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Wu Zixu (伍子胥)

Chinese. Name of a general and politician of the Wu Kingdom in the Spring and Autumn Period (BC 722 to BC 481), and who is also known as Wu Yun. He is accredited with inventing the waterwheel and for assisting the king in the planning of the city of Suzhou. After pleading in vain with the last King of the Wu Kingdom to take action against an enemy state, the king instead listened to another official who had been bribed by the enemy and subsequently ordered Wu Zixu to commit suicide on the justification that his behaviour had amounted to treason. After his forced suicide, his body was thrown into a river near Suzhou. Since his death in BC 484, Wu Zixu has evolved into a model of loyalty in Chinese culture and became the best known historical figure with the Chinese family name Wu (伍), with all branches of the Wu clan claiming that he was their first ancestor. Posthumously, Wu Zixu was deified and is worshipped in eastern China as the God of the Waves and in Taiwanese Taoism as one of the Five Kings of the Water Immortals. Some Chinese also believe that the Dragon Boat Festival, which is also known as the Double Fifth Festival as it occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, commemorates the death of Wu Zixu, perhaps because the number five in Chinese is also wu (五) and thus a homonymic of the name Wu (伍), i.e. pronounced and in part spelt in the same way but with a different meaning.


Wu Zixu (Wu Yun)