Chu (楚) was a kingdom in what is now southern China during the Spring and Autumn period (722-481 BCE) and Warring States (481-212 BCE) period.
It was originally known as Jing (荆) and then as Jingchu (荆楚). At the height of its power, the Chu empire occupied vast areas of land, including the present-day provinces of Hunan, Hubei, Chongqing, Henan, and parts of Jiangsu. The Chu capital was at Yingdu
The land of Jing was inhabited by the native Chu people, and was to become part of the massive Zhou state. Prior to the dissolution of Zhou's power, the territory was transferred by authority of the Zhoucheng King of Eastern Zhou to Xiong Yi . Under Xiong Yi's rule, Chu grew from a small, dependent state into a large empire worthy of contention, even attaining the traditional title of one of "The Five Overlord States of the Spring and Autumn Period" (春秋五霸). The kingdom's power continued even after the end of the Spring and Autumn period in 481. Chu overran Cai to the north in 447 BCE. In 333 BCE Chu, along with the state of Qi, conquered the coastal state of Yue. By the late Warring States period (ca. late 300s BCE), however, Chu's prominent status had fallen into decay. As a result of several invasions headed by Zhao and Qin, Chu was eventually overcome by military oppression.
In 278 BCE, Qin general Bai Qi marched on the capital Yingdu , threatening to invade. Following the fall of Chu, Shoucun (modern Shou in today's Anhui province) became the state's capital-in-exile.
Famed poet Qu Yuan hailed from Chu. A government minister and a patriot, he had advocated uniting with the other states to combat the rising hegemon Qin, yet to no avail; he was banished by the king of Chu. According to tradition, such was his grief upon learning of the Qin invasion, reportedly committed suicide.