Fu proposes to appoint a prime minister-傅说拜相

After the relocation of the capital to Yin by Pan Geng, both the elite and the common people devoted all their energy to the construction of the new capital. Consequently, class contradictions were alleviated, and the national strength of the Shang Dynasty entered a period of ascent. Subsequently, upon Pan Geng’s death, the throne successively passed to his younger brothers Xiao Xin and Xiao Yi. However, both rulers had short reigns and minimal achievements. Following Xiao Yi’s death, the throne was inherited by Xiao Yi’s son, who was also Pan Geng’s nephew — King Wu Ding, becoming the 23rd monarch of the Shang Dynasty.

According to tradition, when King Wu Ding was still young, his father sent him to travel among the common people, allowing him to extensively engage with social life, comprehend the people’s sentiments, broaden his knowledge, and develop his abilities. King Wu Ding visited the common people along the banks of the Yellow River, gaining insights into their lives and establishing connections with many commoners and slaves. He did not assume the identity of a prince, remaining remarkably humble and eager to learn. In fact, he even participated in labor alongside these individuals. After spending several years in the commoners’ midst, King Wu Ding acquired practical skills through labor, experiencing the hardships and difficulties of life among the lower strata of society.

During the reigns of Xiao Xin and Xiao Yi, the Shang Dynasty faced continuous threats from the Western Rong. By the time King Wu Ding ascended the throne, the state of affairs had already deteriorated. However, King Wu Ding, with an expansive vision and lofty aspirations, decided to rejuvenate the nation. The “Records of the Grand Historian” mentions, “Emperor Wu Ding ascended the throne, thinking of revitalizing Yin but had yet to find suitable assistance.” In response, he commanded his ministers to search and recommend talented individuals across the country.

At that time, near the border between the ancient states of Yu and Guo, there was a place called Fu Yan. A wise man named Shuo, who had unknowingly become a slave, ended up working hard in Fu Yan. Fu Yan was a critical transportation hub for transporting salt to areas south of the Yellow River. With towering mountains, during the summer, melting snow at the mountaintops led to torrential floods, often submerging roads and disrupting traffic. The slaves employed the conventional method of using earth and stones to block floods, but the results were minimal. Shuo, who had worked alongside many slaves, keenly observed and thought diligently during the labor. He invented the cofferdam technique – filling the space between two wooden boards with mud and compacting it – creating sturdy earthen walls. This was a remarkable invention at the time. Not only could this method quickly construct embankments, but the built embankments were also indestructible. Later on, people even used this technique for road construction and building houses. Shuo became famous far and wide, and this method became a means of livelihood. Though he had talent, there was no way for him to demonstrate it.

Subsequently, when King Wu Ding conducted a nationwide search for talent, the laborers who built flood defenses in Fu Yan recommended Shuo to him. Upon hearing Shuo’s achievements, King Wu Ding personally went to meet him, seeking advice on governing the country and pacifying the realm. Shuo, eloquent and insightful in his responses, impressed King Wu Ding. Recognizing Shuo as a rare talent, King Wu Ding decided to employ him, even though Shuo was a slave.

After Shuo became the Grand Preceptor, he wholeheartedly devoted his intelligence and wisdom to King Wu Ding, assisting him in implementing political reforms. Under the slogan of “Jia Jing Yin Bang,” the Shang Dynasty experienced a revitalization in various aspects such as politics, economy, and culture. Both the aristocracy and commoners were content, and class contradictions were alleviated, leading to the resurgence of the Shang Dynasty. With enhanced national strength, King Wu Ding launched large-scale wars against various neighboring states, conquering many small nations, expanding the territory, and capturing numerous captives to serve as slaves. This era, known as the “Wu Ding Revival” or the “Yin Dao Revival,” marked the pinnacle of the Shang Dynasty’s rule.

King Wu Ding reigned for 59 years, becoming the most accomplished monarch after Pan Geng. With his extraordinary talents and strategic vision, he created a golden era for the Shang Dynasty. After his death, he was honored as Gao Zong. Shuo, who played a crucial role in achieving these accomplishments, was honored by King Wu Ding as a sage and later became known as “Fu Shuo.” Fu Shuo, with high moral character and exceptional abilities, contributed significantly to the Shang Dynasty’s rejuvenation, making him a renowned political figure, military strategist, thinker, and architectural scientist during the Shang period. His invention of the “cofferdam technique” or, colloquially, “earth wall construction” represented a monumental achievement in the history of architectural science in China and advanced global architectural history. As the chief minister, he left behind three pieces known as “Shuo Ming,” recorded in the Confucian classic “Shang Shu.” The trilogy, presented in the form of dialogues between the ruler and ministers, reflects his political ideals and grand aspirations. The first part records the initial meeting between Fu Shuo and King Wu Ding, discussing the king’s need to be receptive to advice. The second part captures the dialogue between Fu Shuo and King Wu Ding regarding strategies for governing the country. The third part consists of mutual encouragement between the ruler and ministers, with the famous line “Knowing it is not difficult; doing it is what is difficult” standing the test of time.