Shu (state)

Shu (Chinese: ) was an ancient state in what is now Sichuan Province. It was based on the Chengdu Plain, in the western Sichuan basin with some extension northeast to the upper Han River valley. To the east was the Ba tribal confederation. Further east down the Han and Yangtze rivers was the State of Chu. To the north over the Qinling Mountains was the State of Qin. To the west and south were tribal peoples of little military power.

This independent Shu state was conquered by the state of Qin in 316 BC. Recent archaeological discoveries at Sanxingdui and Jinsha thought to be sites of Shu culture indicate the presence of a unique civilization in this region before the Qin conquest.

In subsequent periods of Chinese history the Sichuan area continued to be referred to as Shu after this ancient state, and later states founded in the same region were also called Shu.

Kingdom of Shu

?–c. 316 BC
Map showing the Kingdom of Shu during Zhou dynasty
Map showing the Kingdom of Shu during Zhou dynasty
Historical eraSpring and Autumn period
• Established
c. 1046 BC
• Conquered by Qin
c. 316 BC
Succeeded by
Qin (state)
Shu (Chinese characters)
"Shu" in seal script (top) and regular (bottom) Chinese characters

Early independent state of Shu

Gold Mask (黄金面罩)
A bronze head with gold foil created by the inhabitants of Shu during the thirteenth or twelfth century BCE.

Before 316 BC the Sichuan Basin was isolated from what was then China, which was centered in the Yellow River basin to the northeast. The discovery of Sanxingdui in 1987 was a major surprise since it indicated a major semi-Chinese culture that was previously unknown. Circa 2050-1250 BC the site of Sanxingdui 40 km north of Chengdu appears to have been the center of a fairly extensive kingdom. Objects found in two treasure pits are in a style distinct from objects found from further north. This culture is suggested by many archaeologists to be that of the Shu kingdom.

There are very few mentions of Shu in the early Chinese historical records until the 4th century BC. Although there are possible references to a "Shu" in Shang Dynasty oracle bones inscriptions that indicate contact between Shu and Shang, it is not clear if the Shu mentioned refer to the kingdom in Sichuan or other different polities elsewhere.[1] Shu was first mentioned in Shujing as one of the allies of King Wu of Zhou who helped defeated the Shang in 1046 BC at the Battle of Muye.[2] However, shortly after Zhou's conquest, it was mentioned in Yizhoushu that a subordinate of King Wu led an expedition against Shu.[1] After the battle of Muye, northern influences on Shu seem to have increased and then decreased while the Shu remained culturally distinct; archaeology suggests contacts with Shu in the late Shang and early Zhou period, but little evidence of influence from later Zhou.[1] The expulsion of the Zhou from the Wei River valley in 771 BC probably increased Shu's isolation.

A large bronze head with protruding eyes believed to be a depiction of Cancong, the semi-legendary first king of Shu

Written accounts of Shu are largely a mixture of mythological stories and historical legends found in local annals and miscellaneous notes,[3] which include the Han dynasty compilation Shuwang benji (蜀王本紀) and the Jin dynasty Chronicles of Huayang.[4][5] There are a few names of semi-legendary kings, such as Cancong (蠶叢, meaning "silkworm-bush", claimed to be the founder of silkworm cultivation in Sichuan), Boguan (柏灌, "cypress-irrigator"), Yufu (魚鳧, "cormorant"), and Duyu (杜宇, "cuckoo"). According to Chronicles of Huayang, Cancong was the first of the legendary kings and had protruding eyes, while Duyu taught the people agriculture and transformed into a cuckoo after his death.[1][6] In 666 BC a man from Chu called Bieling (鱉靈, meaning "turtle spirit") founded the Kaiming (開明) dynasty which lasted twelve generations until the Qin conquest. Legend has it that Bieling had died in Chu and his body floated upriver to Shu, whereupon he came back to life. While at Shu, he was successful in managing a flood and Duyu then abdicated in his favor. A later account states that the Kaiming kings occupied the far south of Shu before travelling up the Min River and taking over from Duyu.[7]

Ba-Shu culture

As the state of Chu expanded westward up the Han and Yangtze valleys it pushed the Ba peoples west toward Shu. For the 5th and 4th centuries BC in Sichuan archaeologists speak of a mixed Ba-Shu culture, although the two peoples remained distinct. There was also some Chu influence on the Shu court. In 474 BC Shu emissaries presented gifts to the Qin court which was the first recorded contact between these two states. Later Shu troops crossed the Qinling Mountains and approached the Qin capital of Yong, and in 387 Shu and Qin troops clashed near Hanzhong on the upper Han river.

Shu under Qin and Han

Conquest by Qin in 316 BC

Chinese plain 5c. BC-en
Sichuan Basin before the Qin conquest, 5th century BCE

About 356-338 BC Shang Yang strengthened the Qin state by centralizing it. In 337 BC Shu emissaries congratulated King Huiwen of Qin on his accession. At about this time the Stone Cattle Road was built over the mountains to connect Qin and Shu. About 316 BC the Marquis of Zu, who held part of the Stone Cattle Road, became involved with Ba and quarreled with his brother, the twelfth Kaiming King. The Marquis was defeated and fled to Ba and then to Qin. Zhang Yi proposed that Qin should ignore these barbarians and continue its eastward expansion onto the central plain. Sima Cuo proposed that Qin should use its superior army to annex Shu, develop its resources and use the added strength for a later attack eastward. Sima Cuo's proposal was accepted and both advisors were sent south as generals. The two armies met near Jaimeng on the Jialing River in Ba territory. The Kaiming king lost several battles and withdrew southward to Wuyang where he was captured and killed. Qin then turned on its allies and annexed Ba.

Qin and Han rule

In 314 BC the late Kaiming king's son was appointed Marquis Yaotong of Shu to rule in conjunction with a Qin governor. In 311 BC an official named Chen Zhuang revolted and killed Yaotong. Sima Cuo and Zhang Yi again invaded Sichuan and killed Chen Zhuang. Another Kaiming called Hui was made Marquis. In 301 BC he was involved in an intrigue and chose suicide when confronted with Sima Cuo's army. His son, Wan, the last Kaiming marquis, reigned from 300 until 285 BC when he was put to death. (Some say that An Duong Vuong in Vietnamese history was a member of the Kaiming family who led his people southward away from the Chinese.)

The conquest had more than doubled Qin's territory and gave it an area safe from the other states except Chu, but the land had to be developed before its taxes could be converted into military strength. Shu was made a "jun" or commandery and became a testing ground for this type of administration. Chengdu was surrounded by an enormous wall. Land was redistributed and divided into rectangular plots. Tens of thousands of colonists were brought in from the north. Many were convicts or people displaced by the wars further north. They were marched south in columns supervised by Qin officials. The great Dujiangyan Irrigation System was begun to divert the Min River east to the Chengdu Plain. Qin intervention in Ba was less extensive, apparently to avoid alienating a warlike people on the border of Chu.

During the conquest Chu was still tied up in the east with the annexation of Yue. In 312 BC Qin and Chu troops clashed on the upper Han River. Zhang Yi used a mixture of threat and bluff to block any interference from Chu. Later a Chu general named Zhuang Qiao pushed west and occupied the tribal territory south of the Yangtze south of Shu. In 281 BC Sima Cuo crossed the Yangtze and cut him off from Chu. He responded by declaring himself an independent king and he and his troops gradually blended into the local population. Starting in 280 BC or before general Bai Qi pushed down the Han River and took the Chu capital (278 BC). In 277 BC the Three Gorges area was taken. The effect was to create a new Qin frontier east of Sichuan.

Sichuan remained quiescent during the wars before and after the Qin Dynasty indicating the Qin policy of assimilation had been successful. Archaeological remains in Shu from this period are very similar to those of northern China, while the Ba area remained somewhat distinct. When Liu Bang launched his campaign to found the Han Dynasty Sichuan was an important supply base. In 135 BC, under the expansionist Emperor Wu of Han, general Tang Meng, attempting an indirect approach to the Kingdom of Nanyue, made a push south of the Yangtze River and a little later Sima Xiangru pushed into the hill country west of Sichuan. These campaigns into tribal territory proved more expensive than they were worth and in 126 BC they were both cancelled to shift resources to the Xiongnu wars in the north. In the same year Zhang Qian returned from the west and reported that it might be possible to reach India from Sichuan. An attempt to do this was blocked by the hill tribes. In 112 BC Tang Meng resumed his expansionist wars southward. His harsh methods provoked a near mutiny in Sichuan and Sima Xiangru was brought in to enforce a more moderate policy. By this time Chinese expansion across flat agricultural country had reached a natural geographical limit. Expansion into the hill country to the south and west was much slower.

Shu in astronomy

Shu is represented by star Alpha Serpentis in asterism Right Wall, Heavenly Market enclosure (see Chinese constellation),[8] together with Lambda Serpentis in R.H.Allen's works.[9]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Terry F. Kleeman (1998). Ta Chʻeng, Great Perfection - Religion and Ethnicity in a Chinese Millennial Kingdom. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 19–22. ISBN 0-8248-1800-8.
  2. ^ Shujing Original text: 王曰:「嗟!我友邦塚君御事,司徒、司鄧、司空,亞旅、師氏,千夫長、百夫長,及庸,蜀、羌、髳、微、盧、彭、濮人。稱爾戈,比爾干,立爾矛,予其誓。」
  3. ^ Sanxingdui Museum; Wu Weixi; Zhu Yarong (2006). The Sanxingdui site: mystical mask on ancient Shu Kingdom. 五洲传播出版社. pp. 7–8. ISBN 7-5085-0852-1.
  4. ^ Sun Hua (2013). "Chapter 8: The Sanxingdui Culture of Sichuan". In Anne P. Underhill (ed.). A Companion to Chinese Archaeology. Wiley. ISBN 978-1-118-32578-0.
  5. ^ Rowan K. Flad, Pochan Chen (2013). Ancient Central China: Centers and Peripheries Along the Yangzi River. Cambridge University Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0521899000.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  6. ^ Chang Qu. "Book 3 (卷三)". Chronicles of Huayang (華陽國志). pp. 90–91.
  7. ^ Steven F. Sage. Ancient Sichuan and the Unification of China. State University of New York Press. pp. 45–46. ISBN 978-0791410387.
  8. ^ (in Chinese) AEEA (Activities of Exhibition and Education in Astronomy) 天文教育資訊網 2006 年 6 月 24 日
  9. ^ Star Names, R.H.Allen p.376
  • Steven F. Sage. 'Ancient Sichuan and the Unification of China', 1992, which this article mostly summarizes
An Dương Vương

An Dương Vương (Vietnamese: [ʔaːn jɨəŋ vɨəŋ]) is the title of Thục Phán, who ruled over the kingdom of Âu Lạc (now Vietnam) from 257 to 207 BC. As the leader of the Âu Việt tribes, he defeated and seized the throne from the last Hùng king of the state of Văn Lang and united its people–known as the Lạc Việt—with the Âu Việt. In 208 BC, the capital Cổ Loa was attacked and the imperial citadel ransacked. An Dương Vương fled and committed suicide.

Cao Bin

Cao Bin (曹彬) (931-999) was a military general in imperial China. A nephew-in-law of Guo Wei, who founded the Later Zhou in 951, Cao first rose up through the ranks of the Later Zhou military. After the Song Dynasty replaced Later Zhou in 960, Cao participated in the conquest of the Later Shu state in 965, where he distinguished himself from the other generals for disciplining his troops from pillaging the area, and was promoted as a result. In 974, he was named the overall commander to invade the Southern Tang state, which he successfully conquered in 976, again taking careful measures to prevent unnecessary killing. However, in one last campaign in 986 against the northern Liao Dynasty, he suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Yelü Xiuge.


Chengdu (UK: , US: , Standard Mandarin: [ʈʂʰə̌ŋ.tú] (listen)), formerly romanized as Chengtu, is a sub-provincial city which serves as the capital of Sichuan province, People's Republic of China. It is one of the three most populous cities in Western China, the other two being Chongqing and Xi'an. As of 2014, the administrative area housed 14,427,500 inhabitants, with an urban population of 10,152,632. At the time of the 2010 census, Chengdu was the 5th-most populous agglomeration in China, with 10,484,996 inhabitants in the built-up area including Xinjin County and Deyang's Guanghan City. Chengdu is also considered a World City with a "Beta +" classification according to the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.The surrounding Chengdu Plain is also known as the "Country of Heaven" (Chinese: 天府之国; pinyin: Tiānfǔ zhi Guó) and the "Land of Abundance". Its prehistoric settlers included the Sanxingdui culture. Founded by the state of Shu prior to its incorporation into China, Chengdu is unique as a major Chinese settlement that has maintained its name (nearly) unchanged throughout the imperial, republican, and communist eras. It was the capital of Liu Bei's Shu during the Three Kingdoms Era, as well as several other local kingdoms during the Middle Ages. It is now one of the most important economic, financial, commercial, cultural, transportation, and communication centers in Western China. Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, a hub of Air China and Sichuan Airlines is one of the 30 busiest airports in the world, and Chengdu railway station is one of the six biggest in China. Chengdu also hosts many international companies and more than 12 consulates. More than 260 Fortune 500 companies have established branches in Chengdu.

Deng Ai

Deng Ai (197 – March 264), courtesy name Shizai, was a military general of the state of Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China. He is best known for his pivotal role in the Wei conquest of its rival state, Shu, in 263. He was described as a very loyal subject who made great contributions to Wei, but was also noted for his arrogance and audacity, which led to his downfall and death.

Born in a peasant family, Deng Ai started his career as a minor agricultural officer. Sometime between 235 and 239, he met Sima Yi, who recognised his talent and gave him a higher position in the civil service. Around this time, he also wrote a proposal on starting agricultural works in the Huai River region, and received credit for his ideas. Deng Ai gained greater prominence in Wei from 249 onwards after he joined the Wei general Guo Huai in stopping a Shu invasion. He also advised the regent Sima Shi on some issues. In 255, he participated in the suppression of a rebellion started by the generals Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin, and was promoted to the status of a top general. From 255 to 262, he defended Wei's western borders in present-day Gansu from multiple incursions by the Shu forces led by the general Jiang Wei.

Deng Ai reached the pinnacle of his career in 263, when he led Wei forces to conquer Shu. By leading a strike force through a shortcut across dangerous mountainous terrain, Deng Ai showed up in the vicinity of the Shu capital, Chengdu, and took the enemy by surprise. After a failed attempt by the Shu general Zhuge Zhan to stop Deng Ai at Mianzhu, the Shu emperor Liu Shan voluntarily surrendered to Deng Ai and brought an end to the Shu state. Following his success in the Shu campaign, Deng Ai became arrogant about his achievements and showed disregard for the Wei government's authority. The Wei general Zhong Hui exploited and manipulated Deng Ai's arrogance to great effect. In 264, Deng Ai was arrested by Wei Guan and Zhong Hui, who were acting under order by the Wei regent Sima Zhao. He was placed in a prison cart and escorted to the capital Luoyang, but was killed en route by soldiers sent by Wei Guan. His sons were executed as well. His surviving family members were exiled but allowed to return in 265 after the Jin dynasty was established.


The Dujiangyan (Chinese: 都江堰; pinyin: Dūjiāngyàn) is an ancient irrigation system in Dujiangyan City, Sichuan, China. Originally constructed around 256 BC by the State of Qin as an irrigation and flood control project, it is still in use today. The system's infrastructure develops on the Min River (Minjiang), the longest tributary of the Yangtze. The area is in the west part of the Chengdu Plain, between the Sichuan basin and the Tibetan plateau. Originally, the Min would rush down from the Min Mountains and slow down abruptly after reaching the Chengdu Plain, filling the watercourse with silt, thus making the nearby areas extremely prone to floods. Li Bing, then governor of Shu for the state of Qin, and his son headed the construction of the Dujiangyan, which harnessed the river using a new method of channeling and dividing the water rather than simply damming it. The water management scheme is still in use today to irrigate over 5,300 square kilometres (2,000 sq mi) of land in the region. The Dujiangyan, the Zhengguo Canal in Shaanxi and the Lingqu Canal in Guangxi are collectively known as the "three great hydraulic engineering projects of the Qin."

Empress Zhou

Empress Zhou (周皇后) may refer to:

Empress Zhou (Former Shu) (given name unknown) (died 918), Chinese empress of the Former Shu state

Empress Zhou (Ming Dynasty) (given name unknown) (died 1644), Chinese empress of the Ming Dynasty

Later Tang

Tang, known in history as Later Tang, was a short-lived imperial dynasty that lasted from 923 to 937 during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in the history of China.The first three of Later Tang's four emperors were ethnically sinicized Shatuo. The name Tang was used to legitimize itself as the restorer of the Tang dynasty (618–907). Although Later Tang officially began in 923, the dynasty already existed in the years before, as a polity called Jin (907–923).

At its height, Later Tang controlled most of northern China.

List of World Heritage Sites in China

This is a list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China. China has 53, ranking second in the world. China ratified The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage on 12 December 1985. These sites comprise some of the most essential part of China's valuable and rich tourism resources.

List of political entities in the 6th century BC

Political entities in the 7th century BC – Political entities in the 5th century BC – Political entities by century

This is a list of sovereign states or polities that existed in the 6th century BC.

List of political entities in the 7th century BC

Political entities in the 8th century BC – Political entities in the 6th century BC – Political entities by century

This is a list of states or polities that existed in the 7th century BC.

List of political entities in the 8th century BC

Political entities in the 9th century BC – Political entities in the 7th century BC – Political entities by century

This is a list of states or polities that existed in the 8th century BC.

Lü Kai

Lü Kai (fl. 223–225), courtesy name Jiping, was an official of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period of China.

Meng Zhixiang

Meng Zhixiang (孟知祥, May 10, 874–September 7, 934, courtesy name Baoyin, 保胤, formally Emperor Gaozu of [later] Shu, [後]蜀高祖) was a general of the Later Tang who went on to found the independent state of Later Shu during the Chinese Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. Meng Zhixiang was an in-law of the Later Tang ruling family, who went by the family name Li. Meng married the eldest sister or perhaps a cousin of the founding emperor, Zhuangzong. Meng served the Later Tang as the military governor (Jiedushi) of Xichuan Circuit (西川, headquartered in modern Chengdu, Sichuan), after the conquest of Former Shu. After Emperor Zhuangzong's death, Meng was more distant to the succeeding emperor. The new emperor was Emperor Zhuangzong's adoptive brother, Emperor Mingzong. Meng, fearing accusations by Emperor Mingzong's chief advisor An Chonghui, rebelled, in alliance with Dong Zhang, military governor of neighboring Dongchuan Circuit (東川, headquartered in modern Mianyang, Sichuan). The Meng-Dong alliance repelled subsequent attempts to suppress or control them, although they continued as nominal subjects of Mingzong. Eventually, Meng overpowered Dong, thus assuming control of both allied domains. Meng continued as titular vassal to Mingzong for the rest of that emperor's reign; but, afterwards, Meng Zhixiang declared himself suzerain of an independent state named Shu, in 934, now called Later Shu to avoid confusion with other political entities sharing the same name.


Sanxingdui (Chinese: 三星堆; pinyin: Sānxīngduī; literally: 'three stars mound') is the name of an archaeological site and a major Bronze Age culture in modern Guanghan, Sichuan, China. Largely discovered in 1986, following a preliminary finding in 1929, archaeologists excavated remarkable artifacts that radiocarbon dating placed in the 12th–11th centuries BCE. The type site for the Sanxingdui culture that produced these artifacts, archeologists have identified the locale with the ancient kingdom of Shu. The artifacts are displayed in the Sanxingdui Museum located near the city of Guanghan.The discovery at Sanxingdui, as well as other discoveries such as the Xingan tombs in Jiangxi, challenges the traditional narrative of Chinese civilization spreading from the central plain of the Yellow River, and Chinese archaeologists have begun to speak of "multiple centers of innovation jointly ancestral to Chinese civilization."Sanxingdui, along with the Jinsha site and the Tombs of boat-shaped coffins, is on UNESCO's list of tentative world heritage sites.

Shu Han

Shu or Shu Han ([ʂù xân] (listen); 221–263) was one of the three major states that competed for supremacy over China in the Three Kingdoms period (220–280). The state was based in the area around present-day Sichuan and Chongqing, which was historically known as "Shu" after an earlier state in Sichuan named Shu. Shu Han's founder Liu Bei had named his state "Han" as he considered it the legitimate successor to the Han dynasty, while "Shu" is added to the name as a geographical prefix to differentiate it from the many "Han" states throughout Chinese history.


The Shudao (Chinese: 蜀道; pinyin: Shǔdào), or the Road(s) to Shu, is a system of mountain roads linking the Chinese province of Shaanxi with Sichuan (Shu), built and maintained since the 4th century BC. Technical highlights were the gallery roads, consisting of wooden planks erected on wooden or stone beams slotted into holes cut into the sides of cliffs.

Sichuan Basin

The Sichuan Basin (Chinese: 四川盆地; pinyin: Sìchuān Péndì), formerly transliterated as the Szechwan Basin, sometimes called the Red Basin, is a lowland region in southwestern China. It is surrounded by mountains on all sides and is drained by the Yangtze River and its tributaries. The basin is anchored by Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, in the west, and the independent municipality of Chongqing in the east. Due to its relative flatness and fertile soils, it is able to support a population of more than 100 million. In addition to being a dominant geographical feature of the region, the Sichuan Basin also constitutes a cultural sphere that is distinguished by its own unique customs, cuisine, and dialects. It is famous for its rice cultivation and is often considered the breadbasket of China. In the 21st century its industrial base is expanding with growth in the high-tech, aerospace, and petroleum industries.

蜀 (pinyin: shǔ) can refer to the following:

Various states that have existed within present-day Sichuan:

Shu (state) (蜀国/蜀國 or 古蜀)

Shu Han (蜀汉/蜀漢), a state that existed during the Three Kingdoms Period in Chinese history

Cheng Han (成汉/成漢), also named Later Shu (后蜀/後蜀), one of the Sixteen Kingdoms

Western Shu (西蜀), also named Qiao Shu (谯蜀/譙蜀), one of the units of the Eastern Jin period

Former Shu (前蜀), one of the divisions of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period

Later Shu (后蜀/後蜀), one of the divisions of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period

An abbreviation for modern Sichuan Province, People's Republic of China

Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinShǔ
Yue: Cantonese
Yale RomanizationSuhk
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Old Chinese
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Sichuan topics
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