq. miles) of rich farm land as his own county. This gave Shaokang a base of operation, from which he could learn the art of state management and build his own population center to prepare.

In the 1st three dynasties of China, most of China were sparsely populated wilderness. It was often the case that secondary heirs of noble and royal families were given land grants over vast empty regions, where they were expected to build their own population centers, attract migrant populations to settle in their regions, and thus build their own fortunes. Eldest sons were expected to inherit the primary estate of their fathers, and continue to build the existing population centers. Younger sons, secondary heirs, were given the opportunity to prove their worth by the land grants. Successful leaders could build their own city states and eventually their own Kingdoms. In the zhou dynasty, the Zhou King gave a land grant to a royal horse breeder for life long service. This horse breeder's descendants managed to turn this small land grant in the Western wilderness of China into the Kingdom of Qin, which eventually conquered all of China and established the 1st Imperial Dynasty of Qin in 221 BC.

Coincidentally, to the good fortune of Shaokang in his marriage and his land grant, a former minister of the Xia family had hidden away a vast sum of fortune and had been buying arms and building an army in secret preparation for revenge on Han Zhuo. This minister, upon hearing that the heir of Xia had survived, rejoiced and immediately joined his forces with Shaokang, thus renewing his loyalty to Xia. With his base secure and his army building and training, Shaokang continued to build his estate under the old banner of Xia, preaching and reminding people of the benevolence of old Xia rule.

Han Zhuo, in the mean time, grew increasingly tyrannical and imposed heavy taxes upon the people of the old Xia Kingdom. Many people fled from his rule. When Shaokang's new Xia Kingdom grew in size and fortune, so spread the rumor of Shaokang's benevolence. People began to compare Shaokang to the 1st benevolent kings of Xia. Many fled to settle in Shaokang's estate. Shaokang's estate multiplied in people and resources.


Han Zhuo became fearful that Xia had survived and now rivaled his power in size. He despatched his sons in the largest expedition force he could muster to destroy Shaokang. Shaokang by this time has become a seasoned leader. He gathered up his forces to meet Han Zhuo's army. He won the battle decisively and killed Han Zhuo's sons. Then Shaokang's army swept to the door step of the old Xia capital, where the Xia people greeted him as a liberator by opening the door to the citadel. Han Zhuo, sensing defeat, committed suicide.

Shaokang entered the Xia capital, once again as the King of Xia. He ordered his army to protect the people and their possessions, and help them restore peace and allow Xia to prosper.

As king

With Xia's ancestral home secured, Shaokang, paid homage to his ancestors, and received the homage of surrounding tributary kingdoms.

In this time this grew into the official religion in China in the form of ancestor worshiping. This is a highly political and symbolic ritual. Royal families were heads of clans. Each Kingdom was essentially one clan. Royal families were thus also protectors of the ancestors' bones for that clan, and they were responsible for officiating religious ceremonies as a state function. This kind of religious ceremony of paying homage to one's ancestors was also considered as a status symbol. A kingdom who was too poor to conduct the ceremony with sufficient amount of expense was considered to be weak enough to be destroyed. Shaokang thus had to officiate a ceremony to pay homage to his ancestors as part of his reclaiming of his birthright as a king.

Receiving homage from tributary kingdoms: In this time, China was split into many tribal kingdoms, each size of a small city state. Xia merely occupied a few of the city estates. Many of these kingdoms of the time could claim some blood relationship with each other, and sometimes to the Yellow Emperor and his 25 heirs. This fractured political structure is largely due to the "land grant" custom described above. Because of this fractured existence, smaller kingdoms were tributary states of Xia in a largely symbolic sense. Because all of these royal families were essentially from the one original clan, their right to rule were directly tied to their blood tie to each other and to the original clan. Xia was the recognized leader of the kingdoms, because it had more military and economic power. Xia had one more advantage, that it was the 1 royal family that had the claim of direct authority passed down unbroken from the time of the Yellow Emperor. Xia's right to rule was given to them, inherited, and passed down, not through conquest, unlike all of the following dynasties. This was an enormously significant political and religious symbol to Xia family. Xia was essentially the head of the great household of all kingdoms. It could levy small amount of tribute taxes from all the kingdoms for mutual defense and assistance. Even if Xia's rule was occasionally unjust, the other kingdoms would not dare to rebel, because doing so would be to try to break the unbroken line of rule. It would also undermine their own right of rule.


Another name for Shaokang is Ning.

He took the throne in the year of Bingwu. All his vassals came to worship him.

In the second year of his regime, the Fang barbarians (方夷) sent an envoy to Xia.

In the third year of his regime, he began to distribute the land to his vassals, so that the position of vassal could be inherited by their sons. One of his vassals became the Zhou people, later the zhou dynasty.

In the 11th year of his regime, he ordered his vassal Shang to manage the river for irrigation and flood control.

In the 18th year of his regime, he moved his capital to Yuan.

He ruled about 21 years according to both the Bamboo Annals and The Record of the Grand Historian.

Last update 18-06-2012

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