State of Wei

403 BCE–225 BCE
CapitalAnyi (安邑, first)
Daliang (大梁)
Common languagesOld Chinese
GovernmentMarquessate ()
Kingdom (; after 344 BCE)
403 BCE
• Conquered by Qin
225 BCE
Currencyspade money
other ancient Chinese coinage
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Jin (Chinese state)
Qin (state)
"Wei" in seal script (top) and regular Chinese (bottom) characters

Wei (/w/;[1] Chinese: ; pinyin: Wèi; Old Chinese: *N-qʰuj-s) was one of the seven major states during the Warring States period of ancient China. It was created from the three-way Partition of Jin, together with Han and Zhao. Its territory lay between the states of Qin and Qi and included parts of modern-day Henan, Hebei, Shanxi, and Shandong. After its capital was moved from Anyi to Daliang (present-day Kaifeng) during the reign of King Hui, Wei was also called Liang (Chinese: ; pinyin: Liáng).


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Surviving sources trace the ruling house of Wei to the Zhou royalty: Gao, Duke of Bi (畢公高), was a son of King Wen of Zhou. His descendants took their surname, Bi, from his fief. After the destruction of Bi, Bi Wan (畢萬) escaped to Jin, where he became a courtier of Duke Xian's, accompanying his personal carriage. After a successful military expedition, Bi Wan was granted Wei, from which his own descendants then founded the house of Wei.

Spring and Autumn period

Jin's political structure was drastically changed after the slaughter of its ruling dynasty during and after the Li Ji Unrest. Afterwards, "Jin ha[d] no princely house" (晉無公卿) and its political power diffused into extended relations of the ruling family, including the Wei. In the last years of the Spring and Autumn period, the founders of Wei, Zhao, and Han joined to attack and kill the dominant house of Zhi () in 453 BCE, resulting in the partition of Jin. King Weilie of Zhou finally legitimized the situation in 403 BCE, when he elevated the three houses' heads to the rank of marquess (Chinese: ; pinyin: hóu).

Warring States Period

The state reached its apogee during the reigns of its first two rulers, Marquess Wen of Wei and Marquess Wu of Wei. The third ruler, King Hui of Wei, declared himself an independent sovereign and concentrated on economic developments, including irrigation projects at the Yellow River. Hui felt that Qin in the west was weak and their land a barren waste. He focused on conquering the well-settled eastern lands which were richer in known resources. However, a series of battles including the battle of Maling in 341 BCE checked Wei's ambitions while Qin's expansion went largely unimpeded, boosting its economy and military strength.

Early strengthening of the state of Wei resulted from adoption of Legalist reforms proposed by Li Kui (Chinese: 李悝, c. 459 – c. 395 BCE).


Wei eventually lost the western Hexi (河西) region, a strategic area of pastoral land on the west bank of the Yellow River between the border of modern-day Shanxi and Shaanxi, to Qin. Thereafter, it remained continuously at war with Qin, requiring the capital to be moved from Anyi to Daliang. Wei surrendered to Qin in 225 BCE, after the Qin general Wang Ben diverted the Yellow River into Daliang, destroying the capital in a flood.


  1. Marquess Wen of Wei, personal name Si (斯) or Du (都), (445–396 BCE)
  2. Marquess Wu of Wei, personal name Ji (擊), son of Marquess Wen, (396–370 BCE)
  3. King Hui of Wei, personal name Ying (罃), son of Marquess Wu, (370–319 BCE)
  4. King Xiang of Wei (魏襄王), personal name Si (嗣) or He (赫), son of King Hui, (319–296 BCE)
  5. King Zhao of Wei (魏昭王), personal name Chi (遫), son of King Xiang, (296–277 BCE)
  6. King Anxi of Wei (魏安釐王),personal name Yu (圉), son of King Zhao, (277–243 BCE)
  7. King Jingmin of Wei (魏景湣王), personal name Zeng (增) or Wu (午), son of King Anxi, (243–228 BCE)
  8. King Jia, (魏王假), personal name Jia (假), son of King Jingmin, (228–225 BCE)

According to Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian written in the first centuryBCE, the list of rulers is slightly different: King Hui died in 335BCE and was succeeded by his son King Xiang in 334BCE. King Xiang died in 319BCE and was succeeded by his son King Ai (哀王), who died in 296BCE and was succeeded by his son King Zhao. However, the majority of scholars and commentators believe that King Ai, whose personal name is not recorded, never existed. It seems that Sima Qian assigned the second part of the reign of King Hui (starting in 334BCE, on which date Marquess Hui probably proclaimed himself King) to his son King Xiang and added King Ai to fill in the gap between 319 and 296BCE. On the other hand, a minority of scholars believe King Ai did indeed exist.[citation needed]

Family tree of Wei rulers

Wei state family tree
Bi Wan 毕万
Mang Ji 芒季
Wei Chou 魏犨
Viscount Wu of Wei
Wei Ke 魏颗
Wèi Qí 魏锜
Viscount Dao of Wei
Wèi Jié 魏颉
Wei Xiang 魏相
Wei Jiang 魏絳
Viscount Zhao of Wei
Wei Shu 魏舒
Viscount Xian of Wei
565–509 BC
Wei Qu 魏取
Viscount Jian of Wei
Wèi Wù 魏戊
Wei Chi 魏侈
Viscount Xiang of Wei
Wei Ju 魏驹
Viscount Huan of Wei
?–446 BC
(1)Wei Si 魏斯
Wen of Wei 魏文侯
Marquess of Wei
?–424–396 BC
Wei Cheng 魏成
(2)Wei Ji 魏擊
Wu of Wei 魏武侯
Marquess of Wei
?–396–370 BC
(3)Wei Ying 魏罃
Hui of Wei 魏惠王
King of Wei
400–370–319 BC
Crown Prince Shen 太子申 (4)Wei He 魏赫
Xiang of Wei 魏襄王
King of Wei
?–319–296 BC
Prince Gao 公子高
Crown Prince Zheng
(5)Wei Chi 魏遫
Zhao of Wei 魏昭王
King of Wei
?–296–277 BC
(6)Wei Yu 魏于
Anxi of Wei 魏安釐王
King of Wei
?–277–243 BC
Wei Wuji 魏無忌
Lord Xinling
?–243 BC
(7)Wei Zeng 魏增
Jingmin of Wei
King of Wei
?–243–228 BC
(8)Wei Jia 魏假
Jia of Wei 魏王假
King of Wei
?–228–225 BC

Notable people


Chinese legend

According to the Records of the Warring States, a king of Wei had a lover named Lord Longyang, with whom he enjoyed fishing. One day, Longyang began to weep. When questioned, Longyang said he saw his own future in how he had treated a fish. Happy to have the catch at first, Longyang had wanted to throw it back when he caught a better fish. He wept, "I am also a previously-caught fish! I will also be thrown back!" To show his fidelity to Longyang, the king declared that, "Anyone who dares to speak of other beauties will be executed along with his entire family".[2]

Chinese astronomy

Main article: Chinese constellations

In traditional Chinese astronomy, Wei is represented by one star in the "Twelve States" asterism of the "Girl" lunar mansion of the "Black Turtle" symbol and other star in the "Left Wall" of the "Heavenly Market" enclosure. Sources differ, however, in whether those two stars are (respectively) 33 Capricorni[3] and Delta Herculis[4] or whether they are Chi Capricorni and Phi Capricorni.[5]

See also


  1. ^ "Wei". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ Hinsch, Bret. Passions of the Cut Sleeve, p. 32. University of California Press, 1990.
  3. ^ Ian Ridpath's Startales – Capricornus the Sea Goat
  4. ^ Activities of Exhibition and Education in Astronomy. "天文教育資訊網". 23 June 2006. (in Chinese)
  5. ^ Star Names – R.H.Allen p.142