Yue (state)

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State of Yue

?–306 BC
Chinese plain 5c. BC-en2.png
Map of the Chinese plain in the 5th century BC. The state of Yue is located in the southeast corner.
Capital Kuaiji, later Wu
 496–465 BC
Historical era Spring and Autumn period
Warring States period
 Conquered by Chu
306 BC
Succeeded by
Minyue Blank.png
Chu (state) Blank.png
Yue (Chinese characters).svg
"Yue" in seal script (top) and modern (bottom) Chinese characters

Yue (Chinese : ; Old Chinese: *[ɢ]ʷat), also known as Yuyue (於越), was a state in ancient China which existed during the first millennium BC the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods of China's Zhou dynasty in the modern provinces of Zhejiang, Shanghai, and Jiangsu. Its original capital was Kuaiji (modern Shaoxing); after its conquest of Wu, the Kings of Yue moved their court north to the city of Wu (modern Suzhou).

Chinese language family of languages

Chinese is a group of related, but in many cases not mutually intelligible, language varieties, forming the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Chinese is spoken by the ethnic Chinese majority and many minority ethnic groups in China. About 1.2 billion people speak some form of Chinese as their first language.

Old Chinese Oldest attested stage of Chinese

Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscriptions on oracle bones from around 1250 BC, in the late Shang dynasty. Bronze inscriptions became plentiful during the following Zhou dynasty. The latter part of the Zhou period saw a flowering of literature, including classical works such as the Analects, the Mencius, and the Zuo zhuan. These works served as models for Literary Chinese, which remained the written standard until the early twentieth century, thus preserving the vocabulary and grammar of late Old Chinese.

Spring and Autumn period period of ancient Chinese history

The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history from approximately 771 to 476 BC which corresponds roughly to the first half of the Eastern Zhou period. The period's name derives from the Spring and Autumn Annals, a chronicle of the state of Lu between 722 and 479 BC, which tradition associates with Confucius.



A statue of a man, dating from the State of Yue era Yue statue.jpg
A statue of a man, dating from the State of Yue era

The name "Baiyue" (百越) was applied indiscriminately to many non-Chinese peoples who had been mentioned in numerous classical texts. A specific kingdom, which had been known as the "Yue Guo" (越國) in modern Zhejiang, was not mentioned until it began a series of wars against its northern Yue neighbor Wu during the late 6th century BC. According to the Records of the Grand Historian and Discourses of the States , the Yue are descended from Wuyu, the son of Shao Kang which as known as the sixth king of the Xia dynasty.

Baiyue Non-Chinese peoples in ancient southern China

The Baiyue, Hundred Yue or Yue were various indigenous non-Chinese peoples who inhabited the region stretching along the coastal area from Shandong to southeast China and as far west as the Sichuan Basin between the first millennium BC and the first millennium AD. Meacham (1996:93) notes that, during the Zhou and Han dynasties, the Yue lived in a vast territory from Jiangsu to Yunnan, while Barlow (1997:2) indicates that the Luoyue occupied the southwest Guangxi and northern Vietnam. The Han shu (漢書) describes the lands of Yue as stretching from the regions of Kuaiji (會稽) to Jiaozhi (交趾). In the Warring States period, the word "Yue" referred to the State of Yue in Zhejiang. The later kingdoms of Minyue in Fujian and Nanyue in Guangdong were both considered Yue states.

Zhejiang Province

Zhejiang, is an eastern coastal province of the People's Republic of China. Its capital and largest city is Hangzhou. Zhejiang is bordered by Jiangsu and Shanghai to the north, Anhui to the northwest, Jiangxi to the west, and Fujian to the south. To the east is the East China Sea, beyond which lie the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. The population of Zhejiang stands at 57 million, the 10th highest among China. Other notable cities include Ningbo and Wenzhou.

Wu (state) ancient state in China, during the Western Zhou Dynasty and the Spring and Autumn Period

Wu was one of the states during the Western Zhou Dynasty and the Spring and Autumn period. It was also known as Gouwu or Gongwu from the pronunciation of the local language.

With help from Wu's enemy Chu, Yue was able to be victorious after several decades of conflict. The famous Yue King Goujian destroyed and annexed Wu in 473 BC. During the reign of Wujiang (無彊), six generations after Goujian, Yue was partitioned by Chu and Qi in 306 BC.

Chu (state) Ancient chinese state

Chu was a hegemonic, Zhou dynasty era state. From King Wu of Chu in the early 8th century BCE, the rulers of Chu declared themselves kings on an equal footing with the Zhou kings. Though initially inconsequential, removed to the south of the Zhou heartland and practising differing customs, Chu began a series of administrative reforms, becoming a successful expansionist state during the Spring and Autumn period. With its continued expansion Chu became a great Warring States period power, until it was overthrown by the Qin in 223 BCE.

Goujian King of Yue near the end of the Spring and Autumn Period

Goujian was the king of the Kingdom of Yue near the end of the Spring and Autumn period. He was the son of King Yunchang.

Qi (state) ancient Chinese state during the Zhou dynasty of ancient China

Qi was a state of the Zhou dynasty-era in ancient China, variously reckoned as a march, duchy, and independent kingdom. Its capital was Yingqiu, located within present-day Linzi in Shandong.

During its existence, Yue was famous for the quality of its metalworking, particularly its swords. Examples include the extremely well-preserved Swords of Goujian and Zhougou.

The Sword of Goujian is an archaeological artifact of the Spring and Autumn period found in 1965 in Hubei, China. Cast in tin bronze, it is renowned for its unusual sharpness and resistance to tarnish rarely seen in artifacts so old. This historical artifact of ancient China is currently in the possession of the Hubei Provincial Museum.

The Yue state appears to have been a largely indigenous political development in the lower Yangtze. This region corresponds with that of the old corded-ware Neolithic, and it continued to be one that shared a number of practices, such as tooth extraction, pile building, and cliff burial, practices that continued until relatively recent times in places such as Taiwan. Austronesian speakers also still lived in the region down to its conquest and sinification beginning about 240 BC. [1]

Yangtze longest river in China

The Yangtze or Yangzi is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises in the northern part of the Tibetan Plateau and flows 6,300 km (3,900 mi) in a generally easterly direction to the East China Sea. It is the sixth-largest river by discharge volume in the world. Its drainage basin comprises one-fifth of the land area of China, and is home to nearly one-third of the country's population.

What set the Yue apart from other Sinitic states of the time was their possession of a navy. [2] Yue culture was distinct from the Chinese in its practice of naming boats and swords. [3] A Chinese text described the Yue as a people who used boats as their carriages and oars as their horses. [4]

Rulers of Yue family tree

[5] Their ancestral name is rendered variously as either Si ( ) or Luo ( ). [6]


A model of a warship used by the state of Yue during the Warring States period. From the Zhejiang Provincial Museum in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China. Yue Battleship model.jpg
A model of a warship used by the state of Yue during the Warring States period. From the Zhejiang Provincial Museum in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China.

After the fall of Yue, the ruling family moved south to what is now northern Fujian and set up the Minyue kingdom. This successor state lasted until around 150 BC, when it miscalculated an alliance with the Han dynasty.

Mingdi, Wujiang's second son, was appointed minister of Wucheng (present-day Huzhou's Wuxing District) by the king of Chu. He was titled Marquis of Ouyang Ting, from a pavilion on the south side of Ouyu Mountain. The first Qin dynasty emperor Qin Shi Huang abolished the title after his conquest of Chu in 223 BC, but descendants and subjects of its former rulers took up the surnames Ou, Ouyang, and Ouhou (歐侯) in remembrance.


In Chinese astronomy, there are two stars named for Yue:


The virus genus Yuyuevirus and the virus family Yueviridae are both named after the state. [11]

People from Yue


Possible languages spoken in the state of Yue may have been of Tai-Kadai and Austronesian origins. Li Hui (2001) identifies 126 Tai-Kadai cognates in Maqiao Wu dialect spoken in the suburbs of Shanghai out of more than a thousand lexical items surveyed. [13] According to the author, these cognates are likely traces of 'old Yue language' (gu Yueyu 古越語). [13]

Wolfgang Behr (2002) points out that some scattered non-Sinitic words found in the two ancient Chinese fictional texts, Mu tianzi zhuan 穆天子傳 (4th c. BC) and Yuejue shu 越絕書 (1st c. AD), [lower-alpha 1] can be compared to lexical items in Tai-Kadai languages:

“The say for ‘good’ and huăn for ‘way’, i.e. in their titles they follow the central kingdoms, but in their names they follow their own lords.”

< MC ʔjij < OC *bq(l)ijSiamese diiA1, Longzhou dai1, Bo'ai nii1 Daiya li1, Sipsongpanna di1, Dehong li6 < proto-Tai *ʔdɛiA1 | Sui ʔdaai1, Kam laai1, Maonan ʔdaai1, Mak ʔdaai6 < proto-Kam-Sui/proto-Kam-Tai *ʔdaai1 'good'

缓 [huăn] < MC hwanX < OC *awanSiamese honA1, Bo'ai hɔn1, Dioi thon1 < proto-Tai *xronA1| Sui khwən1-i, Kam khwən1, Maonan khun1-i, Mulam khwən1-i < proto-Kam-Sui *khwən1 'road, way' | proto-Hlai *kuun1 || proto-Austronesian *Zalan (Thurgood 1994:353)

jué < MC dzjwet < OC *bdzotSiamese codD1 'to record, mark' (Zhengzhang Shangfang 1999:8)

“The Middle mountains of are the mountains of the Yuè’s bronze office, the Yuè people call them ‘Bronze gū[gū]dú.”

「姑[沽]瀆」 gūdú < MC ku=duwk < OC *aka=alok

← Siamese kʰauA1 'horn', Daiya xau5, Sipsongpanna xau1, Dehong xau1, xău1, Dioi kaou1 'mountain, hill' < proto-Tai *kʰauA2; Siamese luukD2l 'classifier for mountains', Siamese kʰauA1-luukD2l 'mountain' || cf. OC < kuwk << *ak-lok/luwk < *akə-lok/yowk < *blok 'valley'

"... The Yuè people call a boat xūlú. (‘beard’ & ‘cottage’)"

< MC sju < OC *bs(n)o

? ← Siamese saʔ 'noun prefix'

< MC lu < OC *bra

Siamese rɯaA2, Longzhou lɯɯ2, Bo'ai luu2, Daiya 2, Dehong 2 'boat' < proto-Tai *drɯ[a,o] | Sui lwa1/ʔda1, Kam lo1/lwa1, Be zoa < proto-Kam-Sui *s-lwa(n)A1 'boat'

"[Líu] Jiă (the king of Jīng 荆) built the western wall, it was called dìngcuò ['settle(d)' & 'grindstone'] wall."

dìng < MC dengH < OC *adeng-s

Siamese diaaŋA1, Daiya tʂhəŋ2, Sipsongpanna tseŋ2 'wall'

cuò < MC tshak < OC *atshak

? ← Siamese tokD1s 'to set→sunset→west' (tawan-tok 'sun-set' = 'west'); Longzhou tuk7, Bo'ai tɔk7, Daiya tok7, Sipsongpanna tok7 < proto-Tai *tokD1s ǀ Sui tok7, Mak tok7, Maonan tɔk < proto-Kam-Sui *tɔkD1

See also


  1. The author notes that these two texts are only preserved in corrupt versions and share a rather convoluted editorial history.

Related Research Articles

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Kra–Dai-speaking peoples

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Xi Shi one of the renowned Four Beauties of ancient China

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Nanyue former country

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The Kam–Tai languages, also called Dong–Tai or Zhuang–Dong in China, are a proposed primary branch of the Kra–Dai language family. The Kam–Tai grouping is primarily used in China, including by the linguists Liang & Zhang (1996).

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The Song of the Yue Boatman is a short song in an unknown language of southern China said to have been recorded around 528 BC. A transcription using Chinese characters, together with a Chinese version, is preserved in the Garden of Stories compiled by Liu Xiang five centuries later.


  1. Goodenough, Ward Hunt (1996). Prehistoric Settlement of the Pacific, Volume 86, Part 5. American philosophical society. p. 48. ISBN   9780871698650.
  2. Holm 2014, p. 35.
  3. Kiernan 2017, pp. 49-50.
  4. Kiernan 2017, p. 50.
  5. Theobald, Ulrich. China Knowledge. "Chinese History – Yue  (Zhou period feudal state)". 2000. Accessed 5 December 2013.
  6. Chinese Text Project. Wu–Yue Chunqiu . 《越王無余外傳》 ["Yuèwàng Wúyú Wàizhuàn"]. Accessed 5 December 2013.(in Chinese)
  7. "AEEA (Activities of Exhibition and Education in Astronomy) 天文教育資訊網". 23 Jul 2006. (in Chinese)
  8. Allen, Richard. "Star Names – Their Lore and Meaning: Aquila".
  9. "Star Tales – Capricornus". www.ianridpath.com. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  10. Allen, Richard. "Star Names – Their Lore and Meaning: Capricornus".
  11. Wolf, Yuri; Krupovic, Mart; Zhang, Yong Zhen; Maes, Piet; Dolja, Valerian; Koonin, Eugene V.; Kuhn, Jens H. "Megataxonomy of negative-sense RNA viruses" (docx). International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  12. Hong Lee and Stefanowsky (2007). Biographical dictionary of Chinese women: antiquity through Sui, 1600 B.C.E.-618 C.E. M.E. Sharpe. p. 91.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  13. 1 2 Li 2001, p. 15.
  14. Behr 2002, pp. 1-2.
  15. 1 2 Behr 2002, p. 2.
  16. Behr 2002, pp. 2-3.
  17. Behr 2002, p. 3.


Further reading

  • Zhengzhang Shangfang 1999. "An Interpretation of the Old Yue Language Written in Goujiàn's Wéijiă lìng" [句践“维甲”令中之古越语的解读]. In Minzu Yuwen4, pp. 1–14.
  • Zhengzhang Shangfang 1998. “Gu Yueyu” 古越語 [The old Yue language]. In Dong Chuping 董楚平 et al. Wu Yue wenhua zhi 吳越文化誌 [Record of the cultures of Wu and Yue]. Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 1998, vol. 1, pp. 253–281.
  • Zhengzhang Shangfang 1990. "Some Kam-Tai Words in Place Names of the Ancient Wu and Yue States" [古吴越地名中的侗台语成份]. In Minzu Yuwen6.