Jump to content

Duke Zhuang of Zheng

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Duke Zhuang of Chang)
Duke Zhuang of Zheng

Duke Zhuang of Zheng (Chinese: 鄭莊公; 757–701 BC) was the third ruler of the State of Zheng during the Spring and Autumn period in ancient China. His ancestral name was Ji (姬), given name Wusheng (寤生), which means "difficult birth" with breech presentation.[1][a] In 743 BC, he became the duke of Zheng, and later defeated his younger brother Gongshu Duan, who had led a rebellion against him. Duke Zhuang led military campaigns in the name of the Zhou king against the Rong people and other Zhou states. He was considered by later scholars to have a Machiavellian attitude towards governance.

Early life and rise to power[edit]

Born as the first of two sons and groomed for the throne, Zheng's mother nevertheless preferred her second son, the reason being that she suffered through an extraordinarily painful time when giving birth to Zheng. When Duke Zheng ascended to the dukedom over the violent objections of his mother, she began plotting to get Gongshu Duan into power. First she asked Zheng to give Gongshu Duan the city of Duan as a fiefdom. Duan, at that time, was the second largest city in Zheng, and was a very important fortress indeed. Zheng was extremely reluctant to give away that piece of land, and indeed his courtiers begged him to reject the proposal, but out of courtesy for his mother he agreed.

Seeing that her plan was going well, Zheng's mother urged Duan to build walls, stockpile arms and recruit mercenaries to the rebel cause. Soon news of all this began to reach the capital, and it was clear to everybody what was going to happen. Zheng's ministers urgently reported the news to Zheng, urging him to retake Duan from Gongshu before it was too late. However, Zheng dismissed these proposals, stating that he found no fault in Gongshu Duan, and besides, it could not be proved that he was plotting a coup, instead of just merely reinforcing the border. Besides, he said that Gongshu Duan was his brother, and he could not take up arms against him.

Soon King Zheng had left the dukedom to Luoyang for some diplomatic matters; his mother soon wrote a letter to Duan, ordering him to revolt now and she would open the gates of the capital for him. So Gongshu Duan revolted against Duke Zheng, and not long after he was under the capital walls. It seemed as if Zheng was finished.

Duke Zhuang defeated Gongshu Duan at Yan (north of present-day Yanling County) during the summer in the fifth month of 722 BC.[3][4][5] On the 23rd day of the fifth month, Gongshu Duan fled to Gong.[6]


However word then came that Duan had fallen to the forces of Zheng, much to everyone's surprise. Duke Zheng already knew that a revolt was imminent, so he set up a trap; which both his mother and brother fell into. Seeing his demoralized forces melt away and with nowhere to run, Gongshu Duan committed suicide. Upon hearing this, Zheng rushed to see his brother's corpse; weeping greatly, he said to him, "Gongshu Duan, you knew that your older brother would always forgive you; why has it come to this?"

Of course, in real life Zheng was nowhere near as compassionate: he only did it for show. The next act he did after pacifying the rebellion was putting his mother under strict confinement, telling her that "We will meet again under the ground!". But when public opinion began to turn against him as a result of this, he soon dug a tunnel linking his and his mother's palaces, and there they met, burying the hatchet altogether.

He was appointed Left Advisor by King Ping of Zhou. After King Ping's death, the following king, King Huan, removed him from office. In return for this slight, Duke Zhuang refused to go to the capital to meet with King Huan. King Huan then led a coalition in 707 BC against Duke Zhuang, which culminated in a Zheng victory at the Battle of Xuge. Duke Zhuang's army humiliated the king, defeating the king's army and inflicting an arrow wound on King Huan's shoulder, and further diminishing the prestige of the Zhou royal house. After his death, his sons fought a protracted war of succession (701–680 BCE) over the leadership of Zheng.[7]


Duke Zhuang had 11 sons, among whom the most famous ones were Hu, Tu, Men and Yi. Hu was the heir and was created Duke Zhao of Zheng initially, but soon Duke Zhuang of Song interfered in the succession of Zheng and the minister of Zheng, Ji Zu, was forced to exile Duke Zhao and created Tu as Duke Li of Zheng.[citation needed] Men and Yi also escaped. Duke Li was also forced into exile after a failed plot against Ji Zu out of his hatred of feeling controlled by the latter, and Duke Zhao was restored.[citation needed] However, 3 years later, the vice minister, Gao Qumi, who had befriended Men and disliked Duke Zhao, committed an assassination and murdered Duke Zhao while Ji Zu was away, and created Men ruler instead, but the position of Ji Zu never changed.[citation needed] No more than 1 year later, Duke Xiang of Qi, who wanted fame, pretended to invite Men and Gao Qumi to Shouzhi and had them killed.[citation needed] Ji Zu created Yi as the duke and promised to be affiliated to Chu, while the exiled Duke Li also planned a restoration for himself.[citation needed] 17 years later, Duke Li with Qi troops defeated Yi, killed his two sons and managed to restore himself to power (in 680 BCE[8]). The later dukes of Zheng were all descendants of Duke Li.[citation needed]


  • '多行不義必自斃' (duō xíng bùyì bì zìbì; 'If he repeatedly commits undutiful acts, he surely will bring himself down.';[3] referring to his younger brother; similar to 'the wages of sin is death')
  • '國不堪貳' (guó bùkān èr; 'a nation cannot have two leaders' advice given to Duke Zhuang by his minister Gongzi Lü)


  1. ^ For other interpretations of 寤生 see Ni & Zhao (2023)[2]


  1. ^ Ministry of Education Mandarin Chinese Dictionary (《教育部國語辭典》), "entry 寤生", quote: (難產,生產時胎兒腳部先出來。)
  2. ^ Ni Shuoyao & Zhao Wenting (2023). "The Interpretation of Duke Zhuang Wu Sheng in Zuo Zhuan and the Superstition Behind It", Proceedings of the 2022 4th International Conference on Literature, Art and Human Development (ICLAHD 2022). Series: Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research. Publisher:Atlantis Press. Open access.
  3. ^ a b Stephen Durrant, Wai-yee Li, David Schaberg (2016). Zuo Tradition / Zuozhuan: Commentary on the "Spring and Autumn Annals". University of Washington Press. pp. 6, 7, 9. ISBN 9780295806730 – via Google Books. 6 Yan was located north of present-day Yanling County 鄢陵縣, Henan.{...}LORD YIN 1 (722 BCE) ANNALS{...}In summer, in the fifth month, the Liege of Zheng overcame Duan (Gongshu Duan) at Yan.6{...}If he repeatedly commits undutiful acts, he surely will bring himself down.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ 夏征农; 陈至立, eds. (September 2009). 辞海:第六版彩图本 [Cihai (Sixth Edition in Color)] (in Chinese). 上海. Shanghai: 上海辞书出版社. Shanghai Lexicographical Publishing House. p. 2632. ISBN 9787532628599. 鄢(yān)1古国名、邑名。西周封国。妘姓,在今河南鄢陵西北。春秋初被郑武公灭后为郑邑。《春秋》隐公元年(公元前722年):"郑伯克段于鄢。"即此。后改称鄢陵。
  5. ^ 鄢陵概况. 鄢陵人民政府网 (in Simplified Chinese). 2 May 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2019. 郑伯克段于鄢、晋楚鄢陵之战、唐雎不辱使命等事件均发生于此。
  6. ^ 新譯古文觀止(增訂五版) [New Translation of Guwen Guanzhi (Expanded and Revised, 5th edition)] (in Chinese (Taiwan)). Translated by Hsieh Ping-ying, Hsiao-yu Chang (張孝裕) (5 ed.). Taipei: San Min Book Co., Ltd. 2012. pp. 1, 2, 3, 4. ISBN 978-957-14-5607-2. 鄭伯克段于鄢{...}鄢,鄭國邑名,在今河南鄢陵北。{...}五月辛丑34,大叔出奔共。{...}34 五月辛丑 即五月二十三日。
  7. ^ Higham, Charles (2004). Encyclopedia of Ancient Asian Civilizations. Infobase. p. 412.
  8. ^ Minford, John (2000). Classical Chinese Literature. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 173. ISBN 9789629960483. Retrieved 9 March 2022.

Further reading[edit]