Thursday, September 4, 2008

King Mu of Zhou


King Mu Wang came into power after his father 's death during his tour to the South. King Mu was perhaps the most pivotal emperor of the Zhou Dynasty, reigning nearly sixty-six years, from c.976 BC to c.922 BC. He was reputed to have lived until the age of 105. He liked to travel, and in particular visited the Kunlun Mountains several times during his reign, and is said that he traveled 90,000 kilometers to the west. King Mu was more ambitious than wise. During King Mu's reign, the Zhou Dynasty was at its peak, and King Mu tried to stamp out invaders in the western part of China and ultimately expand Zhou's influence to the east. In the height of his passion for conquests, he led an immense army against the Jung Tribes, native to India, that had colonized the western part of China. His visits and travels allowed him to contact many tribes and swayed them to either join under the Zhou banner or be conquered in war with his mighty army. This expedition must have been more of a failure than a success, proven by the fact that he brought back only four white and four white deer. Unintentionally and inadvertently, he thus sowed the seeds of hatred which culminated in an invasion of China by the same tribes in 771

One Chinese myth tells a story about King Mu Wang, who dreamed of being an immortal god. He was determined to visit the heavenly paradise and taste the peaches of immortality. A brave charioteer named Tsao Fu, used his chariot to carry the emperor to his destination.


In the 3rd century BC text of the ''Lie Zi'', there is a curious account on automata involving a much earlier encounter between King Mu of Zhou and a mechanical engineer known as Yan Shi , an 'artificer'. The latter proudly presented the king with a life-size, human-shaped figure of his mechanical 'handiwork' :

The king stared at the figure in astonishment. It walked with rapid strides, moving its head up and down, so that anyone would have taken it for a live human being. The artificer touched its chin, and it began singing, perfectly in tune. He touched its hand, and it began posturing, keeping perfect time...As the performance was drawing to an end, the robot winked its eye and made advances to the ladies in attendance, whereupon the king became incensed and would have had Yen Shih executed on the spot had not the latter, in mortal fear, instantly taken the robot to pieces to let him see what it really was. And, indeed, it turned out to be only a construction of leather, wood, glue and lacquer, variously coloured white, black, red and blue. Examining it closely, the king found all the internal organs complete—liver, gall, heart, lungs, spleen, kidneys, stomach and intestines; and over these again, muscles, bones and limbs with their joints, skin, teeth and hair, all of them artificial...The king tried the effect of taking away the heart, and found that the mouth could no longer speak; he took away the liver and the eyes could no longer see; he took away the kidneys and the legs lost their power of locomotion. The king was delighted.

Personal information

Ji in
Man in
Era name none
Father King Zhao of Zhou
Mother unknown
Wife unknown
Children King Gong of Zhou and King Xiao of Zhou
Approximate duration of reign -
Tomb unknown
Temple name unknown
Courtesy name unknown
Posthumous name Mo 穆 , literary meaning: "reverend"

No comments: