Revitalization of King Xuan-宣王中兴

In the 14th year of the Republic (828 BCE), King Li of Zhou passed away in Zhi, and at that time, the heir, Prince Ji Jing, of the Duke of Shao’s family had come of age. The two Dukes of Zhou and Shao decided to enthrone Ji Jing as the king, transferring power to him. The following year, Ji Jing ascended the throne, becoming the 11th king of the Zhou Dynasty, known as King Xuan.

King Xuan, having learned from the painful lessons of his father King Li, immediately proclaimed to the people upon his ascension that mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes are shared resources for all, and even the royal nobility cannot monopolize them. In matters of governance, he promised to consult with ministers and avoid arbitrary decisions. Furthermore, he actively sought and appointed capable individuals such as Zhongshan Fu, Fang Shu, and Yin Jifu, among others, building a solid foundation for his rule with the assistance of the two Dukes of Zhou and Shao. Under his reforms, the declining Zhou Dynasty experienced a temporary revival.

His major achievements included successful campaigns against minority ethnic groups like the Rong, Di, and Huaiyi, who posed threats to the Zhou Dynasty. During times of internal unrest, the Huaiyi and Western Rong took advantage and continually harassed the Zhou borders. During the Republican period, to stabilize the situation, the two Dukes of Zhou and Shao adopted a defensive strategy without launching counterattacks. Therefore, in the early years of King Xuan’s reign, he focused his efforts on campaigns against these minority groups. During King Li’s reign, the Western Rong invaded the state of Qin and seized Quanqiu. King Xuan leveraged the conflict between the Western Rong and the State of Qin, appointing Qin Zhong, the ruler of Qin, as a senior official and launching an attack on the Western Rong. Shortly afterward, King Xuan commanded Yin Jifu and Nan Zhong to campaign against the Western Rong.

In the fifth year of King Xuan’s reign, he personally led a military expedition, marching against the Western Rong alongside Yin Jifu. Yin Jifu led his troops straight to Taiyuan (present-day Zhangyuan in Gansu), forcing the Western Rong to retreat to the northwest. Following this conflict, King Xuan instructed Yin Jifu to lead the army in a southeastern campaign, overseeing the tribute from various vassal states managed by Cheng Zhou. The success of the Western Zhou’s campaign against the Western Rong greatly deterred the Huaiyi states, prompting them to express their willingness to submit, offering yearly tributes of cloth, grain, and manpower.

In the sixth year of King Xuan’s reign, during the war with the Western Rong, Qin Zhong was killed. Qin Zhong’s eldest son succeeded him, known as Duke Zhuang of Qin. King Xuan commanded Duke Zhuang and his four brothers, leading seven thousand troops, to once again campaign against the Western Rong, ultimately achieving victory. King Xuan conferred the title of Grand Duke of Xi on Duke Zhuang, reclaiming Quanqiu. Later, King Xuan personally led a large army to campaign against the Western Rong again, and the decisive battle took place at Pengya (northwest of Chengyu in present-day Shaanxi). The Zhou army achieved a decisive victory, and the Western Rong refrained from further aggression for several years.

Simultaneously, King Xuan commanded Duke Mu of Shao and officials Nan Zhong, Grand Master Huangfu, and Grand Marshal Cheng Boxiufu to lead troops against the Huaiyi tribes infringing upon the Jianghan region. The army traveled along the Huai River to the east, benevolently benefiting the people along the way, earning the allegiance of the regions and subduing the powerful state of Xu in the southeast, which expressed its willingness to pay tribute.

In the eighteenth year of King Xuan’s reign, Duke Nan Zhong was tasked with inspecting the submission of various states in the Huaiyi region, and each state enthusiastically welcomed the king’s command, expressing loyalty and offering tributes. Seeing the willingness of all states to submit to the Zhou Dynasty, King Xuan made the determined decision to march south and campaign against Chu.

During the reign of King Zhao of Zhou, Chu had dealt a heavy blow to the Zhou Dynasty’s Western Six Armies. During King Mu’s reign, Chu submitted to Zhou, assisting in the suppression of King Yan of Xu. In the time of King Yi, the Xiongnu sealed three sons as kings, showing their refusal to submit to Zhou. In King Li’s reign, they voluntarily removed the royal title, signifying their submission. During the people’s rebellion, Chu took advantage of the chaos in the Zhou court, invaded various states, expanded its influence, and resisted the Zhou Dynasty. Chu’s inconsistent behavior had been a chronic issue for the Zhou Dynasty. In King Xuan’s time, the Huaiyi states were already submissive to Zhou, but they still faced occasional oppression from Chu. Chu often used force to seize the tributes these states offered to the Zhou court. Initially, due to insufficient national strength and continuous campaigns against the Western Rong, King Xuan had to tolerate Chu’s intrusions. However, as the northwest was pacified, and the country grew stronger, Chu continued its provocations without restraint. Enraged, King Xuan decided to mobilize a large army for a southern expedition, aiming to subdue Jing and Chu, sweeping through the southern regions.

The commander-in-chief for this southern expedition was Duke Mu of Shao, with General Fang Shu as his deputy. Fang Shu led a vanguard of three thousand chariots, and Duke Mu’s grand army received substantial support from various vassal states along the way. The Zhou army, with unified signals using gold and drums, achieved coordinated command, presenting a formidable force. With unified military operations, they finally defeated the Chu army, and Duke Mu’s forces penetrated deep into Chu territory. Chu suffered heavy losses, was unable to continue the war, and had to relocate south along the Jing Mountains, expressing willingness to submit to the Zhou Dynasty.

Considering Chu’s inconsistent behavior, King Xuan, after careful deliberation, collaborated with his maternal uncle Shen Bo to formulate the “Chu Suppression Strategy.” This strategy aimed to prevent Chu from rebelling again, ensuring the safety of the Zhou Dynasty by establishing a robust defense line in the south.

King Xuan continued to adopt the early Western Zhou system of enfeoffment, granting numerous fiefs in the southern regions to establish marquisates. A vast coalition of marquisates, primarily comprised of royal family members with the surname Ji, created a barrier between Chu and the Zhou Dynasty. In case of another rebellion by Chu, these marquisates could join forces to resist Chu’s northern invasion, acting as a deterrent. These enfeoffed royal family members were referred to as the “Han Yang Ji Clan.” Additionally, some states that had been enfeoffed earlier were included in the “Han Yang Ji Clan.”

At this point, the Zhou Dynasty stabilized its northwest region and established a solid barrier in the southeast. King Xuan actively engaged in state affairs, encouraging economic development, leading to the resurgence of the Zhou Dynasty, known as the “Revival