Prince Zhong’s Rise From Disgrace To Reverence

A curious figure named Zhong—also known as Hu—was a grandson of King Wen, the man who started the war that would replace the Shang Dynasty (flourished approximately between 1600 and 1046 BCE) with the Zhou Dynasty as hegemon of ancient China. Despite the natural renown that came from being a grandson of King Wen, Zhong’s reputation was shattered because his father, Prince Cai, had conspired against King Wen’s successors in the Zhou Dynasty. Prince Cai acted against the regent ruler—the Duke of Zhou—and thereby offended the youthful King Cheng (r. 1042-1020/1005). Due to Prince Cai’s treachery, he was banished from the kingdom. This was mentioned in the Shang Shu, a text variously translated as The Book of Documents or The Most Venerable Book, which has its origins in the days before Confucius (c. 551-479 BCE). The Shang Shu described the Duke of Zhou (in his capacity as a regent) as “exiling Prince Cai to Guo Lin with just seven chariots” (Shang Shu, chapter 45). Prince Cai’s son, Zhong, suffered reputational and monetary damage due to the family drama. Yet, fortunately for Cai’s son, the Duke of Zhou eventually took pity on young Zhong and gave him a chance at employment in the government. Zhong did not squander this second chance; instead, he thrived while working in the administration and climbed up the social ladder of government offices. As was recorded in the Shang Shu, “Prince Cai’s son, Zhong, was reverent and upstanding, so the Duke of Zhou appointed him to a senior post and when Zhou died, Zhong asked for a decree from the king granting him the region of Cai” (Shang Shu, chapter 45). As the quote suggests, Zhong, by living an honest, virtuous and productive life, was able to gain the respect and trust of the Duke of Zhou and King Cheng. Resultingly, his petition to the king about reclaiming his father’s lands was granted. According to the Shang Shu, King Cheng told Zhong/Hu, “You have reformed yourself and your virtue can be seen in how you behave. I therefore decree that you become the Prince of the Eastern Lands” (Shang Shu, chapter 45). Therefore, after growing up in a childhood tarnished by his father’s disgraced reputation, Zhong was able to ascend back into prominence and repute, eventually regaining his ancestral land and being honored with the title of Prince of the Eastern Lands.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Cropped section of an artwork labeled Riding Through Snow in Search of Plum Blossoms, painted by an unknown artist, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the Smithsonian).



  • The Most Venerable Book (Shang Shu), translated by Martin Palmer, Jay Ramsay and Victoria Finlay. London: Penguin Classic, 2014.

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