Chinese Stories/The Battle of Muye
|The name of this story in Chinese is 牧野之戰.|
When (although this is more myth than history) Zhou of Shang became the King of China, he started flirting with Daji, playing in pools of wine and forests of meat with nude people running around in them. If anyone disagreed with him, he put them on a 'paoluo'. In this torturing method, the person to be punished has to walk on a red-hot beam with fire burning under it. If he makes it to the end, he lives. Otherwise, he drops into the fire and is burnt. When Mei Bo tried to tell him to stop, Mei ended up turned into a kind of bolognaise and the lords were forced to eat him. As this was not beneficial to the people, rebellions happened. And, like the Shang dynasty, it was the lords who revolted.
A long time ago, the Zhous lived near the Wei River and built a strong state there. Although they belonged to the Shangs, they were getting more and more powerful and started to think of overthrowing the Shangs. The 'king' who thought of this was Wen of Zhou, but he failed to do so during his lifetime. His successor, Wu of Zhou, inherited his father's wishes. With the help of his father's assistant Jiang Ziya, he started plotting to topple the Shangs.
Wu swore against Shang at Muye. He motivated his army by reminding them of Zhou of Shang's cruelty. Then he raised the flag and started to dart towards the Shang army. At that moment, Zhou and Daji were watching dance shows, drinking wine and eating meat in his palace. When one of his men informed him of the Zhou army, he called his officials for an emergency meeting. Right then his army was trying to conquer the Dongyi tribe, so they could not be called back. So he decided to make his prisoners and slaves fight for him. That was the beginning of the Battle of Muye.
Although there were a hundred and seven thousand people in his army, most of them were prisoners and slaves who despised Zhou, and refused to fight. They dropped their spears and joined the Zhou army. (The Zhous' army, not Zhou's army.) Zhou of Shang knew that it was his last hour. He escaped to his palace and ate a lot. Then he ordered his men to burn the palace. He committed suicide and the Shang dynasty ended.
Wu of Zhou rushed to the palace, shot the dead Zhou a few times, stabbed the corpse with his sword, and cut off his head and put it on the flagpole. (The way Henry VIII did with his prisoners.) He announced that the Shang dynasty was over and that the Battle of Muye was won. He declared himself the King of China and set up the Zhou dynasty.
What, then, is so important about starting a new dynasty? The Zhou dynasty was the first dynasty to set up the fengjian, jingtian, zhongfa and liyue institutions. Fenjian is just like feudalism, but technically it is a kind of system where the lords, who are divided into dukes, marquises, earls, viscounts and barons, had to pay tribute the king and fight for him. In return they would be allowed to rule over their land and divide up the land for their eldest sons. This system was later used in dynasties such as Western Han (partially), Xin and Western Jin. And of course, a similar system was used in Europe.
- Please do not confuse the Zhous with Zhou of Shang. They are different.