Muye, Battle of ( I 027 BC)
A decisive battle fought between the state of Zhou (Chou) and the Shang dynasty in 1027 BC. The Zhou king defeated the Shang army at Muye and took over the capital. The Battle of Muye led to the end of the Shang and the beginning of the Zhou dynasty (1027-256 BC).
During the late Shang, the dynasty declined because of continuous military expeditions, aristocrat factions and corruption, and hard punishments. Many slaves fought in battles. Many bodies of both aristocrats and humble followers were buried with the rulers, and there were other forms of human sacrifice, usually in multiples of IO and sometimes hundreds at a time. More and more areas became ruled by a vassal or even rival states, and the effective area under Shang control grew fairly small. The Shang emperor Zhao Wang also gave power to unscrupulous officials, which caused chaos among the kings of Shang’s subordinary states.
As the Shang declined, the state of Zhou, one of the subordinary states in the west (modem Shaanxi Province), was rising rapidly in terms of economy, military, and population. When the Shang emperor Zhao Wang asked the Zhou to join an eastern campaign, King Wu of the Zhou saw an opportunity to end the Shang dynasty. King Wu united other states such as the Shu, Lu, Qiang, and Yong, after which he called for a rebellion against the Shang.
battle of Muye Shang dynasty
In early 1027 BC, King Wu, leading 45,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry troops, and 300 wagons, marched east toward Chaoge, Shang’s capital. When the Zhou army crossed the Yellow River (Huanghe), many anti-Shang troops joined them along the way. The Zhou army traveled more than 20 miles every day. On February 4 the Zhou’s troops arrived at Muye, a small town about 30 miles south of Chaoge.
Since the Zhou army arrived so soon, the main strength of the Shang army was still far away from the capital on their way back from a southeastern expedition. The Shang emperor Zhao Wang hurried to organize a defense force with 170,000 troops, most of them slave soldiers. Although their morale was low, Zhao Wang hoped that a large number of slave troops would slow down, if not stop, the attack, and buy him some time for the reinforcement.
The next morning, Shang emperor deployed his defense force at Muye with the elite troops in the center and slave troops on both sides. He thought that the Zhou army would attack the slave troops first on either side as the weakest link. King Wu, however, attacked the Shang’s center first, the elite aristocratic troops, with the Zhou’s main strength. When the Shang elite troops could not hold the line and fell back, most of the slave soldiers dropped their weapons and ran away. Some of them even turned around and joined the Zhou to fight against the Shang army. The Shang emperor fled Muye that evening.When the Shang emperor realized he could no longer save himself, he committed suicide in his palace. After the Battle of Muye, King Wu ended the Shang dynasty and established a new dynasty of Zhou, which lasted more than 700 years.
See also: Qin Dynasty; Shang Dynasty; Warring States Period; Zhou Dynasty.
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