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State of Zhao

403 BC–222 BC
Capital Initially Jinyang,
later Handan
Religion Chinese folk religion, ancestor worship
Government Monarchy
 - Established 403 BC
 - Disestablished 222 BC
Currency Chinese coin

Zhao (pinyin: Zhào, traditional Chinese: , simplified Chinese: ) was a significant Chinese state during the Warring States Period, along with six others. At the beginning of the Warring States Period, Zhao was one of the weakest states but gained strength during the reign of King Wuling of Zhao: by the end of the Period, Zhao was the only state strong enough to oppose the mighty Qin.

Its territory included areas in modern Inner Mongolia, Hebei, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces. The state of Zhao bordered the Xiongnu (Huns), the states of Qin, Wei and Yan. Its capital was Handan (邯郸), suburb of modern-day Handan City in Hebei.


The Rise of Zhao

At the end of the Spring and Autumn Period, the state of Jin was divided up between three powerful ministers- The Zhao family being one of them. In BC 403, the king of Zhou formally recognized the existence of the State of Zhao along with two other States, Han and Wei, marking the start of the Warring States Period. In the beginning, Zhao was one of the weakest States. It lacked the geographical advantage of Qin, the military strength of Wei, the vast terrain of Chu, and the richness and prosperity of Qi. Surrounded by strong adversaries from all directions, Zhao fought hard for its survival. Its remained the weakest State in China until the reforms initiated by King Wuling, who reigned from 350BC to 326BC.

During the reign of King Wuling, the kingdom adopted a military reform. The soldiers of Zhao were ordered to dress like their Xiongnu neighbours and replace war chariots with cavalry archers. This proved to be a brilliant reform, along with advanced technology of the Chinese states and nomadic tactics, the Cavalry of Zhao became a significant force to reckon with in the warring states.

Zhao demonstrated its enhanced military prowess by conquering the ethnic State of Zhongshan in 295 BC after a prolonged war, and annexing territory from its neighbors Wei, Yan and Qin. The cavalry of Zhao occasionally intruded into the state of Qi in campaigns against the state of Chu.

Several brilliant military commanders of the whole period appeared concurrently, including Lian Po, Zhao She (趙奢) and Li Mu. Lian Po was instrumental in defending against the Qin. Zhao She (趙奢) was most active in the east; he led the invasion of Yan state. Li Mu was responsible for defending against the Huns.

The Fall of Zhao

By the end of the Warring States Period, Zhao was the only state strong enough to oppose the powerful Qin. An alliance with Wei begun in 287 BC against Qin ended in defeat at Huayang in 273 BC. The struggle then culminated in the bloodiest battle of the whole period, the Battle of Changping in 260 BC. The troops of Zhao were completely defeated by Qin. Although the forces of Wei saved Handan from a follow-up siege by the victorious Qin, Zhao would never recover from the huge loss of men in the battle.

In 229 BC, invasions led by the Qin general Wang Jian were opposed by Li Mu (李牧) and his subordinate officer Sima Shang (司馬尚) until 228 BC. According to some accounts, King Youmiu of Zhao (幽繆王), ordered the execution of Li Mu and relieved Sima Shang from his duties, due to disloyal advice from court officials and Qin infiltrators.

In 228 BC, Qin captured King Youmiu and conquered Zhao. Prince Jia, the stepbrother of King Youmiu, was proclaimed king at Dai Commandry and led the last Zhao forces against the Qin. The regime lasted until 222 BC when the Qin army captured him and defeated his forces at Dai.

List of Zhao rulers

  • Marquess Xian (獻侯), personal name Huan (浣), ruled 424 BC409 BC
  • Marquess Lie (烈侯), personal name Ji (籍), son of previous, ruled 409 BC387 BC - noted for several reforms
  • Marquess Jing (敬侯), personal name Zhang (章), son of previous, ruled 387 BC375 BC
  • Marquess Cheng (成侯), personal name Zhong (種), son of previous, ruled 375 BC350 BC
  • Marquess Su (肅侯), personal name Yu (語), son of previous, ruled 350 BC326 BC
  • King Wuling (武靈王), personal name Yong (雍), son of previous, ruled 326 BC–Spring 299 BC
  • King Huiwen (惠文王), personal name He (何), son of previous, ruled Spring 299 BC266 BC
  • King Xiaocheng (孝成王), personal name Dan (丹), son of previous, ruled 266 BC245 BC
  • King Daoxiang (悼襄王), personal name Yan (偃), son of previous, ruled 245 BC236 BC
  • King Youmiu (幽繆王), personal name Qian (遷), son of previous, ruled 236 BC228 BC
  • King Dai (代王), personal name Jia (嘉), half-brother of previous, ruled 228 BC222 BC

See also

The kingdoms of Former Zhao and Later Zhao of the Sixteen Kingdoms


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