Wu Ding

Wu Ding (Chinese: 武丁, born Zi Zhao, Chinese: 子昭) was a king of the shang dynasty in ancient China.

Wu Ding is the earliest figure in the history of Chinese dynasties who has been confirmed by contemporary records. The annals of the shang dynasty compiled by later historians were long thought to be little more than legends until oracle script inscriptions on bones dating from his reign were unearthed at the ruins of his capital Yin (near modern Anyang) in 1899.


In the sixth year of his father's reign, he was ordered to live at He (Chinese: 河) and study at Ganpan (Chinese: 甘盘). These early years spent among the common people allowed him to become familiar with their daily problems.

In the Records of the Grand Historian he was listed by Sima Qian as the twenty-second Shang king, succeeding his father Xiao Yi (Chinese: 小乙). He was enthroned in the year of Dingwei (Chinese: 丁未) with Gan Pan (Chinese: 甘盘) as his prime minister and Yin (Chinese: 殷) as his capital.

He cultivated the allegiance of neighbouring tribes by marrying one woman from each of them. His favoured consort Fu Hao entered the royal household through such a marriage and took advantage of the semi-matriarchal slave society to rise through the ranks to military general and high priestess.

In the third year of his reign he had vivid dreams about the way to rule his kingdom. He went on to order his prime minister to edit the book of ruling in the sixth year of his reign. He also ordered that all the people must support their elders. In the twelfth year of his regime, he promoted Shangjiawei to a position of power to exercise control over the Qi (Chinese: 契) people.

In the twenty-fifth year of his reign, his son Zu Ji (Chinese: 祖己) died at a remote area after being exiled. His mother had died previously and the new wife of Wu Ding did not show favour to Zi Xiao.

In the twenty-ninth year of his reign, he conducted rituals in honour of his ancestor King Tang, the first king of the shang dynasty, at the Royal Temple. Angered by the presence of a wild chicken standing on one of the ceremonial bronze vessels, he condemned his vassals and wrote an article called Gao Zong Tong Day (Chinese: 高宗肜日).

In the thirty-second year of his reign, he sent troops to Guifang (Chinese: 鬼方) and after three years of fighting he conquered it. The Di (Chinese: 氐) and Qiang (Chinese: 羌) barbarians immediately sent envoys to Shang to negotiate. His armies went on to conquer Dapeng (Chinese: 大彭) in the forty-third year of his reign, and Tunwei (Chinese: 豕韦) in the 50th year of his reign.

He died in the fifty-ninth year of his reign according to all the sources available. Widely regarded one of best kings of the shang dynasty, he was given the posthumous name Wu Ding (Chinese: 武丁) and was succeeded by his son Zu Geng (Chinese: 祖庚).

The oracle script inscriptions on the bones unearthed at Yinxu (Ruins of Yin) alternatively record that he was the twenty-first Shang king.

Quan (state) was founded by Wen Ding 's son Quan Wending (权文丁) in the area of modern day Maliang Town (马良镇), Shayang County, Jingmen City, Hubei Province

Last update 16-06-2012

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