Jiang Ziya Defects to the Zhou Dynasty
Since the beginning of the Chinese civilization, many great dynasties have risen and fallen. The demise of each dynasty was most certainly due to foolish and self-indulgent tyranny or the poor decision-making of a self-serving prime minister and corrupt court officials. Equally certain was the advent of a righteous new ruler who would comply with the will of heaven, rectify the chaos, and re-establish order in China. He would attract civil and military officials who could clearly distinguish the will of heaven, which was to assist the new righteous ruler in establishing and governing a new dynasty.
Jiang Ziya was a civil official of the Emperor Zhou (1105 – 1046 BC) of the Shang Dynasty (1675 – 1046 BC), a self-indulgent tyrant. Once he decided that Emperor Zhou would soon bring his own ruin, Jiang Ziya made a wise decision to forsake him, and defect to the Zhou kingdom where Jiang Ziya helped usher in the Zhou Dynasty and eventually became the first famous Prime Minister in the history of China.
Jiang Ziya's original family name was Lu and ancestral name was Jiang. His given name at birth was Shang. His courtesy name was Ziya. According to legend, when Lu Shang defected to the Zhou kingdom, King Wen of Zhou excitedly exclaimed, "I have hoped for you to come to me for a long time!" Then King Wen blessed Lu Shang with an honorable title of "Tai Gong Wang", which means, "longing to meet the greatly esteemed elderly gentleman". When the next ruler, King Wu of Zhou, inherited the throne, he called Lu Shang "Master Lu Shang." Lu Shang assisted King Wu in conquering the Shang Dynasty, establishing the Zhou Dynasty and constantly provided outstanding service to him. Eventually, the Emperor appointed Lu Shang as the feudal lord Jiang of the Qi kingdom. This is why he is commonly known as Jiang Tai Gong, or "the greatly esteemed elderly gentleman Jiang."
Lu Shang grew up in an obscure family, struggling with poverty. He was born in the Shang Dynasty during a turbulent time. Lu Shang was very intelligent and clever from a young age. He read extensively and had a photographic memory. He had the necessary knowledge and ambition to govern a nation. Finally, Lu Shang had the opportunity to work as a senior civil official for Emperor Zhou of the Shang Dynasty. Unfortunately, Emperor Zhou was not only the worst of libertines but also an alcoholic. He was a tyrant and had no regard for moral values. He used extreme measures to control his court officials, treated the feudal lords disrespectfully, and brutally persecuted his own people. He plagued the Shang society with a dark, extremely corrupt administration. The Shang Dynasty was on the brink of ruin.
The ambitious Lu Shang obviously had clear insight about the Shang Dynasty. One day, Emperor Zhou summoned Lu Shang and ordered him to supervise the construction of the "Deer Platform" [Note: a deer symbolizes China, or the ruling of China.] Emperor Zhou specifically required that the "Deer Platform" must be forty-nine ancient feet in height (over 27 feet). Moreover, on top of the "Deer Platform" there must be lavish green buildings, as well as a palace with a two story pavilion, balustrades decorated with agate, and pillars decorated with gemstones. After studying the architectural design diagrams, Lu Shang calculated in his mind, "Chao Ge (the capital city of the Shang Dynasty) is not the place for me. The construction of the Deer Platform would exhaust the people and waste economic resources, but if I should try to persuade this tyrant to drop the plan, he would certainly refuse to listen and would surely kill me using tortures such as grilling me on a giant hot iron beam. I might as well pretend to go along with his wish, and find a way to defect to another country. Why should I not defect when hope has forsaken this land?" He pretended to obey the order, and hurried home immediately. His wife, whose maiden name was Ma, greeted him excitedly and said, "Congratulations on your returning home today!" But Lu Shang coldly replied, "I quit." Ma was shocked and inquired about the reason. Lu Shang replied, "Emperor Zhou wants to satisfy concubine Da Ji's request by constructing a Deer Platform. He ordered me to supervise the construction, but I cannot bear to see the suffering and calamities of myriads of poverty-stricken people because of this unnecessary project. I have decided that Emperor Zhou is not a wise emperor and I do not wish to serve him. My wife, we will head to Xi Qi, and see where fortune will lead us."
Xi Qi was a feudal estate that belonged to the Duke of Xi Bo named Ji Chang, who later established the Zhou kingdom and became King Wen. During his reign, Ji Chang conducted himself with compassion and righteousness, respected the old, and cared for the young. In terms of the nation's development, Ji Chang actively recruited talent, developed the nation's economy, cut unnecessary expenses, and always tried to find ways to increase people's income. Soon Xi Qi was in prosperity and order. The feudal lords around Xi Qi began to rally around Ji Chang. People from far and near immigrated to Xi Qi with a devotion to Ji Chang. In brief, Ji Chang had gradually turned Xi Qi into a powerful feudal estate that would soon put an end to the Shang Dynasty.
King Wen appointed Lu Shang the chief military advisor. With the strategic advice of Lu Shang, King Wu went on a conquest against Emperor Zhou, and eliminated the entire army of Shang in the battle of Mu Ye. According to The Book of History
, "Emperor Zhou retreated to the top of his Deer Platform in a robe covered with gemstones and jewels, and committed self-immolation." (From the chapter "The Biographies of the Emperors of the Zhou Dynasty") When the tyrannical Emperor Zhou set himself on fire on top of the Deer Platform, the Shang Dynasty perished as well.
(商朝都城）并不是我久居之地。鹿台之工，劳民伤财。我要用言语来劝谏。这昏君一定不听，罪当炮烙。我不如虚拟应付，就此脱身，有何不可！”表面应承一番这后，吕尚赶忙回到家中。他的老婆马氏连忙迎了上来，说：“恭喜大夫，今日回家！”吕尚冷冷地说： “我如今不做官了。”马氏大惊，“这是为什么？” 吕尚说：“纣王听信妲己之言，起造鹿台，命我督工。我不忍万民遭殃，黎庶有难。我想纣王并非我的明主。娘子，我同你到西歧去，守时候命。……” 吕尚此说的西歧，就是西伯侯姬昌