Jiang Ziya (fl. 11th century BC), also known by several other
names, was a Chinese noble who helped kings Wen and Wu of Zhou
overthrow the Shang in ancient China. Following their victory at Muye,
he continued to serve as Zhou's prime minister. He remained loyal to
Duke of Zhou
Duke of Zhou during the Rebellion of the Three Guards;
following the Duke's punitive raids against the restive Eastern
Barbarians or Dongyi, Jiang was enfeoffed with their territory as the
marchland of Qi. He established his seat at
Yingqiu (within modern
3 Hired by King Wen of the Zhou
4 Attack of the Shang
5 Personal views and historical influence
6 In popular culture
7 See also
9 External links
The first marquis of Qi bore the given name Shang. The nobility of
ancient China bore two surnames, an ancestral name and a clan name.
His were Jiang and Lü, respectively. He had two courtesy names,
Shangfu and Ziya, which were used for respectful address by his peers.
The names Jiang Shang and
Jiang Ziya became the most common after
their use in the popular Ming-era novel Fengshen Bang, written over
2,500 years after his death.
Following the elevation of Qi to a duchy, his posthumous name became
the Great Duke of Qi, often mistakenly translated as if it were a name
("Duke Tai"). It is under this name that he appears in Sima Qian's
Records of the Grand Historian. He is also less often known as
"Grand Duke Jiang", the "Hopeful Great Duke", and the "Hopeful
The last ruler of the Shang dynasty,
King Zhou of Shang
King Zhou of Shang (16th - 11th
century BC) was a tyrannical and debauched slave owner who spent his
days carousing with his favourite concubine
Daji and mercilessly
executing or punishing upright officials and all others who objected
to his ways. After faithfully serving the Shang court for
approximately twenty years, Jiang came to find
King Zhou insufferable,
and feigned madness in order to escape court life and the ruler's
power. Jiang was an expert in military affairs and hoped that someday
someone would call on him to help overthrow the king. Jiang
disappeared, only to resurface in the Zhou countryside at the
apocryphal age of seventy-two, when he was recruited by King Wen of
Zhou and became instrumental in Zhou affairs. It is said that,
while in exile, he continued to wait placidly, fishing in a tributary
Wei River (near today’s Xi'an) using a barbless hook or even
no hook at all, on the theory that the fish would come to him of their
own volition when they were ready.
Hired by King Wen of the Zhou
Dai Jin, Dropping a Fishing Line on the Bank of the Wei River,
National Palace Museum
King Wen of Zhou, (central Shaanxi), found
Jiang Ziya fishing. King
Wen, following the advice of his father and grandfather before him,
was in search of talented people. In fact, he had been told by his
grandfather, the Grand Duke of Zhou, that one day a sage would appear
to help rule the Zhou state.
The first meeting between King Wen and
Jiang Ziya is recorded in the
book that records Jiang's teachings to King Wen and King Wu, the Six
Secret Teachings (太公六韜 / 太公六韬). The meeting was
recorded as being characterized by a mythic aura common to meetings
between great historical figures in ancient China. Before going
hunting, King Wen consulted his chief scribe to perform divination in
order to discover if the king would be successful. The divinations
revealed that, "'While hunting on the north bank of the Wei river you
will get a great catch. It will not be any form of dragon, nor a tiger
or great bear. According the signs, you will find a duke or marquis
there whom Heaven has sent to be your teacher. If employed as your
assistant, you will flourish and the benefits will extend to three
generations of Zhou Kings.'" Recognizing that the result of this
divination was similar to the result of divinations given to his
eldest ancestor, King Wen observed a vegetarian diet for three days in
order to spiritually purify himself for the meeting. While on the
hunt, King Wen encountered Jiang fishing on a grass mat, and
courteously began a conversation with him concerning military tactics
and statecraft. The subsequent conversation between
Jiang Ziya and
King Wen forms the basis of the text in the Six Secret Teachings.
When King Wen met Jiang Ziya, at first sight he felt that this was an
unusual old man, and began to converse with him. He discovered that
this white-haired fisherman was actually an astute political thinker
and military strategist. This, he felt, must be the man his
grandfather was waiting for. He took
Jiang Ziya in his coach to the
court and appointed him prime minister and gave him the title Jiang
Taigong Wang ("The Great Duke's Hope", or "The expected of the Great
Duke") in reference to a prophetic dream Danfu, grandfather of
Wenwang, had had many years before. This was later shortened to Jiang
Taigong. King Wu married Jiang Ziya's daughter Yi Jiang, who bore him
Attack of the Shang
After King Wen died, his son King Wu, who inherited the throne,
decided to send troops to overthrow the King of Shang. But Jiang
Taigong stopped him, saying: "While I was fishing at Panxi, I realised
one truth - if you want to succeed you need to be patient. We must
wait for the appropriate opportunity to eliminate the King of Shang".
Soon it was reported that the people of Shang were so oppressed that
no one dared speak. King Wu and Jiang Taigong decided this was the
time to attack, for the people had lost faith in the ruler. The bloody
Battle of Muye
Battle of Muye then ensued some 35 kilometres from the Shang capital
Yin (modern day Anyang, Henan Province).
Jiang Taigong charged at the head of the troops, beat the battle drums
and then with 100 of his men drew the Shang troops to the southwest.
King Wu's troops moved quickly and surrounded the capital. The Shang
King had sent relatively untrained slaves to fight. This, plus the
fact that many surrendered or revolted, enabled Zhou to take the
King Zhou set fire to his palace and perished in it, and King Wu and
his successors as the
Zhou dynasty established rule over all of China.
As for Daji, one version has it that she was captured and executed by
the order of Jiang Taigong himself, another that she took her own
life, another that she was killed by King Zhou. Jiang Taigong was made
duke of the
State of Qi
State of Qi (today’s Shandong province), which thrived
with better communications and exploitation of its fish and salt
resources under him.
As the most notable Prime Minister employed by King Wen and King Wu,
he was declared "the master of strategy"—resulting in the Zhou
government growing far stronger than that of the
Shang Dynasty as the
Personal views and historical influence
An account of Jiang Taigong's life written long after his time says he
held that a country could become powerful only when the people
prospered. If the officials enriched themselves while the people
remained poor, the ruler would not last long. The major principle in
ruling a country should be to love the people; and to love the people
meant to reduce taxes and corvée labour. By following these ideas,
King Wen is said to have made the Zhou state prosper very rapidly.
His treatise on military strategy, Six Secret Strategic Teachings, is
considered one of the
Seven Military Classics of Ancient China.
Jiang Ziya is regarded as one of the greatest strategists in
both Chinese history and the world, and is honored as the first famous
general and progenitor of strategic studies. In the
Tang Dynasty he
was even accorded his own state temple as the martial patron and
thereby attained officially sanctioned status approaching that of
In popular culture
Jiang Ziya at Haw Par Villa, Singapore.
In Chinese and Taoist belief,
Jiang Ziya is sometimes considered to
have been a Taoist adept. In one legend, he used the knowledge he
gained at Kunlun to defeat the Shang's supernatural protectors
Shunfeng'er using the blood of a black dog. He is
also a prominent character in Ming-era Romance of the Investiture of
the Gods, in which he is Daji's archrival and is personally
responsible for her execution.
There are two xiehouyu about him:
Grand Duke Jiang fishes – those who are willing jump at the bait
(姜太公釣魚──願者上鉤), which means "put one's own head
in the noose".
Grand Duke Jiang investiture the gods – omitting himself
(姜太公封神──漏咗自己), which means "leave out oneself".
In the scenario "Chinese Unification" of the Civilization IV: Warlords
Jiang Ziya is the leader of the State of Qi.
The protagonist of Hoshin Engi, Tai Kou Bou (Tai Gong Wang), is based
on Jiang Ziya. But however, his personality is quite comical.
He is also playable in video games Aizouban Houshin Engi, Hoshin Engi
2 and Mystic Heroes. He is kind, humble and just.
Jiang Ziya is also Daji's arch-rival (
Jiang Ziya never thought of Daji
as his rival while
Daji herself actually thought that
Jiang Ziya was
her rival) as
Jiang Ziya can easily see through Daji's plans.
Jiang Ziya is a playable character in Koei's Warriors Orochi 2. In the
game, he is alternatively referred to as Taigong Wang. A stark
contrast to the historical accounts however, would be that he is
portrayed as a handsome young man, who is quite arrogant, although he
is still a divinely gifted strategist and a good man at heart. He is
often referred to by others, namely Fu Xi,
Daji as "boy".
The reason for his radically improvised design may be to emphasize his
rivalry with Daji, whose character design depicts her as being young
and beautiful as well. Their clashes are loosely inspired by the
In Final Fantasy XI, the item "Lu Shang's Fishing Rod" is awarded to
players for catching 10,000 carp. It is noteworthy for its ability to
catch both small and large fish, and is notoriously hard to break.
In the online game War of Legends,
Jiang Ziya is a playable monk, with
In the popular game Eiyuu Senki, Tai Gong Wan is one of the ancient
heroes player will encounter in the game.
Boyi and Shuqi
Zhou Wang (Shang Dynasty)
King Wu of Zhou
King Wu of Zhou (Zhou Dynasty)
Six Secret Teachings
^ a b Long Jianchun (龙建春) (2003). Discussion on Taigong's
surname, clanname, given name and titles
<苏秦始将连横>臆说之一. Taizhou Academy Newspapers
(台州学院学报) 2nd semester, 2003.
^ Sima Qian. 齐太公世家 [House of Duke Tai of Qi]. Records of the
Grand Historian (in Chinese). Guoxue.com. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
^ Han Zhaoqi (韩兆琦), ed. (2010). Shiji (史记) (in Chinese).
Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company. pp. 2495–2510.
^ a b Sawyer, Ralph D. The
Seven Military Classics of Ancient China.
New York: Basic Books. 2007. p. 27.
^ "T'ai Kung's Six Secret Teachings". Trans. Ralph D. Sawyer. In
Sawyer, Ralph D., The
Seven Military Classics of Ancient China. New
York: Basic Books. 2007. p. 40.
^ Sam, Chris W.C; et al. (28 September 2008), "The Goddess of the Sea
and Her Guardians", The Macau Daily Times, Macao: Macau Times
Jiang Taigong: The Supreme Strategist
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