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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: September 2009

5 - The eastward migration: reconfiguring the Western Zhou state

Summary

The aftermath of the fall of the Zhou capitals in the Wei River valley was chaotic and devastating. The Shiji says that the Western Rong, after killing King You at the foot of Lishan Mountain, returned home to the west with Bao Si and all the valuables from the Zhou treasury. The real situation may have been more complicated. It is likely that many settlements on the Wei River plain were plundered by the invaders, resulting in widespread social panic as well as economic destruction. The Western Shen and the Zeng probably no longer presented themselves as serious threats to the Zhou people since their political rivals at the court had already been eliminated. But the Western Rong, who may have allied with the Shen for a totally different purpose, had become the greatest destructive power.

The real implication of all this is that the Wei River plain was no longer a safe place suitable for the continuous development of the Zhou metropolitan society and culture. The strategic vulnerability of the Wei River plain was fully exposed by the events of 771 bc, and the Western Rong, who had successfully captured the Zhou capital once, could easily do so again. It was no longer possible for the Zhou court, now reestablished under the leadership of King Ping (Prince Yijiu), to survive on the Wei River plain.