According to legends recounted in Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian, the royal family of Chu descended from the Yellow Emperor and his grandson and successor Zhuanxu. Zhuanxu’s great-grandson Wuhui (吳回) was put in charge of fire by Emperor Ku and given the title Zhurong. Wuhui’s son Luzhong (陸終) had six sons, all born by Caesarian section. The youngest, Jilian, adopted the ancestral surname Mi. Jilian’s descendant Yuxiong was the teacher of King Wen of Zhou (r. 1099–1050 BCE). After the Zhou overthrew the Shang dynasty, King Cheng (r. 1042–1021 BCE) awarded Yuxiong’s great-grandson Xiong Yi with the fiefdom of Chu and the hereditary title of 子 (zǐ, “viscount”). Xiong Yi built the first capital of Chu in Danyang (present-day Xichuan in Henan).
In its early years, Chu was a successful expansionist and militaristic state that developed a reputation for coercing and absorbing…
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