King Helü

King Helü

Helü (Chinese: 闔閭) was from 514 BC to 496 BC king of the state of Wu[1] toward the end of the Spring and Autumn Period of ancient China. He was initially known as Prince Guang (Chinese: ).


As Prince Guang wanted to kill King Liao of Wu and take the throne himself, Zhuan Zhu was recommended to Prince Guang by Wu Zixu. After Zhuan Zhu accomplished his mission in 515 BC the prince ascended the throne of Wu and became King Helü. The king assigned Wu Zixu to lead the design and building of the "great city," which evolved into the Suzhou of today.

In 506 BC Helü with the help of Wu Zixu and Sun Tzu, the author of The Art of War, launched major offensives against the state of Chu. They prevailed in five battles, one of which was the Battle of Boju, and conquered the capital Ying. However, Chu managed to ask the state of Qin for help, and after being defeated by Qin, the vanguard general of Wu troops, Fugai, a younger brother of Helü, led a rebellion. After beating Fugai, Helü was forced to leave Chu. Fugai later retired to Chu and settled there.

His son, King Fuchai of Wu, succeeded him in 495 BC. Helü had two other sons named Bo and Shan. Bo was initially his heir, but died before him.

Literary sources

  • Records of the Grand Historian
  • Gailu text presenting the dialogue between Helü and Wu Zixu, one of the 8 texts from the Tomb 247 (202-186 BCE) excavated at Zhangjiashan, Jingzhou, Hubei, in 1983. The text is paralleled by a Dunhuang manuscript which attributes the conversation to Lord Jing of Qi and Yan Ying.[2]


Regnal titles
Preceded by
King Liao of Wu
King of Wu
514 –496 BC
Succeeded by
King Fuchai of Wu