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State of Chu

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State of Chu

This article is about the Zhou Dynasty state. For other states named Chu, see Chu (disambiguation).
circa 1030 BC–223 BC
Capital Danyang(丹阳/丹陽)[1] (~1030-~680 BC)
JiangYing (疆郢) (~680-278 BC)
JiYing (纪郢) (~680-278 BC)
ChenYing (陈郢) (278-241 BC)
Shouchun (寿春) (241-224 BC)
Pengcheng (彭城)
Religion Chinese folk religion, ancestor worship, Taoism
Government Monarchy
 -  Founded by Xiong Yi circa 1030 BC
 -  King Wu of Chu declared king 706 or 703 BC
 -  Conquered by Qin 223 BC
Currency Chinese coin

Chu (circa 1030–223 BC) (Chinese: 楚國; pinyin: Chǔ Guó) was an ancient state in present-day central and southern China during the Zhou Dynasty. Originally Chu's rulers were of the noble rank of Zi (子), comparable to viscount, but starting from King Wu of Chu in the early 8th century BC the rulers of Chu declared themselves kings. Its ruling house had the ancestral name Nai (嬭) and clan name Yan (酓), but this later evolved to the ancestral name Mi (芈) and clan name Xiong (熊).[2]

Originally known as Jing (荆) and then as Jingchu (荆楚), at the height of its power the Chu state occupied vast areas of land, including most of the present-day provinces of Hubei and Hunan, and parts of Chongqing, Guizhou, Henan, Anhui, Jiangxi, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai. For more than 400 years the Chu capital Danyang was located at the junction region of Dan River and Xi River,[3][4] near present-day Xichuan, Henan Province, but later moved to Ying.


Origin and founding

According to legends recorded in the Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian, the royal family of Chu descended from the mythical Yellow Emperor and his grandson and successor emperor Zhuanxu. Zhuanxu's great-grandson Wuhui (吳回) was put in charge of fire by Emperor Ku and given the title Zhurong. Wuhui's son Luzhong (陸終) had six sons, all born by Caesarian section. The youngest son Jilian adopted the ancestral surname Mi.[5]

Jilian’s descendant Yuxiong was the teacher of King Wen of Zhou (reigned 1099-1050 BC). After Zhou overthrew the Shang Dynasty, King Cheng of Zhou (reigned 1042-1021 BC) awarded Yuxiong's great-grandson Xiong Yi the fiefdom of Chu and the hereditary title of (子), equivalent to viscount. Xiong Yi built the first capital of Chu in Danyang (丹阳) (modern day Xichuan County, Henan Province).[5]

Early expansion

In 977 BC, after an expedition into the State of Chu King Zhao of Zhou's boat sank and he drowned in the Han River. Due to the death of their king, Zhou did not expand further in the south thus allowing the southern tribes and Chu to cement their own autonomy and independence much earlier than the states to the north. The Chu ruler Xiong Qu overthrew the State of E[6] in 863 BCE, later making its successor city Ezhou the alternate Chu capital. In either 703[7] or 706[8] Xiong Da, Viscount of Chu, assumed the title King Wu of Chu, implying an equality with the Zhou king and the independence of Chu.

Chu during the Spring and Autumn period

In its early years, Chu was a successful expansionist and militaristic state that developed a reputation for coercing and absorbing its allies. Chu grew from a small state into a large kingdom. King Zhuang of Chu even attained the traditional title of one of the Five Hegemons. After a number of battles with neighbouring states, sometime between 695 and 689 BC, the Chu capital moved southeast from Danyang to Ying. Chu first consolidated its power by absorbing the lesser states within its immediate vicinity in today's Hubei Province; then, it expanded into the north towards the North China Plain. The threat from Chu resulted in multiple northern alliances under the leadership of the Jin state against Chu and its allies; these alliances successfully kept Chu in check, with their first major victory occurring at the Battle of Chengpu in 632 BC.

At the beginning of the sixth century BC, the Wu state grew in power with the support of the Jin state to counter Chu. Wu defeated the Qi state, invaded Chu in 506 BC and, following the Battle of Boju, occupied the Chu capital Ying, forcing King Zhao of Chu to flee to his allies, first to Yun then to the State of Sui in northern Hubei. Prominent historian Shi Quan (石泉) links the Sui state to the State of Zeng.[9] King Zhao eventually returned to Ying but after a further Wu attack in 504 BC temporarily moved the capital into territory annexed from the former State of Ruo. At this time, the State of Yue also grew in power with the support of Chu to counter Wu's dominance in the east. However, Yue was subjugated by King Fuchai of Wu until he released the hostage King Goujian of Yue who took revenge and conquered Wu. The Yue state was one of the strongest states of the late Spring and Autumn Period.

Chu during the Warring States period

The kingdom's power continued even after the end of the Spring and Autumn period in 481 BC. Chu annexed Chen in 479 BC, and overran Cai to the north in 447 BC, continuing a policy of absorbing smaller states on its borders that continued until the last generation before the fall to Qin (Lu was conquered by King Kaolie ind 249 BC). However, by the end of the 5th century BC, the Chu government had become very corrupt and inefficient with much of the state's treasury used primarily to pay for a large official retinue. Many officials had no meaningful task except taking money. Thus, Chu's large army was of low quality due to the corrupt and cumbersome bureaucracy.

In the late 390s BC, King Dao of Chu made Wu Qi his chancellor. Wu's reforms began in 389 BC to transform Chu into an efficient and powerful state, lowering the salaries of officials and removing useless ones. He also enacted building codes to make the capital, Ying, seem less barbaric. Despite Wu Qi's massive unpopularity with the Chu government (except the king), his reforms made Chu very powerful until the late 4th century BC, when Zhao and Qin were ascendant. Chu's powerful army became once again successful in the internecine warfare that characterized the whole Warring States period, defeating the states of Wei and Yue (which latter state was annexed in either 334 or 333 BC; sources differ on the exact date). However, Wu Qi was assassinated by the Chu officials at the funeral of King Dao in 381 BC.

During the late Warring States Period, Chu was increasingly pressured by Qin to its west, especially after Qin enacted and preserved the legalistic reforms of Shang Yang. Chu's size and power made it the key state in alliances against Qin. As Qin expanded into Chu territory, Chu was forced to expand southwards and eastwards, absorbing local cultural influences along the way. In 333 BC, Chu and Qi partitioned and annexed the coastal state of Yue.

By the late Warring States Period (about the late 4th century BC), however, Chu's prominent status had fallen into decay. As a result of several invasions headed by Zhao and Qin, Chu was eventually subjugated by Qin.

According to the Records of the Warring States, a debate between School of Diplomacy strategist Zhang Yi and the Qin general Sima Cuo on unifying China led to two conclusions. Zhang Yi believed conquering the Han state and seizing the Mandate of Heaven from the figurehead resident Zhou king would be wise. Sima Cuo considered Chu as its main rival in the struggle to unite the Warring States. Sima Cuo decided it was essential to control the fertile Sichuan Basin to increase agricultural output and most importantly, to control the upper reaches of the Yangzi River that led to the Chu heartland.

According to Zhan Guo Ce, Sima Cuo remarked, "To conquer Shu (the Sichuan basin) is to conquer Chu. Once Chu is eliminated, the country will be united."

King Huiwen of Qin decided to support Sima Cuo. In 316 BC, the Qin army conquered the Shu (state) and Ba (state) and successively expanded to the east in the following decades. In 278 BC, Qin general Bai Qi conquered Chu's capital city of Ying. Following the fall of Ying, the Chu government moved to various locations in the east until settling in Shouchun (in present-day Anhui province) in 241 BC.

At this critical moment when Chu was nearing annihilation, Qin set its strategic aims to central China, especially the powerful Zhao state. After a massive two-year struggle, Bai Qi lured out, surrounded, isolated, forced the surrender of and massacred the main Zhao force of 400,000 men at the Battle of Changping. After 260 BC, all major obstacles to Qin dominance ended and it was a matter of time until China's unification.

Qin's conquest of Chu 225-223 BC

In 225 BC, only three kingdoms (states) remained independent: Chu, Yan and Qi. Chu had recovered significantly enough to mount serious resistance after their disastrous defeats to Qin in 278 BC and losing their centuries-old capital of Ying. Despite its territorial size, resources and manpower, Chu's fatal flaw was its largely corrupt government that mostly overturned the legalistic-style reforms of Wu Qi 150 years earlier, when Wu transformed Chu into the most powerful state with an area of almost half of all the states combined. Ironically, Wu Qi was from the same state (Wei) as Shang Yang, whose legalistic reforms turned Qin into an invincible war machine at this stage.

In 224 BC, Ying Zheng called for a meeting with his subjects to discuss his plans for the invasion of Chu. Wang Jian said that the invasion force needed to be at least 600,000 strong, while Li Xin (李信) thought that less than 200,000 men would be sufficient. Ying Zheng dismissed Wang Jian's idea and ordered Li Xin and Meng Wu to lead the army to attack Chu,[10] while Wang Jian retired from state affairs on the excuse that he was ill.

The Qin armies scored initial victories as Li Xin's force conquered Pingyu (平輿; north of present-day Pingyu County, Henan) and Meng Wu's force captured Qinqiu (寢丘; present-day Linquan County, Anhui). After conquering Yan (鄢; present-day Yanling County, Henan), Li Xin led his army westwards to rendezvous with Meng Wu at Chengfu (城父; east of present-day Baofeng County, Henan). The Chu army, led by Xiang Yan (項燕), had avoided using its main force to resist the Qin invaders, in wait for an opportunity to launch a counterattack.[10] The Chu forces followed Li Xin's army secretly at high speed for three days and three nights, before launching a surprise offensive and defeating the Qin army.[10] Li Xin's defeat was deemed as the greatest setback for Qin in its wars to unify China.

Upon learning of Li Xin's defeat, Ying Zheng visited Wang Jian in person and invited him back, putting Wang in command of a 600,000 strong army as he had requested earlier, with Meng Wu serving as Wang's deputy. As Wang Jian was aware that Ying Zheng might doubt his loyalty because he wielded too much military power, he frequently sent messengers back to the king, requesting for rewards for his family in order to reduce the king's suspicions.

In 224 BC, Wang Jian's army passed through the south of Chen (陳; present-day Huaiyang, Henan) and made camp at Pingyu. The Chu armies, led by Xiang Yan, used their full strength to launch an offensive on the Qin camp but failed.[10] Wang Jian ordered his troops to defend their positions firmly and avoid advancing further into Chu territory.[10] After failing to lure the Qin army to attack, Xiang Yan ordered a retreat and Wang Jian seized the opportunity to launch a surprise counterattack. The Qin forces pursued the retreating Chu forces to Qinan (蕲南; northwest of present-day Qichun County, Hubei), where Xiang Yan was killed in action[lower-alpha 1] in the ensuing battle.[10]

In 223 BC, Qin launched another attack on Chu and captured Shouchun (壽春; present-day Shou County, Anhui), capital of Chu. King Fuchu of Chu was captured and the Chu state was annexed by Qin.[10][11] The following year, Wang Jian and Meng Wu led the Qin army to attack the Wuyue region (in present-day Zhejiang and Jiangsu) and captured the descendants of the royal family of Yue.[11] The conquered Wuyue territories became the Kuaiji Prefecture (會稽郡) of the Qin empire.

During their peak sizes, both armies of Chu and Qin combined numbered over 1,000,000 troops, more than the massive Battle of Changping between Qin and Zhao 35 years before. The excavated personal letters of two Qin regular soldiers, Hei Fu (黑夫) and Jing (惊), tell of a protracted campaign in Huaiyang under general Wang Jian. Both soldiers wrote letters requesting supplies of clothing and money from home to sustain the long waiting campaign.[12]

Chu under Qin rule and the Western Han period

The Chu realm at its most powerful was vast with many ethnicities and various customs. Despite their diversity, the Chu people were united by a common respect for nature, the supernatural, their heritage and loyalty to their ruling house and nobility, epitomized by the famed Chu statesman-poet Qu Yuan and the Songs of Chu. The Chu populace in areas conquered by Qin openly ignored the stringent Qin laws and governance, which was recorded in the excavated bamboo slips of a Qin administrator in Hubei. Chu was one of the last states to fall, only 11 years before the death of Qin Shi Huang, and its people aspired of overthrowing the painful yoke of Qin rule and reestablishing the Chu state.

There was a famous saying that "Even if Chu has only three clans (or "families") left, it will still eventually destroy Qin." (楚雖三戶, 亡秦必楚).[13] Historians believed that the "three clans" referred to the three biggest clans in Chu; Qu, Jing and Zhao (屈、景、昭). Hence, the quote was commonly interpreted as: "The people of Chu hate Qin so much such that even if there are only three clans left in Chu, their hatred is powerful enough to destroy Qin." (楚人怨秦, 雖三戶足以亡秦也).[14]

After Qin Shi Huang's very short reign, peasants, soldiers and relatives of nobles and the ruling house of Chu quickly organized into violent insurrections against the repressive Qin governance, initializing the anti-Qin rebellion that spread to the rest of China. The people of Chu, whose culture was a naturalistic and Taoist one, were resentful of the forced labor under Qin, and folk poems recorded the mournful sadness of the Chu families of men who worked in the frigid north to construct the Great Wall of China.

The Daze Village Uprising against the Qin Dynasty erupted in 209 BC, under the leadership of a peasant leader from the former Chu state, Chen Sheng, who proclaimed himself "King of Zhangchu" (King of Rising Chu). The uprising was crushed by Qin forces but other rebellions started as well. One of the rebel leaders, Jing Ju, a native of Chu, proclaimed himself king of Chu. Jing Ju was defeated by Xiang Liang's rebel force and Xiang installed Xiong Xin, a descendant of the Chu royal family, on the throne of Chu, with the title of "King Huai II of Chu". In 206 BC, after the fall of the Qin Dynasty, Xiang Yu, nephew of Xiang Liang, proclaimed himself "Hegemon-King of Western Chu" and promoted King Huai II to the more honorific title of "Emperor Yi of Chu", but he had the emperor assassinated later. Xiang Yu engaged Liu Bang, another prominent rebel leader native to Chu, in a long power struggle for supremacy over China, known as the Chu-Han Contention. The conflict ended with victory for Liu Bang, who proceeded to found the Han Dynasty, while Xiang Yu committed suicide after his defeat.

The Chu people and customs were major influences in the new era of the Western Han Dynasty. Liu Bang immediately initialized the Taoist Wu wei governance, made peace with the Xiongnu through Heqin intermarriages, quickly rewarding his allies and giving them pseudo-fiefdoms, and allowing the population to rest from centuries of warfare. Eventually, by the time of Emperor Wu of Han, Chu folk culture in everyday lifestyles and Chu aesthetics were gradually amalgamated with state-sponsored Confucian ideals and Qin-styled centralized governance to create a distinct and unified "Chinese" culture, visible during the Eastern Han Dynasty.


Based on archaeological finds, Chu's culture was initially quite similar to that of other Zhou states. Later on, Chu culture absorbed indigenous elements as the state expanded to the south and east, developing a distinct culture from the traditional Northern Zhou states.

Early Chu burial offerings consisted primarily of bronze vessels in the Zhou style. Later Chu burials, especially during the Warring States Period, featured distinct Chu burial objects, such as colorful lacquerware, iron and silk, accompanied by a reduction in bronze vessel offerings.

A common Chu motif was the vivid depiction of wildlife, mystical animals and natural imagery, such as snakes, mystical dragons, phoenixes, tigers and free-flowing clouds and serpent-like beings. Some archaeologists speculate that Chu may have had cultural connections to the vanished Shang Dynasty, since many motifs used by Chu appeared earlier at Shang sites, such as motifs depicting serpent-tailed gods.

In terms of philosophy, the Chu culture and government strongly supported Taoism and native shaman folk beliefs supplemented with some Confucian ideals. The naturalistic and flowing art, the Songs of Chu, historical records (Records of the Grand Historian), excavated bamboo documents (Guodian bamboo slips) and other artifacts reveal heavy Daoist and native folk influence in Chu culture. The disposition to a spiritual, often pleasurable and decadent lifestyle and the confidence in the size of the Chu realm led to the inefficiency and eventual destruction of the Chu state to the ruthless Legalist state of Qin. Even though the Qin realm lacked the vast natural resources and waterways of Chu, the Qin government maximized its output and created a system of ruthless efficiency under the minister Shang Yang, installing a meritocracy focused solely on agricultural and military might.

Later Chu culture was known for its affinity for employing shamanistic rituals. Chu was also known for its distinct music; archaeological evidence shows that Chu music was annotated differently from Zhou music; Chu music also showed an inclination for using different performance ensembles, as well as unique instruments; In Chu, the se was preferred over the qin, while both instruments were equally preferred in the northern Zhou states.

Chu came into frequent contact with other peoples in the south, most notably the Ba, Yue and the Baiyue. Numerous burials and burial objects in the Ba and Yue styles were discovered throughout the territory of Chu, co-existing with Chu-style burials and burial objects.

The early rulers of the Han Dynasty romanticized the culture of Chu, sparking a renewed interest in Chu cultural elements such as the Songs of Chu. Evidence of heavy Chu cultural influence during the early years of Han Dynasty appears in Mawangdui. After the Han dynasty, some Confucian scholars considered Chu culture with distaste, criticizing the "lewd" music and shamanistic rituals associated with Chu culture.

Chu artisanship shows a mastery of form and color, especially the lacquer woodworks. Red and black pigmented lacquer were most used. Silk-weaving also attained a high level of craftsmanship, creating lightweight robes with flowing designs. These examples were preserved in waterlogged tombs (this preserved lacquerware, which is vulnerable to peel off in dry conditions) and coal/white clay sealed tombs (this preserved everything extremely well, since fine white clay is highly compressible and forms a tight seal). One such tomb at Mawangdui is a perfect example of a well-sealed tomb.

Chu used the complex calligraphic script called "Birds and Worms" style, which was borrowed by the Wu and Yue states. It has an intricate design that embellishes the characters with motifs of animals, snakes, birds and insects. This is another representation of the Chu reverence of the natural world and its liveliness. Chu produced broad bronze swords that were similar to Wuyue swords, but not as intricate.

Chu was in the region of many rivers, so it created an efficient riverine boat transport system augmented by wagons. These are detailed in bronze tallies with gold inlay regarding trade along the river systems connecting with those of the Chu capital, Ying.

List of states annexed by Chu

This list is not complete.

  • 863 BC E
  • 704 BC Quan
  • 688-680 BC Shen
  • 684-680 BC Xi
  • 678 BC Deng
  • after 643 BC Dao
  • 623 BC Jiang
  • 622 BC Liao
  • after 622 BC Ruo
  • after 506 BC Sui
  • 512 BC Xu
  • 479 BC Chen
  • 445 BC Qi
  • 447 BC Cai
  • 431 BC Ju
  • after 418 BC Pi
  • 334 BC Yue
  • 249 BC Lu


List of Chu rulers (House of Mi) according to the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji)[5] and the Tsinghua Bamboo Slips:[15]

Early rulers
  1. Jilian (季連), married Bi Zhui (妣隹), granddaughter of Shang Dynasty king Pangeng; adopted Mi (芈) as ancestral name
  2. Yingbo (𦀚伯), son of Jilian
  3. Yuxiong (鬻熊), ruled 11th century BC: also called Xuexiong (穴熊), teacher of King Wen of Zhou
  4. Xiong Li (熊麗), ruled 11th century BC: son of Yuxiong, first use of clan name Yan (酓), later written as Xiong (熊)
  5. Xiong Kuang (熊狂), ruled 11th century BC: son of Xiong Li
  1. Xiong Yi (熊繹), ruled 11th century BC: son of Xiong Kuang, enfeoffed by King Cheng of Zhou
  2. Xiong Ai (熊艾), ruled circa 977 BC: son of Xiong Yi, defeated and killed King Zhao of Zhou
  3. Xiong Dan (熊䵣), ruled circa 941 BC: son of Xiong Ai, defeated King Mu of Zhou
  4. Xiong Sheng (熊勝), son of Xiong Dan
  5. Xiong Yang (熊楊), younger brother of Xiong Sheng
  6. Xiong Qu (熊渠), son of Xiong Yang, gave the title king to his three sons
  7. Xiong Kang (熊康), son of Xiong Qu. Shiji says Xiong Kang died early without ascending the throne, but the Tsinghua Bamboo Slips recorded him as the successor of Xiong Qu.[15]
  8. Xiong Zhi (熊摯), son of Xiong Kang, abdicated due to illness[15][16]
  9. Xiong Yan (elder) (熊延), ruled ?–848 BC: younger brother of Xiong Zhi
  10. Xiong Yong (熊勇), ruled 847–838 BC: son of Xiong Yan
  11. Xiong Yan (younger) (熊嚴), ruled 837–828 BC: brother of Xiong Yong
  12. Xiong Shuang (熊霜), ruled 827–822 BC: son of Xiong Yan
  13. Xiong Xun (熊徇), ruled 821–800 BC: youngest brother of Xiong Shuang
  14. Xiong E (熊咢), ruled 799–791 BC: son of Xiong Xun
  15. Ruo'ao (若敖) (Xiong Yi 熊儀), ruled 790–764 BC: son of Xiong E
  16. Xiao'ao (霄敖) (Xiong Kan 熊坎), ruled 763–758 BC: son of Ruo'ao
  17. Fenmao (蚡冒) (Xiong Xuan 熊眴) ruled 757–741 BC: son of Xiao'ao
  1. King Wu of Chu (楚武王) (Xiong Da 熊達), ruled 740–690 BC: either younger brother or younger son of Fenmao, murdered son of Fenmao and usurped the throne. Declared himself first king of Chu.
  2. King Wen of Chu (楚文王) (Xiong Zi 熊貲), ruled 689–677 BC: son of King Wu, moved the capital to Ying
  3. Du'ao (堵敖) or Zhuang'ao (莊敖) (Xiong Jian 熊艱), ruled 676–672 BC: son of King Wen, killed by younger brother, the future King Cheng
  4. King Cheng of Chu (楚成王) (Xiong Yun 熊惲), ruled 671–626 BC: brother of Du'ao, defeated by the state of Jin at the Battle of Chengpu. Husband to Zheng Mao. He was murdered by his son, the future King Mu
  5. King Mu of Chu (楚穆王) (Xiong Shangchen 熊商臣) ruled 625–614 BC: son of King Cheng
  6. King Zhuang of Chu (楚莊王) (Xiong Lü 熊侶) ruled 613–591 BC: son of King Mu. Defeated the State of Jin at the Battle of Bi, and was recognized as a Hegemon.
  7. King Gong of Chu (楚共王) (Xiong Shen 熊審) ruled 590–560 BC: son of King Zhuang. Defeated by Jin at the Battle of Chengpu.
  8. King Kang of Chu (楚康王) (Xiong Zhao 熊招) ruled 559–545 BC: son of King Gong
  9. Jia'ao (郟敖) (Xiong Yuan 熊員) ruled 544–541 BC: son of King Kang, murdered by his uncle, the future King Ling.
  10. King Ling of Chu (楚靈王) (Xiong Wei 熊圍, changed to Xiong Qian 熊虔) ruled 540–529 BC: uncle of Jia'ao and younger brother of King Kang, overthrown by his younger brothers and committed suicide.
  11. Zi'ao (訾敖) (Xiong Bi 熊比) ruled 529 BC (less than 20 days): younger brother of King Ling, committed suicide.
  12. King Ping of Chu (楚平王) (Xiong Qiji 熊弃疾, changed to Xiong Ju 熊居) ruled 528–516 BC: younger brother of Zi'ao, tricked Zi'ao into committing suicide.
  13. King Zhao of Chu (楚昭王) (Xiong Zhen 熊珍) ruled 515–489 BC: son of King Ping. The State of Wu captured the capital Ying and he fled to the State of Sui.
  14. King Hui of Chu (楚惠王) (Xiong Zhang 熊章) ruled 488–432 BC: son of King Zhao. He conquered the states of Cai and Chen. The year before he died, Marquis Yi of Zeng died, so he made a commemorative bell and attended the Marquis's funeral at Suizhou.
  15. King Jian of Chu (楚簡王) (Xiong Zhong 熊中) ruled 431–408 BC: son of King Hui
  16. King Sheng of Chu (楚聲王) (Xiong Dang 熊當) ruled 407–402 BC: son of King Jian
  17. King Dao of Chu (楚悼王) (Xiong Yi 熊疑) ruled 401–381 BC: son of King Sheng. He made Wu Qi chancellor and reformed the Chu government and army.
  18. King Su of Chu (楚肅王) (Xiong Zang 熊臧) ruled 380–370 BC: son of King Dao
  19. King Xuan of Chu (楚宣王) (Xiong Liangfu 熊良夫) ruled 369–340 BC: brother of King Su
  20. King Wei of Chu (楚威王) (Xiong Shang 熊商) ruled 339–329 BC: son of King Xuan. Defeated and partitioned the Yue state with Qi state.
  21. King Huai of Chu (楚懷王) (Xiong Huai 熊槐) ruled 328–299 BC: son of King Wei, was tricked and held hostage by the State of Qin until death in 296 BC
  22. King Qingxiang of Chu (楚頃襄王) (Xiong Heng 熊橫) ruled 298–263 BC: son of King Huai. As a prince, one of his elderly tutors was buried at the site of the Guodian Chu Slips in Hubei. The Chu capital of Ying was captured and sacked by Qin.
  23. King Kaolie of Chu (楚考烈王) (Xiong Yuan 熊元) ruled 262–238 BC: son of King Qingxiang. Moved capital to Shouchun.
  24. King You of Chu (楚幽王) (Xiong Han 熊悍) ruled 237–228 BC: son of King Kaolie, possibly illegitimate son of Lord Chunshen (春申君)
  25. King Ai of Chu (楚哀王) (Xiong You 熊猶 or Xiong Hao 熊郝) ruled 228 BC: brother of King You, killed by Fuchu
  26. Fuchu (楚王負芻) (熊負芻 Xiong Fuchu) ruled 227–223 BC: brother of King Ai. Captured by Qin troops and deposed
  27. Lord Changping (昌平君) ruled 223 BC (Chu conquered by Qin): brother of Fuchu, killed in battle against Qin
  • Chen Sheng (陳勝) as King Yin of Chu (楚隠王) ruled 210–209 BC
  • Jing Ju (景駒) as King Jia of Chu 楚假王 (Jia for fake) ruled 209–208 BC
  • Xiong Xin (熊心) as Emperor Yi of Chu (楚義帝) (originally King Huai II 楚後懷王) ruled 208–206 BC: grandson or great-grandson of King Huai
  • Xiang Yu (项羽) as Hegemon-King of Western Chu (西楚霸王) ruled 206–202 BC

Famous people

  • Poet Qu Yuan hailed from Chu. A government minister and a patriot, he had advocated uniting with the other states to combat the rising hegemon Qin, yet to no avail; he was banished by the king of Chu. According to tradition, such was his grief upon learning of the Qin invasion, he committed suicide in the Miluo River. The Duanwu Festival honors his death for his country.
  • Huang Xie, known more commonly as Chunshen Jun (Lord of Chunshen), was one of the Four Lords of the Warring States.
  • Xiang Yu, also known as "Hegemon-King of Western Chu"; he defeated the Qin armies at the Battle of Julu and was also a rival to Liu Bang. He was fearsome in the battlefield but his arrogance lead to his downfall.
  • Han Dynasty founder Liu Bang. He was born in Pei County, in present-day Xuzhou, which is in northern Jiangsu. An intelligent statesman and ruler, he defeated Xiang Yu through his ability to attract and command talented generals and allies. After the formation of Western Han Dynasty, a blossoming of interest in Chu culture arose under Liu Bang's patronage.

Chu in astronomy

There are two opinions about the representing star of Chu in Chinese astronomy. The opinions are :

See also



  • Sima, Qian. Records of the Grand Historian (史記).
  • Zuo Qiuming,Zuo Zhuan (左传)
  • 张淑一 《先秦姓氏制度考察》
  • Defining Chu: Image And Reality In Ancient China, Edited by Constance A. Cook and John S. Major, ISBN 0-8248-2905-0
  • So, Jenny F., Music in the Age of Confucius, ISBN 0-295-97953-4

Further reading

  • Cook, Constance. Death in Ancient China: The Tale of One Man's Journey. Leiden: Brill, 2006 ISBN 90-04-15312-8

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