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Home Suzhou Travel History and Lifestyle Wu History and Culture in Suzhou

Wu History and Culture in Suzhou


king he lv of wu state
The Profile of King He Lv of Wu State
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Profile of Ji Zha
The Profile of Ji Zha

The culture of Wu is the abbreviation of the regional culture of Wu State founded in the period of Spring and Autumn (reference: In fact, according to the history of China, there used to be two Wu States. One is in the era of Spring and Autumn, and the other was founded in the period of Three Kingdoms, also called Dong Wu, or East Wu Kingdom). It extensively means the all-inclusive achievements of local people of today’s main parts of East China – Wuxi, Suzhou, Changzhou, Jiaxing, Huzhou and Shanghai, in the aspects of material and spirituality, the tangible and intangible heritage. It is also popularly known as Wu Regional Culture, Jiangnan Culture, and Suzhou Culture and so on. It is based on the culture of original Wu State, and the development through the Warring States, Qing and Han Empires, Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties, and the further betterment in Sui, Tang and Song Dynasties. Up to Ming Dynasty, it got its highest peak. Since Qing Dynasty, as the declination of traditional society and the rising of capitalism in China, the culture of Wu has gradually transformed to modernization from the traditional style.

The Source of Surname Wu in East China

According to the records of the historical books, Yellow Emperor’s original surname was Gongsun, but as the powerfulness and independence of the clan, it changed the surname to be Ji(姬), and Yellow Emperor was the first man surnamed Ji. It is the most primitive forefather of Ji Surname and all the surnames of China derived from Ji. Yellow Emperor had four virtuous wives, and they were Lei Zu(嫘祖, said to be the founder of Chinese sericulture industry) of Clan Xiling, Nv Jie(女节) from Clan Fanglei, A daughter of Madame Tongyu(彤鱼女), and Momu(嫫母). And Lady Momu was said to be the ugliest girl in the world, but quite benevolent and kind. Yellow Emperor had in total 25 sons. Most of them became the leaders of the new clans. It was said that Yellow Emperor help the clans select the surnames in accordance with the musical melody.

In terms of the record of the Jinyu Chapter of Guoyu(国语, literally translated to be the Conversation Records of States, writing down the historical events and dialogues from Century 11 BC to 476 BC generally inclusive of eight states at the time – States of Zhou, Lu, Qi, Jin, Zheng, Chu, Wu and Yue. It was created by Zuo Qiuming, a blind man living the late period of Sping and Autumn), among his 25 sons, there were 14 people getting the surnames, and the total number of surnames was 12, respectively Ji, You, Qi, Ji, Teng, Zhen, Ren, Gou, Xi, Gu, Xuan and Yi. Two son of Yellow Emperor and Madame Leizu, named Xuan Xiao and Chang Yi succeeded the surname of Yellow Emperor, and the surname of Wu was sourced from Xuan Xiao, whose another name was Shao Wu. In the Geneology of Surname Wu in Danyang(丹阳吴氏族谱), Xuan Xiao was written as the second oldest forefather.

The Forefathers of Wu State

Gu Gong Dan Fu, the forefather of Zhou Era, had three songs respectively – Tai Bo, the eldest son, Zhong Yong, the second son, and Ji Li, the third son and the father of King Wenwang, who was a honorable sage in ancient China. More details could be available in the cultural background introduction of >>>

The capital of Wu State in early period was moved frequently. During the reign of Zhu Fan, the capital was today’s Mudu, located in Wuzhong District, Suzhou. During this period, a great soul of Wu State in culture appeared. He was Ji Zha(季札), more to read in the story page of Ji Zha >>>

Later on, Prince Guang murdered King Liao and became King He Lv. General Wu Zixu took charge of rebuilding the grand city of He Lv, which was the old city of today’s Suzhou. All of these could be read in the ancient books named Yue Jue Shu(越绝书, a history and story book of Yue State), and Wuyue Chunqiu(吴越春秋, the History of Wu and Yue States), both of which are the important history source to study the past in Suzhou. Since then, Suzhou becomes the center of Wu Culture.

At the time, it was the capital city of Wu State. Lots of people as the forefathers contributing to the formation and development of culture, history, politics, economy and military aspects appeared, except the founders like Tai Bo and Zhong Yong. There was another great soul named Sun Wu, who was historically known as Sun Zi, the writer of the Art of War (孙子兵法, Sun Zi Bing Fa), which is said to be the textbook of West Point Military School.

Zhu Chu (专诸) who was a hero actually and helped Prince Guang killed King Liao. He was quite famous for cooking the fishes, and a real expert of culinary art, and historically remembered as the originator of the kitcheners. Also, he was quite full of power and energy, and caused the historic event – Yufu Cangjian (鱼腹藏剑, hiding the sword in the fish belly), and killed King Liao. Prince Guang followed his will and buried him in a site in the palace complex of Wu State, which is today’s Da Lou Alley in Wuxi. And there used to be memorial pagoda but destroyed after 1949.

The Painting of Wu Zixu
The Painting of Wu Zixu

Wu Zixu (伍子胥) was a great general in Wu State, but killed by King Fuchai at last. He currently is memorized in Hangzhou. More details of his biography and story could be available in the pages of Qiantang River, Six Harmonies Pagoda and Wu Hill Scenic Area of Hangzhou.

The last King of Wu State was Fuchai, who in the early age revenged for his father’s death and occupied the whole Yue State, and King Goujian of Yue State became a prisoner monitored in Wu State. But failed in preventing the alluring beauty of Xi Shi, he was trapped by the cunning Goujian, and finally the whole state was occupied by Goujian. And he committed suicide as well. The whole Wu State from Tai Bo’s foundation to King Fuchai lasted more than 740 years. An age is a dream indeed. All is a vision in the mirror, except the non-stop move of history and the time.

Fan Li and Xi Shi, exactly, were not in Wu State but Yue State, who helped Goujian exterminated Wu State. As King Goujian reestablished Yue State, they retreated and lived in the area of Taihu Lake. Fan Li changed to be Tao Zhu Gong and engaged in business. He was also the first man in the world to write out the professional work for fish farming, which was honored as the Classic of Pisciculture. Today’s Liyuan Garden of Wuxi is in memory of him.

Lord Chunshen (春申君) whose name was Huang Xie, was a key contributor to the development of Jiangnan, especially Wuxi and Shanghai. In 335 BC, he came to Wuxi to exploit the tin ore and make the tin tools, and built a town named Huangcheng, which was also named Wu Xu or the Relics of Wu. He constantly drove the horses to Hui Hill for drinking water. For memorizing him, this place is called the Ravine of Lord Huang.

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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