Fu Xi (伏犧氏):

According to legend, the hexagram was invented by Fu Xi. Fu Xi was one (the second) of the kings in the era of the so-called ‘Three Sage Kings’ in pre-historical China. Each king represents a developmental stage of human civilization. The meaning of Fu Xi is ‘to domesticate animals’; therefore, he stands for the origination of animal herding. The other two sage kings are Sui Jen (燧人氏): the legendary inventor of fire and Shen Nung (神農氏): the founder of agriculture and herbal medication.

Before Fu Xi, people made their living by hunting wild animals and collecting wild plants. Therefore, they migrated in the quest for food and lived like wanderers, unstable and always starving.

In view of this, Fu Xi invented the net. By means of the net, people could catch birds that flew in the air, animals that walked on the ground and fishes that swam in water. Afterwards, people could herd and feed wild animals, have them reproduce and domesticate them; they thus could live without enduring shortages of food.

Fu Xi had also established the official system by which to govern people, and initiated the marriage rites by which the household was formed.


Abdicating the throne (禪讓) and the first dynasty: Xia () in China’s history:

‘Abdicating the throne’ is the highest political ideal in China. The throne is handed down to an able and virtuous person rather than one's own descendants.

In times of King Yao (approx. 2350 B.C. to 2250 B.C.), people honored Shun () as a highly virtuous person; he was very filial to his parents, respected and loved his brothers even when he was abused. King Yao invited Shun to assist him in administering the government. Afterwards, he transferred the throne to Shun (approx. 2250 B.C. to 2200 B.C.) instead of his son. Later, Shun also transferred the throne to Yu () in the same manner.

Yu’s father was executed after he failed to solve the problem of floods. Yu succeeded his father and devoted himself totally to the job. He had worked abroad for thirteen years and he passed by his house three times but he dared not spare the time to see how his household was doing. Finally, he got the floodwaters under control and eliminated the disaster.

When Yu became old, he also thought of transferring the throne in favor of a virtuous and able person named Yi (). However, since Yi had not yet made any significant contribution, he couldn’t get the people’s support. After Yu died, people appreciated Yu’s great achievements and enthroned his son, Chi (), as king. Consequently the political structure of the Chinese empire changed into the hereditary system. The hereditary system means that the throne is handed down to the descendant or remains within the family.

The Xia dynasty is the first dynasty recorded in China’s history. Its territory covered approximately the area of the present southern Shansi (山西), south-eastern Shensi (陜西) and western Honan (河南) provinces. The Xia dynasty lasted for some four hundred years (approx. 2000 B.C. to 1600 B.C.) till the last King Chieh ().

Chieh was a cruel and unjust king; the people were oppressed and lived in fear. At that time, the chieftain of the Shang () Tribe in the east, Tang (), was very benevolent and talented; all of the tribes gave him their allegiance. He led them to drive King Chieh into exile, overthrew the Xia dynasty and established the Shang dynasty. This is the first revolution by the nobles in China’s history. The Shang dynasty existed for some six hundred years (approx. 1600 B.C. to 1046 B.C.) before it was toppled by Zhou ().


King Zhou of Shang (紂王):

King Zhou was the last king of the Shang dynasty. He was a man of courage and strength; he was able to fight wild animals barehanded and also capable of pulling several ox-carts backward. In addition, he was also super-intelligent and could argue eloquently with people, his words flowing like a cascading river. Due to such outstanding talents and his prestigious position, King Zhou became extremely arrogant and treated all others as his inferiors.

Zhou was very dissipated and wasteful. He oppressed thousands of people and spent seven years to build his palace, having confiscated the peoples' jewels and valuables to decorate the palace. Every day he frolicked with his favorite concubine Da Ji (妲姬) in the palace, with a pond filled with wine and the trees hung with meat.

Zhou was also very ruthless and tyrannical; in a mere moment of unhappiness, he could kill people at will. Zhou was always suspicious of people’s loyalty; he thought up various kinds of cruel penalties to punish those who criticized him and to intimidate his courtiers.

Bi Gan (比甘) and Gi Zi (箕子) were his uncles and important courtiers; they had always urged Zhou to administer the country well and to be away from Da Ji; however Zhou never took their advice and still indulged in tyranny and dissipation. They were loyal and stayed with Zhou while most of the virtuous and able persons were leaving. At last Gi Zi had to pretend insanity to evade killing; he was put into jail by Zhou. Bi Gan was ordered to submit his heart to show Zhou how a royal heart looks. Finally, Zhou’s tyranny was toppled by Zhou Wu Wang.


Duke Ji Chang (姬昌, commonly known as King Wen of Zhou):

Ji Chang was an enlightened and talented duke, reverently called Hsi Po (西伯, the chieftain in the west); Zhou descendents honored him as King Wen of Zhou after he died and his son, King Wu of Zhou, established the Zhou dynasty. He respected the elderly and cherished the young, recruited virtuous and able persons, and adopted benevolent measures to rule his dukedom.

While Ji Chang was carrying out the benevolent policy in his state, King Zhou was becoming more and more cruel and brutal, executing many upright courtiers. When Ji Chand learned about these events, he could not but sigh several times in private. Unexpectedly, these were reported to Zhou: ‘ Hsi Po has been carrying out benevolence and justice in his state; thereby he wins the heart of all people. When he heard that you had executed the courtiers, he gave a long sigh.’ Thereafter King Zhou became suspicious about Ji Chang’s loyalty, and later he put Ji Chang into the jail at You Li (羑里).

It is alleged that Ji Chang accomplished the hexagram text when he was imprisoned at You Li. In that time period, his sons and courtiers tried every possibility to rescue him; they presented beautiful women and rare jewels to King Zhou, and bribed King Zhou’s trusted courtier to speak for Ji Chang. In the process, his eldest son, Bo Yi (), was falsely incriminated by King Zhou’s concubine Ta Chi and killed; King Zhou made meat balls out of his son’s flesh and fed Ji Chang. Ji Chang was aware of all these through divination; however, he could do nothing but eat it to show his submission. After several years of ordeal, Ji Chang finally attained King Zhou’s trust and was released.

After Ji Chang was back, he exerted himself with the assistance of Chiang Tzu Ya (姜子牙) to enhance his state; his dukedom became even stronger and possessed two thirds of states in the Shang dynasty. Till his passing away, Ji Chang always adhered to the norm of the subject.


King Wu of Zhou (周武王):

In 1159 B. C. Duke Ji Chang passed away. His son named Ji Fa (姬發), succeeded to the throne, and is known as King Wu of Zhou. He actively prepared for the punitive expedition against King Zhou.

In 1046 B.C. King Wu of Zhou launched the battle and dispatched troops to attack Zhou. He led three hundred chariots and five thousand infantry toward the east; in the meanwhile, the other dukes who supported Zhou’s action also sent their troops to join in battle. They encountered nearly no resistance, and within a month they closed in on the capital of Shang.

 After Zhou became aware of Zhou’s invasion, he maneuvered his massive army; it is alleged that the Zhou’s troops numbered up to seventy thousand soldiers, significantly outnumbering Zhou’s. The two armies met at Mu-yeh (牧野). Zhou’s troops, however, had the force of justice, were at the peak of morale and prepared to fight to wipe out tyranny. On the contrary, Zhou had already been deserted by his people and his troops were forced to fight so they fell apart immediately in combat.

King Zhou realized that any struggle was useless and hopeless, so he fled back to his palace, lit a fire and burned himself to death. The Shang dynasty was overthrown and King Wu of Zhou set up the Zhou dynasty. He selected Hao () as his capital and conferred land and the title of duke upon those who had made meritorious contribution; thereby he founded a powerful kingdom and set up the feudal system.


Zhou Gong Dan (周公旦):

Zhou Gong Dan, named Ji Dan (姬旦), was the son of Duke Ji Chang and the younger brother of King Wu of Zhou. He was very filial and benevolent. He assisted King Wu of Zhou in toppling Zhou and was offered a dukedom; however, he stayed at the capital to assist King Wu of Zhou in stabilizing the newly built-up country and setting the new government system.

After Zhou Wu Wang died, Zhou Gong Dan continued to assist his 12 year old nephew, King Cheng of Zhou (成王), in administering the country. On the pretext of this, the son of Zhou: Wu Geng (武庚) allied with three brothers of Zhou Gong Dan who were originally assigned to supervise Wu Geng but suspected that Zhou Gong Dan had the intention of usurping the throne; they started rebelling and tried to restore Shang. Zhou Gong Dan could not but lead the troops personally to quell the uprising. After 3 years of bitter battling, he succeeded in conquering the dissenters as well as the other fifty disobedient tribes. After he settled the disturbance in the southeast and returned, he started to enact rites and promote music to cultivate the people.

Zhou Gong Dan paid great respect to those who were virtuous and talented, and was eager to recruit them for the country. Several times he wrapped his wet hair during washing them and rushed to meet those who wanted to see him; he also spit food out of his mouth and stopped the meal in order to receive them

Once, King Cheng of Zhou was seriously ill; Zhou Gong Dan cut his nails and threw them into the river, praying to the god of the river for the health of King Cheng: ‘King Cheng is young and ignorant, provided that anything had been done wrong and someone has to die, please let me die.’ King Cheng finally recovered, and after he grew up, Zhou Gong Dan finished seven years of acting as the regent and handed power over to him.

Due to malicious gossip, Zhou Gong Dan could not help but exile himself. Later on King Cheng found out about Zhou Gong Dan’s prayer when he had been ill; he realized Zhou Gong Dan’s loyalty and immediately asked him back. Zhou Gong Dan had dedicated his whole life to Zhou till his death. He was buried next to King Wen of Zhou as the utmost honor.

Zhou Gong Dan is the most esteemed model of the statesmen whom the followers of Confucius admired; Confucius promoted his established rites and musical system during his whole life.


Confucius (孔子):

Confucius was born in 551 B.C., more than two thousand five hundred years ago in the state of Lu (now the Province of Shantung 山東), an ordinary civilian but a descendent of a nobleman of Song (); his father passed away when he was aged three and he was reared in poverty by his mother.

Confucius grew up and lived in turbulent times when the imperial dynasty of Zhou was in decline, the country was disunited, and morality and propriety began to degenerate. He always aspired for the prosperous years of Zhou and attempted to revive the glorious culture of Zhou. At the young age of twenty, he worked as bookkeeper for a granary and was also put in charge of a pasturage; late on after he was twenty two years old, he started his teaching career. Confucius believed in "education for all", this means that there should be no class discrimination in studying and learning. Hence, he had up to three thousand disciples over his entire life.

Aged forty-three, after being exiled abroad for approx. eight years, he returned to the home state and devoted himself to compiling the literary works. He accomplished the editing jobs on the Book of History 書經, the Book of Odes 詩經, the Book of Rites 禮經, the Book of Music 樂經, the Book of Changes 易經, and the Spring and Autumn Annals 春秋. They are the so called ‘Six Classics’, which were handed down and had influence greatly on later generations

When he was fifty-one year old, in a very short period of time he was promoted to chief officer in charge of justice in the state of Lu; however, due to the effects of the other states, he was forced to resign the job in short order. Thereafter he started a fourteen-year long journey among the feudal states to promote his political ideas and seek the platform to realize them; however, due to all the feudal lords only caring about their own interest and benefit, he was doomed to fail. Finally he gave up and went home to resume his teaching career.

Confucius’s philosophy is all presented in the Analects論語, the Canon of Filial Piety孝經, the Great Learning大學, and the Doctrine of the Mean中庸. These books widely cover the codes of conduct from the self-cultivation of the individual to household management, from the country’s administration up to how to pacify the world. His thoughts focused on ‘benevolence, justice and propriety’ and ‘loyalty and forgiveness’; his ideal is that every individual can restrain himself and resort to propriety to carry out benevolence, and that the ruler can administer the country virtuously.

Confucius passed away in 479 B.C. at the age of seventy-three. Thereafter his disciples and followers were scattered country-wide, serving the feudal lords and preaching his thoughts. Confucianism from sprouting to surviving, gradually prevailed and surpassed other schools of thought. Emperor Ping (平帝) of the Han dynasty () at 5 A.C. praised Confucius as ‘revered and accomplished’. From then on, Confucianism was recognized from generation to generation as the preeminent philosophy in China.

Never tired of learning and teaching throughout his life, Confucius has long been honored in China as "the Greatest Sage and Foremost Teacher’ and ‘the Teacher of All Ages’.