Pangeng Migrates to Yin-盘庚迁殷

During the establishment of the Shang Dynasty by Tang of Shang, the earliest capital was initially located in Bo (modern-day Shangqiu, Henan). From the founding by Cheng Tang to the downfall under King Zhou of Shang, a total of 17 generations and 31 kings passed, spanning over 600 years. In the first 300 years of this period, the Shang Dynasty underwent five capital relocations. Zhang Heng of the Eastern Han Dynasty wrote in his “Xi Jing Fu”: “The people of Yin moved frequently, eight times before and five times after.” “Before eight” refers to eight migrations of the Shang clan before the establishment of the Shang Dynasty, while “after five” refers to five relocations after Tang established the Shang Dynasty. These five relocations are recorded in the ancient text “Zhushu Jiniannian” and include: King Zhongding of Shang “relocated from Bo to Xiao,” He Jia “from Xiao to Xiang,” Zu Yi “resided in Bi,” Nan Geng “from Bi to Yan,” and Pan Geng “from Yan to North Meng, named Yin.”

Thousands of years ago, with limited productivity and inability to resist natural disasters, human societies faced the risk of destruction from floods, droughts, and other calamities. To find suitable living conditions, many tribes had to migrate, explaining the frequent relocations of the Shang clan. However, as the Shang Dynasty was established and entered the Bronze Age, human productivity significantly increased. The question arises: why did they continue to relocate their capital multiple times?

Examining the history of frequent capital relocations in the Shang Dynasty, the focus lies on the period from Zhong Ding to Pan Geng’s ninth generation. “Records of the Grand Historian – Annals of Yin” state: “Since Zhong Ding, the rightful heirs were abandoned, and various disciples were established, leading to disputes over succession. The disorder continued for nine generations, and as a result, no vassals attended court.” With the assistance of the talented Yi Yin, who supported five Shang monarchs, the foundation for an era of peace and prosperity was laid. However, the stability of the state led to the rulers indulging in luxury and extravagance, giving rise to a decadent lifestyle. The succession system favored brothers over sons, intensifying the struggle for the throne, leading to continuous political turmoil. Smaller states and minority groups took advantage of the chaos to rebel, compounded by natural disasters like floods and droughts, pushing the Shang Dynasty’s rule to the brink of collapse. For the monarchs, relocating the capital became a strategy to shift the crisis and escape the predicament. With multiple capital relocations after the establishment of the Shang Dynasty, by the time Yang Jia ascended to the throne, the capital had moved to Yan. At this point, the Shang royal family was marked by excesses, internal power struggles escalated, slave owners lived in luxury while slaves endured harsh exploitation, and rebellions erupted among regional lords, plunging the country into chaos. In these tumultuous times, Yang Jia died, and his brother Pan Geng succeeded him, marking the transition from Zhong Ding to Pan Geng and experiencing the “nine generations of disorder,” bringing the Shang Dynasty’s rule almost to the point of collapse.

Pan Geng, also known as Ban Geng in oracle bone script, was the grandson of Tang of Shang and the twentieth king of the Shang Dynasty. According to the “Chronicles of the Years of Xia, Shang, and Zhou,” he reigned from approximately 1300 BC to 1277 BC, a period of 28 years. Ascending the throne during turbulent times, Pan Geng was keenly aware of the country’s chaos and the people’s suffering, realizing that without intervention, the Shang Dynasty would face imminent demise. To ease social conflicts, overcome political challenges, and save the declining Shang Dynasty, Pan Geng decided to abandon the prosperous capital, Yan, and choose a place with long-term development potential to rejuvenate the state.

He dispatched envoys to survey various locations and learned that North Meng (modern-day Anyang, Henan), though sparsely populated and undeveloped, had fertile soil, abundant wildlife, and aquatic resources, making it more suitable for a capital than the low-lying Yan. Relocating to North Meng would also help curb the aristocracy’s extravagance, ease class conflicts, and mitigate natural disasters. Thus, Pan Geng decided to move the capital to North Meng, seizing the opportunity to resolve various conflicts at once.

However, as soon as Pan Geng’s decision to relocate was announced, it faced vehement opposition from the majority of the aristocracy. Concerned that their privileges would diminish after the move and enticed by the vibrancy of Yan, they were reluctant to shift to the desolate North Meng. Some aristocrats even incited the common people to resist, and opposition voices surrounded Pan Geng. Despite this, Pan Geng remained steadfast in his belief that the relocation would strengthen and consolidate his rule. In order to mobilize the relocation, he convened slave-owning aristocrats and delivered a crucial speech, emphasizing the benefits of the move, citing examples from ancient kings, and highlighting the unquestionable will of heaven. He explained that the relocation was in line with the mandate of heaven, seeking to pacify any dissent. Given the superstitions prevalent in slave societies, Pan Geng’s appeal to heavenly mandate proved effective in winning hearts. In his speech, he criticized ministers for neglecting their duties, failing to make the people understand the profound intentions of the relocation, leading to unwarranted disturbances. He sternly rebuked the royal aristocrats for their desire for comfort and resistance to relocation. He firmly stated that disobedience to the relocation order would be severely punished. Subsequently, Pan Geng softened his tone, citing examples of ancient rulers and ministers trusting each other, cooperating wholeheartedly, and enriching the country. He hoped that his officials would unite with him to overcome the current difficulties. The speech was reasonable, highly persuasive, and reflected