GENERAL OVERVIEW Approximately 1100 B.C. the ruler of an independent province on the frontier of ancient China named Ji Fa defeated the reigning Emperor Di Xin's vast forces to found China's 3rd dynasty, the Zhou. The rise of the Zhou with their military, scientific, cultural, and economic superiority and their triumph over the Shang dynasty is the subject of this novel. For the most part, Ji Fa's conquest was made possible by three extraordinary men: (1) Ji Chang- Fa's father, primary author of the world's oldest book, founder of the world's first public school system and citizen's college, the Thomas Jefferson of his age; (2) Ji Dan (Zhougong)- Fa's younger brother, a political and administrative genius, significant contributor to the oldest book, the Ben Franklin of his age; (3) Lu Shang (Taigong)- an immigrant to Zhou, China's greatest military leader, the Robert E. Lee of his age. These three men are still today considered among China's most revered heroes, as they were by the great sage himself, Confucius, centuries later. Indeed, much of what has become Chinese culture as we know it originated, not with Confucius, but with Chang and Dan, whom he admired greatly. The I Ching (The Book of Changes) was written by Chang during a seven year captivity by the last Shang emperor, an atrocity that contributed crucially to the downfall of the Shang. After the Zhou conquest, Dan added significantly to the book even during a post-conquest period of terrific instability and authored several other ancient volumes that have had vast influence on Chinese society and thought. Except for an appendix added by Confucius and other miscellaneous latter day scribbling, The Book of Changes has come to us through the ages just as the two leaders wrote it. The story of their conquest concerns itself with conflicts of values: morality versus practicality, independence versus social propriety, self-restraint versus the exercise of power, and so on. This period is prior to Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, even Judaism (perhaps even Hinduism). Viewing the world from 3,000 years ago as China emerged from the stone age, some of our most respected modern attitudes become suspect. Through their eyes nature and primitivism were a lifelong threat, virtue and social propriety were a practical necessity, and ritual and sacrifice was vital to cultural progress. The drama of the story arises from the contrast between Ji Chang, one of China's finest men, and the corrupt and decadent Shang Emperor, Di Xin, one of China's worst. This contrast is extended to the men around the two leaders and ultimately to their cultures as a whole as the characters are swept into the maelstrom of civil war.