Chu (Chinese: 楚, Old Chinese: *s-r̥aʔ) was a hegemonic, Zhou
dynasty era state. From
King Wu of Chu
King Wu of Chu in the early 8th century BCE,
the rulers of Chu declared themselves kings on an equal footing with
the Zhou kings. Though initially inconsequential, removed to the south
of the Zhou heartland and practising differing customs, Chu began a
series of administrative reforms, becoming a successful expansionist
state during the Spring and Autumn period. With its continued
expansion Chu became a great
Warring States period
Warring States period power.
Also known as Jing (荆), Jingchu (荆楚) and Shu (舒), Chu included
most of the present-day provinces of
Hubei and Hunan, along with 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 of the Dan and Xi Rivers near present-day
Xichuan County, Henan, but later moved to Ying. The ruling house of
Chu originally bore the clan name Nai (嬭) and lineage name Yan
(酓), but they are later written as Mi (芈) and Xiong (熊),
1.2 Western Zhou
1.3 Spring and Autumn Period
1.4 Warring States Period
1.6 Qin and Han Dynasties
3 Linguistic influences
6 List of states annexed by Chu
8 Famous people
9 Chu in astronomy
10 See also
13 Further reading
According to legends recounted in Sima Qian's Records of the Grand
Historian, the royal family of Chu descended from the Yellow Emperor
and his grandson and successor 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, Jilian, adopted the ancestral surname
Mi. Jilian’s descendant
Yuxiong was the teacher of King Wen of
Zhou (r. 1099–1050 BCE). After the Zhou overthrew the Shang
dynasty, King Cheng (r. 1042–1021 BCE) awarded Yuxiong's
Xiong Yi with the fiefdom of Chu and the hereditary
title of 子 (zǐ, "viscount").
Xiong Yi built the first capital of
Chu at Danyang (present-day Xichuan in Henan).
In 977 BCE, during his campaign against Chu, King Zhao of Zhou's
boat sank and he drowned in the Han River. After this death, Zhou
ceased to expand to the south, allowing the southern tribes and Chu to
cement their own autonomy much earlier than the states to the north.
The Chu viscount
Xiong Qu overthrew E in 863 BCE but
subsequently made its capital
Ezhou one of his capitals. In either
703 or 706, the ruler Xiong Tong proclaimed himself king,
establishing Chu's full independence from the Zhou dynasty.
Spring and Autumn Period
A lacquerware painting from the Jingmen Tomb (Chinese: 荊門楚墓;
Pinyin: Jīngmén chǔ mù) of the
State of Chu
State of Chu (704–223 BC),
depicting men wearing precursors to
Hanfu (i.e. traditional silk
dress) and riding in a two-horsed chariot
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
was even considered one of the five Hegemons of the era. After a
number of battles with neighboring states, sometime between 695 and
689 BCE, the Chu capital moved southeast from Danyang to Ying.
Chu first consolidated its power by absorbing lesser states in its
original area (modern Hubei), then it expanded into the north towards
the North China Plain. In the summer of 648 BC, the State of Huang was
annexed by the state of Chu.
The threat from Chu resulted in multiple northern alliances under the
leadership of Jin. These alliances kept Chu in check, with the first
major victory won at the Chengpu in 632 BCE. During the 6th
century BCE, Jin and Chu fought numerous battles over the hegemony of
central plain. In 597 BCE, Jin was defeated by Chu in the battle of
Bi, causing Jin's temporary inability to counter Chu's expansion. Chu
strategically used the state of Zheng as its representative in the
central plain area, through the means of intimidation and threats, Chu
forced Zheng to ally with itself. On the other hand, Jin had to
balance out Chu's influence by repeatedly allying with Lu, Wey, and
Song. The tension between Chu and Jin did not loosen until the year of
579 BCE when a truce was signed between the two states.
At the beginning of the sixth century BCE, Jin strengthened the state
of Wu near the
Yangtze delta to act as a counterweight against Chu. Wu
defeated Qi and then invaded Chu in 506 BCE. Following the Battle
of Boju, it occupied Chu's capital at Ying, forcing King Zhao to flee
to his allies in Yun and "Sui". King Zhao eventually returned to Ying
but, after another attack from Wu in 504 BCE, he temporarily
moved the capital into the territory of the former state of Ruo. Chu
began to strengthen Yue in modern
Zhejiang to serve as allies against
Wu. Yue was initially subjugated by
King Fuchai of Wu until he
released their king Goujian, who took revenge for his former captivity
by crushing and completely annexing Wu.
Warring States Period
Freed from its difficulties with Wu, Chu annexed Chen in 479 BCE
and overran Cai to the north in 447 BCE. This policy of expansion
continued until the last generation before the fall to Qin (Lu was
conquered by King Kaolie in 223 BCE). However, by the end of the
5th century BCE, the Chu government had become very corrupt and
inefficient, with much of the state's treasury used primarily to pay
for the royal entourage. Many officials had no meaningful task except
taking money and Chu's army, while large, was of low quality.
In the late 390s BCE,
King Dao of Chu made
Wu Qi his chancellor. Wu's
reforms began to transform Chu into an efficient and powerful state in
389 BCE, as he lowered the salaries of officials and removed
useless ones. He also enacted building codes to make the capital Ying
seem less barbaric. Despite Wu Qi's unpopularity among Chu's ruling
class, his reforms strengthened the king and left the state very
powerful until the late 4th century BCE, when Zhao and Qin were
ascendant. Chu's powerful army once again became successful, defeating
the states of Wei and Yue. Yue was partitioned between Chu and Qi in
either 334 or 333 BCE. However, the officials of Chu wasted
no time in their revenge and
Wu Qi was assassinated at King Dao's
funeral in 381 BCE. Prior to Wu's service in the state of Chu, Wu
lived in the state of Wei, where his military analysis of the six
opposing states was recorded in his magnum opus, The Book of Master
Wu. Of Chu, he said:
Bronze from the Tomb of Chu in Xichuan County.
Chu's military formations are complete but cannot be maintained for
— Wuzi, Master Wu
The Chu people are soft and weak. Their lands stretch far and wide,
and the government cannot effectively administer the expanse. Their
troops are weary and although their formations are well-ordered, they
do not have the resources to maintain their positions for long. To
defeat them, we must strike swiftly, unexpectedly and retreat quickly
before they can counter attack. This will create unease in their weary
soldiers and reduce their fighting spirit. Thus, with persistence,
their army can be defeated.
— Wuzi, Master Wu
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. In 241 BCE, five of the seven
major warring states - Chu, Zhao, Wei, Yan and Han - formed an
alliance to fight the rising power of Qin.
King Kaolie of Chu was
named the leader of the alliance and
Lord Chunshen the military
commander. According to historian Yang Kuan, the Zhao general Pang
Nuan (庞煖) was the actual commander in the battle. The allies
attacked Qin at the strategic
Hangu Pass but were defeated. King
Lord Chunshen for the loss and began to mistrust him.
Afterwards, Chu moved its capital east to Shouchun, farther away from
the threat of Qin.
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. By the late 4th century BCE, 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.
Main article: Qin's wars of unification § Conquest of Chu
Bronze bells from the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng, dated 433 BCE,
State of Chu.
According to the Records of the Warring States, a debate between the
Diplomat strategist Zhang Yi and the Qin general Sima Cuo led to two
conclusions concerning the unification of China. Zhang Yi argued in
favor of conquering Han and seizing the
Mandate of Heaven
Mandate of Heaven from the
powerless Zhou king would be wise. Sima Cuo, however, considered that
the primary difficulty was not legitimacy but the strength of Qin's
opponents; he argued that "conquering Shu is conquering Chu" and,
"once Chu is eliminated, the country will be united".
The importance of Shu in the
Sichuan Basin was its great agricultural
output and its control over the upper reaches of the
leading directly into the Chu heartland.
King Huiwen of Qin opted to
support Sima Cuo. In 316 BCE, Qin invaded and conquered Shu and
nearby Ba, expanding downriver in the following decades. In
278 BCE, the Qin general
Bai Qi finally conquered Chu's capital
at Ying. Following the fall of Ying, the Chu government moved to
various locations in the east until settling in
241 BCE. After a massive two-year struggle,
Bai Qi lured the main
Zhao force of 400,000 men onto the field, surrounding them and forcing
their surrender at Changping in 260 BCE. The Qin army massacred
their prisoners, removing the last major obstacle to Qin dominance
over the Chinese states.
By 225 BCE, only four kingdoms remained: Qin, Chu, Yan, and Qi.
Chu had recovered significantly enough to mount serious resistance.
Despite its size, resources, and manpower, though, Chu's corrupt
government worked against it. In 224 BCE, 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 thought that less than 200,000 men would
be sufficient. Ying Zheng sided with Li and ordered him and Meng Wu to
lead the army against Chu; Wang Jian was forced to retire from state
affairs upon a pretense of illness.
The Qin armies scored initial victories as Li Xin's force conquered
Pingyu (平輿, north of present-day Pingyu in Henan) and Meng Wu's
captured Qinqiu (寢丘, present-day Linquan in Anhui). After
conquering Yan (鄢, present-day Yanling in Henan), Li Xin led his
army west to rendezvous with Meng at Chengfu (城父, east of
present-day Baofeng in Henan). The Chu army, led by Xiang Yan, had
avoided using its main force and waited for an opportunity to launch a
counterattack. They secretly followed Li Xin's army for three days and
three nights, before launching a surprise offensive and defeating the
Qin army.
Upon learning of Li's defeat, Ying Zheng visited the exiled Wang Jian
in person and invited him back, putting Wang in command of the
600,000-strong army he had requested earlier and placing Meng Wu
beneath him as a deputy. Worried that the Qin tyrant might fear the
power he now possessed and order him executed upon some pretense, Wang
Jian constantly sent messengers back to the king in order to remain in
contact and reduce the king's suspicion.
Wang Jian's army passed through southern Chen (陳; present-day
Huaiyang in Henan) and made camp at Pingyu. The Chu armies under Xiang
Yan used their full strength against the camp but failed. Wang Jian
ordered his troops to defend their positions firmly but avoid
advancing further into Chu territory. After failing to lure the Qin
army into an attack, Xiang Yan ordered a retreat; Wang Jian seized
this opportunity to launch a swift assault. The Qin forces pursued the
retreating Chu forces to Qinan (蕲南; northwest of present-day
Qichun in Hubei) and Xiang Yan was either killed in the action or
committed suicide following his defeat.
The next year, in 223 BCE, Qin launched another campaign and
captured the Chu capital Shouchun. King
Fuchu was captured and his
state annexed. The following year, Wang Jian and Meng Wu led the
Qin army against
Wuyue around the mouth of the Yangtze, capturing the
descendants of the royal family of Yue. These conquered
territories became the
Kuaiji Prefecture of the Qin Empire.
At their peak, Chu and Qin together fielded over 1,000,000 troops,
more than the massive
Battle of Changping
Battle of Changping between Qin and Zhao 35
years before. The excavated personal letters of two regular Qin
soldiers, Hei Fu (黑夫) and Jing (惊), tell of a protracted
campaign in Huaiyang under Wang Jian. Both soldiers wrote letters
requesting supplies of clothing and money from home to sustain the
long waiting campaign.
Qin and Han Dynasties
Main article: Chu-Han Contention
The Chu realm at its most powerful was vast with many ethnicities and
various customs. Though diverse, the Chu people were united by a
common respect for nature, the supernatural, and their heritage and
loyalty to their ruling house and nobility, epitomized by the famed
Qu Yuan and the Songs of Chu. The Chu populace in
areas conquered by Qin openly ignored the stringent Qin laws and
governance, as recorded in the excavated bamboo slips of a Qin
administrator in Hubei. Chu was one of the last states to fall and its
people aspired to overthrowing the painful yoke of Qin rule and
reestablishing a separate state. The attitude was immortalized in a
Chinese expression about implacable hostility: "Though Chu have but
three clans, Qin surely be perished by none other but Chu"
After Ying Zheng declared himself the First Emperor (Shi Huangdi) and
served his short reign, the people of Chu and its former ruling house
organized the first violent insurrections against the new Qin
administration. They were especially resentful of the Qin corvee; folk
poems record the mournful sadness of Chu families whose men worked in
the frigid north to construct the Great Wall of China.
Dazexiang Uprising occurred in 209 BCE under the leadership
of a Chu peasant, Chen Sheng, who proclaimed himself "King of Rising
Chu" (Zhangchu). This uprising was crushed by the Qin army but it
inspired a new wave of other rebellions. One of the leaders, Jing Ju
of Chu, proclaimed himself the new king of Chu.
Jing Ju was defeated
by another rebel force under Xiang Liang. Xiang installed Xiong Xin, a
scion of Chu's traditional royal family, on the throne of Chu under
the regnal name King Huai II. In 206 BCE, after the fall of the
Qin Empire, Xiang Yu, Xiang Liang's nephew, proclaimed himself the
"Hegemon-King of Western Chu" and promoted King Huai II to "Emperor
Yi". He subsequently had Yi assassinated.
Xiang Yu then engaged with
Liu Bang, another prominent Chu rebel, in a long struggle for
supremacy over the lands of the former Qin Empire, which became known
as the Chu-Han Contention. The conflict ended in victory for Liu Bang:
he proclaimed the
Han Dynasty and was later honored with the temple
name Gaozu, while
Xiang Yu committed suicide in defeat.
The Chu people and customs were major influences on the new era of the
Han. Liu Bang immediately enacted a more traditional and less
intrusive administration than the Qin before him, made peace with the
Xiongnu through heqin intermarriages, rewarded his allies with large
fiefdoms, and allowed the population to rest from centuries of
warfare. By the time of Emperor Wu of Han, Chu folk culture and
aesthetics were amalgamated with the Han-sponsored Confucian tradition
and Qin-influenced central governance to create a distinct "Chinese"
Based on the archaeological finds, Chu's culture was initially quite
similar to that of the other Zhou states of the
Yellow River basin.
Subsequently, however, Chu absorbed indigenous elements from the
Baiyue lands the state conquered to its south and east, developing a
distinct culture from the states of the northern plains.
Early Chu burial offerings consisted primarily of bronze vessels in
the Zhou style. Later Chu burials, especially during the Warring
States, featured distinct burial objects, such as colorful
lacquerware, iron, and silk, accompanied by a reduction in bronze
A common Chu motif was the vivid depiction of wildlife, mystical
animals, and natural imagery, such as snakes, 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 serpent-tailed gods.
Later Chu culture was known for its affinity for shamans. The Chu
culture and government strongly supported
Taoism and native shamanism
supplemented with some Confucian glosses on Zhou ritual. Chu people
affiliated themselves with the god of fire
Zhurong in Chinese
mythodology. For this reason, fire worshiping and red coloring were
practiced by Chu people. 
The naturalistic and flowing art, the Songs of Chu, historical
records, excavated bamboo documents such as the Guodian slips, and
other artifacts reveal heavy Taoist 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 by
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 under the efficient minister Shang Yang,
installing a meritocracy focused solely on agricultural and military
Chu was known for its distinct music. Archaeological evidence shows
that Chu music was annotated differently from Zhou. Chu music also
showed an inclination for using different performance ensembles, as
well as unique instruments. In Chu, the se was preferred over the
zither, while both instruments were equally preferred in the northern
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 have been discovered throughout the
territory of Chu, co-existing with Chu-style burials and burial
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 appears at 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 (as at
Mawangdui) were preserved in waterlogged tombs where the lacquer did
not peel off over time and in tombs sealed with coal or white clay.
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
Chu was in the region of many rivers, so it created an efficient
riverine transport system of boats 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 at Ying.
In 2000, a cache of Chu
Warring States period
Warring States period funerary artifacts
dating to 340-300 BC was discovered in eastern Wulipu's Zuozhong
village during the construction of the Xiang-Jing Highway
Epigraphic materials from the three centuries before the destruction
of Chu by the state of Qín 秦 in 223 BC shows clear substrate
influence, predominantly from Tai-Kadai. Wolfgang Behr (2006, 2009)
points out that most of non-Sinitic words found in Chu inscriptional
materials are of
Tai-Kadai origin. A few examples that look as
if they may be related to Austroasiatic and Miao-Yao are from edited
texts of the mid-Han period and later. The most noticeable item
that Wolfang Behr shows is the Chu graph for "one, once" written as
(? < OC *nnəŋ) in the E jun qijie 鄂君啟筯 bronze tally and
in Warring States bamboo inscriptions, which represents a Tai-Kadai
areal word. The followings are examples of
Tai-Kadai words in Chu
inscriptional materials that Behr identifies:
「揞」ăn < MC *ʔomX < OC *ʔʔəm-q ← proto-Tai *homB1
(Siamese homB1, Longzhou humB1, Bo'ai hɔmB1, Lao hom, Ahom hum etc.)
"cover up" proto-Kam-Sui *zumHɣC1 "hide, cover up"
「蟅」zhē < MC *tsyæ < OC *ttak ← proto-Kam-Sui
*thrak7-it (Mulam -hɣak8-t, Kam ʈak7-it, Then zjak7, Sui ndjak7
「豨」xī < MC *xjɨj < OC *hləj-q ← PKS *ʔdlaaj5 (>
Kam (h)laa:i5) “pig”
"GET BETTER" (of ailments): “ 智于身”
知～～智 zhī < *trje(H) < *te(-s)
"zhī means 'to get better'. In Southern Chǔ , when a sickness gets
better ... this is occasionally called zhī." ← proto-Tai *ʔdiiA1
“be good, better” (Siamese diiA1, Longzhou daiA1, Bo'ai niiA1)
MOTHER, FEMALE, LADY in Spring and Autumn Chŭ (5th c. B.C.)
嬭 mĭ < *mjieX < *mej-q ← proto-Tai *mɛɛB, proto-Kam-Sui
*mlɛɛB, proto-Hlai *mʔaiB vs. proto-Austro-Asiatic *me-q, proto-Mon
*meʔ, proto-Katuic *mɛ(:)ʔ “mother”
ONE, ONCE, BE UNIFIED, BE UNIQUE in Warring States Chŭ
Bronze inscriptions-standard: 一, 壹, 弌 yī < *ʔjit < *ʔit
"one, be / become one" etc. (> all later Sinitic languages)
Warring States-Chŭ dialect: 「」 ← p[能] néng < *nong <
cf. 「其義也」"his propriety is unique";
「能為，肰然句後能為君子」"if able to unify — only
after this one may become a true gentlemen"; 「禱」"sacrifice
once/in one piece?"; 「歲返」"to be returned once a year"
← proto-Tai *hnïŋ = *hnɯŋ (Siamese 22nɯŋ, Dai 33nɯŋ,
Longzhou nəəŋA etc.) "one, once"
never used for abstract noun ‘the one’ or along/in contrast with
「𩫁」 ← p[高] gāo < MC *kaw < OC *kkaw ← proto-Tai
*xaauA1 (Siamese, Longzhou khaauA1, Bo'ai haauA1) "white" (cf.
proto-Mon *klaɨA “white”)
「」← p[石］shí < MC *dzyek < OC *[d,l]ak ← PKS *ʔnak7
(Kam nak7) "thick"
James R. Chamberlain (2016) shows that
Old Chinese reconstructions for
the name of the state of Chǔ 楚, the name of the ancient kingdom of
Xia 夏 (and jia 假), and proto-form of the ethnonym Kra, a subgroup
Tai-Kadai language family, are possible cognates.
Tai-Kadai migration route proposed by James R. Chamberlain.
Reconstructions for Chǔ 楚
Karlgren No. 88
MC *tṣ’i̯wo: (=Tai C)
Baxter and Sagart (2014)
OC *tṣhjwo B (B tone in Chinese = C tone in Tai-Kadai)
Later Han *tṣhɑ B
Old Chinese (MOC) *tshraʔ (= C tone)
Reconstructions for Xia 夏 (and jia 假)
Schuessler Xià 夏 OC ɣa B (B=Tai C)
Later Han ga B
jiǎ 假 OC ka B
Later Han ka B
Baxter and Sagart 夏 Xià *[ɢ]ʕraʔ
假 jiǎ *kʕraʔ (= C Tone)
Proto-reconstruction for Kra (by Weera Ostapirat)
*kraC ( < Pro-
These reconstructed forms all bear tone class C. Chamberlain goes
further to propose a Chu 楚 Urheimat for Tai-Kadai.
Chu's bureaucracy was distinct from other
Zhou dynasty states.
According to Li Tiaoyuan's "Zuozhuan Guanming Kao", Mo'ao(莫敖) and
Lingyin were the top government officials of Chu. Sima was the
military commander of Chu's army. Lingyin, Mo'ao and Sima were the San
Gong(三公) of Chu. In the Spring and Autumn period, Zuoyin(左尹)
and Youyin(右尹) were added as the undersecretaries of Lingyin.
Likewise, Sima(司馬) was assisted by Zuosima(左司馬) and
Yousima(右司馬) respectively. Mo'ao's status was gradually lowered
while Lingyin and Sima became more powerful posts in the Chu
Ministers whose functions vary according to their titles were called
Yin(尹). For example: Lingyin(Prime minister), Gongyin(Minister of
works), and Zhenyin were all suffixed by the word "Yin".
Shenyin(沈尹) was the minister of religious duties or the high
priest of Chu, multiple entries in
Zuo Zhuan indicated their role as
oracles. Other Yins recorded by history were: Yuyin, Lianyin,
Jiaoyin, Gongjiyin, Ling(陵)yin, Huanlie Zhi Yin(Commander of Palace
guards) and Yueyin(minister of musics). In counties and commanderies,
Gong(公), also known as Xianyin(minister of county) was the chief
In many cases, positions in Chu's bureaucracy were hereditarily held
by members of a cadet branch of Chu's royal house; Mi. Mo'ao, one of
the three chancellors of Chu, was exclusively chosen from Qu(屈)
clan. During the early spring and autumn period and before the Ruo'ao
rebellion, Lingyin was a position held by Ruo'aos, namely Dou(鬭) and
Chu's expanse was one of the largest among ancient Chinese states.
Progenitors of Chu such as viscount
Xiong Yi were said to originate
from Jing mountains; a chain of mountains located in today's Hubei
province. Rulers of Chu systematically migrated states annexed by Chu
to the Jing mountains in order to control them more efficiently. East
of Jing mountains are the Tu(塗) mountains. In the north east part of
Chu are the Dabie mountains; the drainage divide of Huai river and
Yangtse river. The first capital of Chu, Dangyang(丹陽) was located
in today's Zhijiang,
Hubei province. Ying(郢), one of the later
capitals of Chu, is known by its contemporary name Jingzhou. In Chu's
northern border lies the Fangcheng mountain. Strategically, Fangcheng
is an ideal denfense against states of central plain. Due to its
strategic value, numerous castles were built on the Fangcheng
Yunmeng Ze in
Jianghan Plain was an immense fresh water lake that
historically existed in Chu's realm, It was crossed by Yanzi river,
the northern Yunmeng was named Meng(夢), the southern Yunmeng was
known as Yun(雲). The lake's body covers parts of today's Zhijiang,
Jianli, Shishou, Macheng, Huanggang, and Anlu.
Shaoxi Pass was an important outpost in the mountainous western border
of Chu. It was located in today's Wuguan town of Danfeng County,
Shaanxi. Any forces that marches from the west, mainly from Qin, to
Chu's realm would have to pass Shaoxi. 
List of states annexed by Chu
This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
863 BCE E
704 BCE Quan
690 BCE Luo
688–680 BCE Shen
684–680 BCE Xi
678 BCE Deng
648 BCE Huang
after 643 BCE Dao
623 BCE Jiang
622 BCE Liao
622 BCE Lù(六). 
after 622 BCE Ruo
611 BCE Yong
601 BCE Shuliao
after 506 BCE Sui
574 BCE Shuyong
538 BCE Lai (賴國)
512 BCE Xu
479 BCE Chen
445 BCE Qi
447 BCE Cai
431 BCE Ju
after 418 BCE Pi
About 348 BCE Zou
334 BCE Yue
249 BCE Lu
See also: Rulers of Chu family tree
Jilian (季連), married Bi Zhui (妣隹), granddaughter of Shang
Dynasty king Pangeng; adopted Mi (芈) as ancestral name
Yingbo (𦀚伯), son of Jilian
Yuxiong (鬻熊), ruled 11th century BCE: also called Xuexiong
(穴熊), teacher of King Wen of Zhou
Xiong Li (熊麗), ruled 11th century BCE: son of Yuxiong, first use
of clan name Yan (酓), later written as Xiong (熊)
Xiong Kuang (熊狂), ruled 11th century BCE: son of Xiong Li
Xiong Yi (熊繹), ruled 11th century BCE: son of Xiong Kuang,
enfeoffed by King Cheng of Zhou
Xiong Ai (熊艾), ruled c. 977 BCE: son of Xiong Yi, defeated and
killed King Zhao of Zhou
Xiong Dan (熊䵣), ruled c. 941 BCE: son of Xiong Ai, defeated King
Mu of Zhou
Xiong Sheng (熊勝), son of Xiong Dan
Xiong Yang (熊楊), younger brother of Xiong Sheng
Xiong Qu (熊渠), son of Xiong Yang, gave the title king to his three
Xiong Kang (熊康), son of Xiong Qu.
Xiong Kang died early
without ascending the throne, but the
Tsinghua Bamboo Slips
Tsinghua Bamboo Slips recorded
him as the successor of Xiong Qu.
Xiong Zhi (熊摯), son of Xiong Kang, abdicated due to
Xiong Yan (elder) (熊延), ruled ?–848 BCE: younger
brother of Xiong Zhi
Xiong Yong (熊勇), ruled 847–838 BCE: son of Xiong Yan
Xiong Yan (younger) (熊嚴), ruled 837–828 BCE: brother of
Xiong Shuang (熊霜), ruled 827–822 BCE: son of Xiong Yan
Xiong Xun (熊徇), ruled 821–800 BCE: youngest brother of
Xiong E (熊咢), ruled 799–791 BCE: son of Xiong Xun
Ruo'ao (若敖) (
Xiong Yi 熊儀), ruled 790–764 BCE: son of
Xiao'ao (霄敖) (Xiong Kan 熊坎), ruled 763–758 BCE: son of
Fenmao (蚡冒) (Xiong Xuan 熊眴) ruled 757–741 BCE: son of
King Wu of Chu
King Wu of Chu (楚武王) (Xiong Da 熊達), ruled
740–690 BCE: either younger brother or younger son of Fenmao,
murdered son of
Fenmao and usurped the throne. Declared himself first
king of Chu.
King Wen of Chu
King Wen of Chu (楚文王) (Xiong Zi 熊貲), ruled
689–677 BCE: son of King Wu, moved the capital to Ying
Du'ao (堵敖) or Zhuang'ao (莊敖) (Xiong Jian 熊艱), ruled
676–672 BCE: son of King Wen, killed by younger brother, the
future King Cheng
King Cheng of Chu (楚成王) (Xiong Yun 熊惲), ruled
671–626 BCE: 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
King Mu of Chu (楚穆王) (Xiong Shangchen 熊商臣) ruled
625–614 BCE: son of King Cheng
King Zhuang of Chu
King Zhuang of Chu (楚莊王) (Xiong Lü 熊侶) ruled
613–591 BCE: son of King Mu. Defeated the State of Jin at the
Battle of Bi, and was recognized as a Hegemon.
King Gong of Chu
King Gong of Chu (楚共王) (Xiong Shen 熊審) ruled
590–560 BCE: son of King Zhuang. Defeated by Jin at the Battle
King Kang of Chu
King Kang of Chu (楚康王) (Xiong Zhao 熊招) ruled
559–545 BCE: son of King Gong
Jia'ao (郟敖) (Xiong Yuan 熊員) ruled 544–541 BCE: son of
King Kang, murdered by his uncle, the future King Ling.
King Ling of Chu (楚靈王) (Xiong Wei 熊圍, changed to Xiong Qian
熊虔) ruled 540–529 BCE: uncle of
Jia'ao and younger brother
of King Kang, overthrown by his younger brothers and committed
Zi'ao (訾敖) (Xiong Bi 熊比) ruled 529 BCE (less than 20
days): younger brother of King Ling, committed suicide.
King Ping of Chu (楚平王) (Xiong Qiji 熊弃疾, changed to Xiong
Ju 熊居) ruled 528–516 BCE: younger brother of Zi'ao, tricked
Zi'ao into committing suicide.
King Zhao of Chu (楚昭王) (Xiong Zhen 熊珍) ruled
515–489 BCE: son of King Ping. The
State of Wu
State of Wu captured the
capital Ying and he fled to the State of Sui.
King Hui of Chu (楚惠王) (Xiong Zhang 熊章) ruled
488–432 BCE: 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.
King Jian of Chu
King Jian of Chu (楚簡王) (Xiong Zhong 熊中) ruled
431–408 BCE: son of King Hui
King Sheng of Chu (楚聲王) (Xiong Dang 熊當) ruled
407–402 BCE: son of King Jian
King Dao of Chu (楚悼王) (
Xiong Yi 熊疑) ruled
401–381 BCE: son of King Sheng. He made
Wu Qi chancellor and
reformed the Chu government and army.
King Su of Chu
King Su of Chu (楚肅王) (Xiong Zang 熊臧) ruled
380–370 BCE: son of King Dao
King Xuan of Chu
King Xuan of Chu (楚宣王) (Xiong Liangfu 熊良夫) ruled
369–340 BCE: brother of King Su. Defeated and annexed the Zuo
state around 348 BCE.
King Wei of Chu (楚威王) (Xiong Shang 熊商) ruled
339–329 BCE: son of King Xuan. Defeated and partitioned the Yue
state with Qi state.
King Huai of Chu
King Huai of Chu (楚懷王) (Xiong Huai 熊槐) ruled
328–299 BCE: son of King Wei, was tricked and held hostage by
State of Qin
State of Qin until death in 296 BC
King Qingxiang of Chu (楚頃襄王) (Xiong Heng 熊橫) ruled
298–263 BCE: son of King Huai. As a prince, one of his elderly
tutors was buried at the site of the
Guodian Chu Slips
Guodian Chu Slips in Hubei. The
Chu capital of Ying was captured and sacked by Qin.
King Kaolie of Chu (楚考烈王) (Xiong Yuan 熊元) ruled
262–238 BCE: son of King Qingxiang. Moved capital to Shouchun.
King You of Chu
King You of Chu (楚幽王) (Xiong Han 熊悍) ruled
237–228 BCE: son of King Kaolie.
King Ai of Chu (楚哀王) (Xiong You 熊猶 or Xiong Hao 熊郝)
ruled 228 BCE: brother of King You, killed by Fuchu
Fuchu (楚王負芻) (熊負芻 Xiong Fuchu) ruled 227–223 BCE:
brother of King Ai. Captured by Qin troops and deposed
Lord Changping (昌平君) ruled 223 BCE (Chu conquered by Qin):
brother of Fuchu, killed in battle against Qin
Chen Sheng (陳勝) as King Yin of Chu (楚隱王) ruled
Jing Ju (景駒) as King Jia of Chu 楚假王 (Jia for fake) ruled
Xiong Xin (熊心) as
Emperor Yi of Chu (楚義帝) (originally King
Huai II 楚後懷王) ruled 208–206 BCE: grandson or
great-grandson of King Huai
Xiang Yu (項羽) as Hegemon-King of Western Chu (西楚霸王) ruled
Qu Yuan, famed for his poetry and the story that his suicide inspired
the Dragon Boat Festival
Lord Chunshen, one of the Four Lords of the Warring States
Xiang Yu, the Hegemon-King of Western Chu who defeated the Qin at Julu
and vied with Liu Bang in the Chu–Han Contention
Liu Bang, founder of the Han dynasty
Chu in astronomy
Main article: Chinese constellations
In traditional Chinese astronomy, Chu is represented by a star in the
"Twelve States" asterism, part of the "Girl" lunar mansion in the
"Black Turtle" symbol. Opinions differ, however, as to whether that
star is Phi or 24 Capricorni. It is also represented by the
Epsilon Ophiuchi in the "Right Wall" asterism in the "Heavenly
Prime Minister of Chu
^ "楚都丹阳". Archived from the original on 2011-07-07.
^ Baxter & Sagart (2014), p. 332.
合肥晚报. 2011-01-25. Archived from the original on
^ "科大考古队觅宝千余件". 凤凰网. 2011-01-25.
^ "关于黄帝和楚国的姓氏问题". zgxiong.com. Retrieved 23
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Historian (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 10 March 2012.
Retrieved 3 December 2011.
^ "Yu Ding: Evidence of the Extermination of the State of E during the
Western Zhou Dynasty (禹鼎：西周灭鄂国的见证)" (in
Chinese). Archived from the original on 4 August 2012. Retrieved 23
^ Lothar von Falkenahausen in Cambridge History of Ancient China,
1999, page 516
Cho-Yun Hsu in Cambridge History of Ancient China, 1999, page 556
^ "5.僖公 BOOK V. DUKE XI". The Institute for Advanced Technology in
the Humanities (in Traditional Chinese). Translated by James Legge
(with modifications from Andrew Miller). The Institute for Advanced
Technology in the Humanities. Retrieved 28 March 2018. from Zuo zhuan,
twelfth year of Duke Xi of Lu《左傳·僖公十二年》:
'The people of Huang, relying on the friendship of the States with Qi,
did not render the tribute which was due from them to Chu, saying
"From Ying [the capital of Chu] to us is 900 li; what harm can Chu do
to us?" This summer, Chu extinguished Huang." CS1 maint:
Unrecognized language (link)
^ a b c d e Gu, Donggao (1993). 春秋大事表. Zhonghua Book
Company. pp. 940–945, 972, 1140, 2055–2066.
^ Sources differ on the exact date.
^ a b Li and Zheng, page 188
^ "The Warring States" (in Chinese). Retrieved 4 October 2010.
^ Traditionally taken to be the Qu (屈), Jing (景), and Zhao (昭).
^ Sima Qian. Records of the Grand Historian, "Biography of Xiang Yu"
^ Lin, Qingzhang (2008). 中國學術思想研究輯刊: 二編,
Volume 6. p. 176. ISBN 9789866528071.
^ 瑞金, 苏丹, eds. (November 2012). "沙洋县行政区划图".
沙洋县人民政府门户网站 www.shayang.gov.cn (in Simplified
Chinese). 湖北中大空间地理信息数据中心. Retrieved 31
March 2018. ... 左冢村 ... CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter
(link) CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
^ "沙洋文化概况". 沙洋县人民政府门户网站
www.shayang.gov.cn (in Simplified Chinese). 沙洋县新闻中心.
Retrieved 31 March 2018. ...
... CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
^ 罗 Luo, 武干 Wugan; 秦 Qin, 颍 Ying; 黄 Huang, 凤春
Fengchun; 龚 Gong, 明 Ming; 王 Wang, 昌燧 Changsui (2006).
"湖北荆门左塚楚墓群出土金属器研究 Study on Metal
Objects from Zuozhong Chu Graveyard in Jingmen, Hubei". 江汉考古.
2006 (4): 73–81.
^ Behr 2006, pp. 1-21.
^ Behr 2009, pp. 1-48.
^ Chamberlain 2016, p. 41.
^ Behr 2017, p. 12.
^ Behr 2009, p. 23.
^ a b Behr 2009, p. 24.
^ Behr 2009, p. 34.
^ Behr 2009, p. 36.
^ Behr 2009, p. 37.
^ Behr 2009, p. 40.
^ Behr 2009, p. 41.
^ Chamberlain 2016, pp. 39-40.
^ Chamberlain 2016, p. 67.
^ a b Chamberlain 2016, p. 39.
^ a b Chamberlain 2016, p. 40.
^ 中國早期國家性質. Zhishufang Press. 2003. p. 372.
^ Song, Zhiying (2012).
《左传》研究文献辑刊（全二十二册）. Beijing: National
Library of China publishing house. ISBN 9787501346158.
^ Tian, Chengfang (Autumn 2008).
– via 简帛网.
^ Hong, Gang (2012). 财政史研究.
^ a b Gongyang Zhuan, Duke Wen, 6th year of, Duke Xuan, 8th year of
^ See also, the Tsinghua Bamboo Slips.
^ a b Ziju (子居). 清华简《楚居》解析 (in Chinese).
jianbo.org. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved
10 April 2012.
Shiji calls him Xiong Zhihong (熊摯紅), and says his
younger Xiong Yan killed him and usurped the throne. However, Zuo
Zhuan and Guoyu both say that
Xiong Zhi abdicated due to illness and
was succeeded by brother Xiong Yan.
Shiji also says he was the younger
brother of Xiong Kang, but historians generally agree that he was the
son of Xiong Kang.
^ Activities of Exhibition and Education in Astronomy.
"天文教育資訊網 Archived 2011-05-22 at the Wayback Machine.". 4
Jul 2006. (in Chinese)
^ Allen, Richard. "Star Names – Their Lore and Meaning:
^ "Richard Hinckley Allen: Star Names – Their Lore and Meaning:
Ophiuchus". penelope.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
^ AEEA. "天文教育資訊網 Archived 2011-05-22 at the Wayback
Machine.". 24 Jun 2006. (in Chinese)
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Records of the Grand Historian (史記).
Zuo Zhuan (左传）
张淑一. 《先秦姓氏制度考察》. (in Chinese)
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
Behr, Wolfgang (2017). "The language of the bronze inscriptions". In
Shaughnessy, Edward L. Kinship: Studies of Recently Discovered Bronze
Inscritpions from Ancient China. The Chinese University Press of Hong
Kong. pp. 9–32. ISBN 978-9-629-96639-3.
Behr, Wolfgang (2009). "Dialects, diachrony, diglossia or all three?
Tomb text glimpses into the language(s) of Chǔ". TTW-3, Zürich,
26.-29.VI.2009, “Genius loci”: 1–48.
Behr, Wolfgang (2006). "Some Chŭ 楚 words in early Chinese
literature". EACL-4, Budapest: 1–21.
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China and Vietnam". Journal of the Siam Society, Vol. 104:
Cook, Constance. Death in Ancient China: The Tale of One Man's
Journey. Leiden: Brill, 2006 ISBN 90-04-15312-8
Zhou dynasty states
Spring and Autumn