"Three thousand years ago, the Duke of Zhou set China a glowing example. A paragon of virtue, he spelled out a philosophy of a ruler in harmony with heaven that inspired Confucius, and came to fill the ideological vacuum left behind by Chairman Mao...
He's more a personality cult than a person. But the seed of the cult lies in a real historical figure and real events. The duke helped his brother sweep away a corrupt ruler and found the Zhou dynasty in the 11th Century BC.
Already north China had cities, public works and coinage. There was no empire as yet, but even ruling a kingdom required skill and subtlety.
After his brother died, the Duke of Zhou acted as a dutiful regent, and when his nephew came of age, he handed over power...
"He has become as it were everybody's favourite uncle. Because in his noble manner of handing power over - rightfully - to his nephew, he has become a paragon of goodness throughout China's history," says Frances Wood, curator of the British Library's Chinese collection.
Mostly in Chinese history everyone seems to be behaving badly. Regent uncles, dowager empresses, concubines, brothers… all end up doing the wrong thing. Skim read the dynastic ups and downs of imperial China and it is a terrifying bloodbath of unexplained deaths, heads severed, babies strangled, siblings thrown down wells, kings poisoned, whole families executed or challengers torn limb from limb. But not the Duke of Zhou.
That is what makes him such a big favourite with Confucians. At the heart of their political philosophy, and far more important than rules or contracts, is sincerity.
Showing respect to ancestors is extremely important in Chinese society
"To the Chinese way of thinking, that's a very decent thing to do, to hold on to your promise," says historian Xun Zhou of Hong Kong University.
"It's a mandate of heaven that his nephew became the king, and he did that."
The mandate of heaven is the Duke of Zhou's big idea. The ruler governs by virtuous example, which spreads virtue throughout the land, and in turn demonstrates his harmony with the divine.
But there's a get-out clause for rebels. If the king fails to rule virtuously, harmony is ruined and can only be restored by removal of the king."