Battle of Muye (ca. 1046 B.C.)Battle of Muye (ca. 1046 B.C.) - The battle that ended the Shang Dynasty. It resulted from the decline of the Shang and the rise of the Zhou. Until the battle, The Zhou clan had been a tributary of the Shang and was used to guard the empire's western border. Under Emperor Xin, the Zhou had been ruled by King Wen. Xin fearing Wen's growing power imprisoned him a few years before the battle, but later released him. According to historian Sima Qian, Wen had been preparing to overthrow Xin by building an army and conquering nearby territories in order to weaken the emperor. Xin did not respond to these acts of aggression for reasons not clearly known. Perhaps he did not yet see the Zhou as an imminent threat. Or perhaps he was too preoccupied indulging in his extravagant lifestyle. Whatever the reason, Wen died around 1050 B.C. and never got to realize his goal. However, he had a son, Wu, who was as anxious as his father to defeat the Shang; so he took up the cause.


By about 1046 B.C., Wu was ready to meet Xin in battle. The size of the armies appears to have been exaggerated, but modern analysts estimate that the Shang army had about 53,000 soldiers plus many thousands of peasants whom the emperor had armed. The Zhou army probably had about 50,000 soldiers as well as several hundred chariots. The battle took place near the Shang capital of Yin. Because of the almost universal hatred of Xin, the peasants immediately turned on the emperor and joined the Zhou army. Many of the Shang soldiers, fed up with the corrupt ruler, turned and joined the attackers as well. Those who remained loyal were slaughtered to the last man. Emperor Xin, in total despair, retreated into his palace and lit it on fire, killing himself. The Zhou would endure for almost 800 years, the longest existing dynasty in Chinese history.