BOOK TALK by Y.N. Yiu (January 2010)

The Man Who Loved China by Simon Winchester

This is a story of the extraordinary life of Joseph Needham (1900-1995). In
China he is known as 李約瑟 (Li Yue-se).

He was a brilliant scientist who made his name at Cambridge early in his life but
spent his last 50 years writing Science and Civilization in China which eventually
ran up to 18 volumes at the time of death. This project makes him the greatest
historian of Chinese science and technology. He accredited China with hundreds of
innovations. The well-known four inventions – paper, printing, compass and
gunpowder – he confirmed to the world without the slightest doubt. There were
many unheard of inventions in ancient China such as suspension bridges,
fermented beverage (7000), natural gas as fuel (4th century BC) toilet paper (6th
century AD), to mention just a few. Even the Chinese themselves would be
surprised to know that fork made of bone (2400- 1900 BC) was in use long before
the chopstick.

Needham showed the world that China was very advanced in science and
technology when Europe was in the dark Ages. However, he was intrigued by the
fact that China’s development stopped at the middle of the 15th century. His famous
question “why not develop?” which he scribbled in his notebook, did not get a
satisfactory answer even at the end of his life.

Simon Winchester , author of a number of bestsellers, portraits the fantastic life and
achievements of Needham with great skills and fluency. He brings to life Needham’s
long career as a scientist and historian and his great love for a Chinese woman that
aroused his love for China.

Needham was happily married at the time when he fell in love at first sight with a
Chinese woman when she visited his laboratory in the course of her research at
Cambridge in 1937. The woman was Lu Gwei-djen (魯桂珍), a biochemist, who
became his mistress for the rest of his long life.  When his wife, Dorothy Needham,
also a chemist at Cambridge, died in 1987, he married Lu soon afterwards. They
were both in their eighties then. Dorothy Needham knew their affair and accepted it
gracefully. The two women maintained their good friendship throughout their long
lives. They lived within walking distance in Cambridge and the three often met for
tea and had other activities together.  Lu taught Needham Chinese and encouraged
him to visit China when an opportunity arrived. He started his hazardous journey to
China in early 1943 at the time when China was invaded by the Japanese and the
Chinese government had retreated westward and established its new capital in

Needham went to China as a member of the British diplomatic corps and he used
this privilege to travel to all over the regions not occupied by the Japanese,
including the most remote sites and treacherous frontiers. Conditions in free China
were appalling.  The whole country was in chaos, overcrowding with millions of
refugees, grossly lack of food and accommodation; transport and communication
were mostly broken down; people’s lives were continuously threaten by Japanese
bombing. Needham was deeply impressed by the resilience of the Chinese in
coping with the horrendous situation. Professors and teachers and students
escaped with their libraries and other educational equipment and set up their
universities and schools in whatever accommodation they could find– temples,
ancestral halls, playgrounds even bomb shelters to continue the education of the
young to maintain the lifeline of China’s great civilization.

During his visits to China he dug deep and wide into the history of ancient Chinese
science and civilization . He met , interviewed and befriended many Chinese and old
China hands from abroad and took massive detailed notes. He collected loads of
precious books, manuscripts, documents and other artifacts which became the main
source of his grand project. It ran up to 18 volumes when he died in 1995. Some of
the subjects were co-authored with Lu Gwei-djen and other Chinese researchers.
The publication has become the pride of Cambridge University Press. It reveals to
the world China’s long history of scientific and technological inventions hitherto
unknown to or conveniently ignored by the West.

Needham was strongly pro-communist and befriended Zhao Enlai and met Mao
Zedong while he was in Chongqing during the War. During the Korean War he was
invited to head a   commission of international scientists to investigate the Chinese
allegation that US forces had spread germs in northeast China. Needham was led
to believe the allegation on the evidence given by his Chinese scientist friends
whom he had known in China during WW2. The commission confirmed to the world
China’s allegation. His report was condemned by the United States and severely
criticized by allied countries.  He was declared persona non grata by the United
States and banned from travelling to the country. He was shunned in England. The
episode nearly cost him his prestigious status in Cambridge and the survival of his
project. Despite this setback he almost single-handedly continued his project. His
circumstances improved a few years later and the project was able to move forward
more smoothly.

The Author begins the Epilogue with a quotation from Votaire: Four thousand years
ago, when we couldn’t even read, the Chinese knew all the absolutely useful things
we boast about today. He then gives a brief description of Chongqing to-day in stark
contrast to its war time days. It is now the largest city in China with massive
development. He also points to modern China’s technological development,
particularly in space science to indicate that China has woken up after sleeping for
five centuries to continue to develop and that Needham must have been pleased to
see that.

The book is informative and entertaining. It is recommended to those who are
interested in China. Any Chinese who reads it will feel even more proud of his/her

photo of Lu Gwei-djen
Below is a response to the Book Review from John H. Crook, Ph.D. D.Sc. He is the
first European Dharma Heir of the Venerable Master Sheng-yen (聖嚴法師的傳法弟
子), the Teacher of the Western Chan Fellowship, and author of World Crisis and
Buddhist Humanism. It gives a first hand impression of Joseph Needham.Ed.

It is a very good summary although I have not seen this book . I have several
volumes of Needham ‘s famous great work .

When I “went up” to Cambridge after my military service in Hong Kong I got to know
Joseph Needham . He was an outstanding scholar both in biochemistry and in his
Chinese research , extremely intelligent with a great grasp of many matters. He was
beginning his work on China while I was in Cambridge . When we first met, he was
so enthusiastic that he thought I knew Chinese and he wanted me to study Zoology
as found in Chinese literature and contribute to his great work . I wished I did know
Chinese because working with him would have been inspirational . He showed me
around his study . The room was absolutely full of shelves full of Chinese books .I
met his “assistant” there without knowing she was his mistress – a very nice person I

Needham was a generous man , devoted to idealistic Communism. He always
refused to believe anything bad about China but he may also have realised that his
frequent return there and access to places and people depended on his influential
support of Chinese politics. His support may not always have been completely
genuine, but he was prepared to suffer for his stated views. Cambridge had many
communists or communist sympathisers at that time, so he did not suffer too badly
except in the newspapers. Certainly his support of Chinese allegations against the
Americans caused a furor but in Cambridge it soon died down. Cambridge could
support any possible opinion with a degree of tolerance. He was politely interested
in Buddhism but discussed it in a scientific, neutral way. He preferred Taoism and
respected Confucianism . He was not very interested in psychology. In public
debates he was skilled in argument but generous in his way of addressing an
opponent. I was very influenced by him as I mentioned in my recent book. This was
because he demonstrated so well how a scientist could expand his studies to broad
international themes.

Of course, Chinese Communism, even in its present capitalistic form, is not very
wise in science. I understand that the great dam on the Yangtse River is now
beginning to reveal all the horrors that had been predicted — ie steady silting up and
huge pollution from the sewers and factories of Chong King. The environmental
problems in China are extremely severe – so I understand.

Jan 2010


CHINESE POEMS translated by YK Kwan
Copyright © 2006
All copyrights are reserved for the author.  The use of
any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical,
recording or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system,
without the prior consent of the publisher or writer is
an infringement of the copyright law.
The Chinese text was prepared and produced by courtesy of Mrs. Rosita
Chan of Hong Kong, though any error still belongs to the author.

50 Selected Tang  Dynasty  (618-906 AD)  Poems
Authors in chronological order
Brief introductions have been added to the poems or the author

Poem 1
望 月 懷 遠                                                張 九 齡   ( 678-740 )
海 上 生 明 月 ,    天 涯 共 此 時 。
情 人 怨 遙 夜 ,    竟 夕 起 相 思 。
滅 蠋 憐 光 滿 ,    披 衣 覺 露 滋 。
不 堪 盈 手 贈 ,    還 寢 夢 隹 期 。
Thinking afar in moonlight                       Zhang Jiu Ling
A bright moon rising over the sea,
Shores apart, watching the same
Is someone dear to me.
I loath this endless night;
And could not sleep but think of thee.
In this full moon light,
Who cares for candlelight?
Stepping out I don my gown,
And feel dew on the ground.
I wish to offer you moonlight in a handful,
But, to my real shame, ‘tis impossible.
Retirng to my bed, it seems,
I might find happier days in dreams.

Zhang Jiu Ling, 張 九 齡 Tang poet (678-740). Became advanced Imperial Scholar 進 士 and appointed as Emperor’s counselor
右 拾 遺. In the reign of Xuan Zhong 玄 宗, and in year Kai Yuan 開 元 年 間, promoted to Chief Secretary and then Prime Minister.
He criticized An  Lu Shan 安 祿 山 as viciously ambitious but was disregarded by Xuan Zhong.  When Xuan Zhong asked for his
opinion in appointing   Li Lin Po 李 林 甫 as Chief Minister, his answer was : a disaster to the Court and society 禍 延 宗 社. Xuan
Zhong 玄 宗 was displeased.   Zhang was relieved in 736 and he died four years after. His sagacity was proved twenty years
later in the An-Shi Rebellion 安 史 之 亂 755-763).
A far off place. See: 韓 愈 , 祭 十 二 郎 文 :一 在 天 之 涯 , 一 在 地 之 角,
The author did not mention what but it must be the moonlight in his hands.

Poem  2
涼 州 曲                                                      王 翰
Song of Liang Zhou                                    Wang Han (687-726)
With sparkling glasses that shine,
I indulge in my exquisite grape-wine.
We were going for another round,
But the pi-pa signaled that we should mount.
Lying drunk in a battlefield seems a joke,
But please don’t ridicule me, my folks.
Ever since fighting wars, we must learn,
How many could remain alive and return.

Liang Zhou涼 州is now Wu Wei  County武威縣 , Gansu Province甘肅省.
Author: Wang Han, Tang poet. (687 – 726 ), qualified as advanced imperial scholar進士 c713
In his younger days he had a reveling temperament. He was once the Prefect of Yu  Zhou汝州剌史  but was demoted to
Acting Prefect of Tao Zhou道州司馬  where he died in office.

Poem  3
春 曉                                                        孟 浩 然
Dawn in Spring                                        Meng Hao-ran (689-740)
Spring dreams not awakening,
Until everywhere birds singing.
In last night’s storm and raining,
Guess how many flowers reeling?

Author: Poet of Tang Dynasty (689-740). He was a well-known scholar but had never been appointed an official of the
Tang government. The popularity of his poetry was equivalent to Wang Wei  王維who was his friend and their style was
known as “Wang Meng” 王孟. He was also a friend to Li Bai 李白 and about 12 years senior to the latter.

Poem 4
臨 洞 庭 上 張 丞 相                                               孟 浩 然
八 月 湖 水 平,  涵 虛 混 太 清 。
氣 蒸 雲 夢 澤 , 波 撼 岳 陽 城 。
欲 濟 無 舟 楫   , 端 居 恥 聖 明   。
坐 觀 垂 釣 者 , 徒 有 羨 魚 情 。
Poem to Prime Minister Zhang at Dong Ting        Meng Hou-ran
It is Autumn in Lake Dong Ting,
Its surface with the horizon merging.
Misty vapours rising to the sky,
Covering the whole marshland  wide.
Waves lapping to the east,
Only at the city  wall they cease.
Crossing over is my intent,
But I find no boat at hand.
In this open-minded reign,
Idling at home is a disdain.
Fishermen are angling on the bank,
I envy to join their rank.

Lake Dong Ting洞 庭 湖, the largest lake in China, in Hunan 湖 南. See also Poem 26 by Du Fu.
Prime Minister Zhang: Zhang Jiu Ling 張 九 齡, See also Poem 01 by him.
This sentence implies the author’s intention to join the civil service but without an intermediary.
This explains the situation further.
In year 733, the author was traveling to Dong Ting and Chang-an 長 安. He sent this poem to Zhang Jiu Ling who was
Prime Minister 丞 相 at the time, as a request for a position in the government. It was later in 737 when Zhang was
demoted to Prefect of Jing-zhou 荊 州 that the author was recruited as a staff 幕 僚.
Yun Meng 雲 夢 澤 was name of a vast marshland by Lake Dong Ting.
Yue Yang city, 岳 陽 城.
The fishermen were the people with a catch, implying an “official position”.

Poem  5
出 塞                                                           王 昌 齡
Into the Wilderness                                    Wang Chang-Ling (698-757)
The moon is the same as in Qin’s  days,
As in Han , the pass  looks the same way.
Marching ten thousand miles away,
The soldiers are not seen returning today.
Had we a brave General Li to lead in the fray,
At the frontier , the Huns would be held at bay.

The Qin-Han 秦漢 period was c. 200BC. The author was therefore referring to a period almost 10 centuries ago.
The Qin Dynasty was short-lived (15 years) and closely followed by the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). Both had the same
sort of troubles posed by the northern Huns as foreign invaders.
The pass was the same one as in Han. The insinuation is in the line that follows, suggesting that despite the same pass,
the Han generals were much more successful in containing the threat of the Huns’ frontier incursions.
General Li Guang李廣  was a famous general of the Han era, known by the Huns as the “Flying General” 飛將軍, suggesting
the speed of his maneuvers. Dragon City 龍城in the original text refers to another matter. It was the name of a city in the
heartland of Mongolia, which was the farthest that the Han army had advanced in pursuit of the Huns, a high- watermark of
the success of the Han Dynasty.
The original text referred to “Yin Mountain” 陰山which was a mountain range inside Mongolia separating the Huns and
the frontier of the Han Empire.

Poem 6

送 別                                                               王 維
Farewell                                                          Wang Wei (701-761)
I would treat you to wine after dismounting,
Asking where would you be heading.
Disillusioned, you said you were,
Retiring to the Southern Mount , you prefer.
Just go and don’t ponder about the future,
Clouds are ever-changing as life by nature.

Poem 7
竹 里 館                                                             王 維
Bamboo Lodge                                                  Wang Wei
Sitting in solitude in a bamboo grove,
I play the zither and then
Whistle to my heart’s content.
Deep into the forest is a pleasure
That people don’t understand.
The bright moon visits with leisure,
And only she can comprehend.

Southern Mount meant  “Qin Range” ”秦嶺south of Xi-an西安in Shaan-xi Province 陝西省.

Poem 8
雜 詩                                                                    王 維
Sundry Poem                                                       Wang Wei
To my home village you just have been,
You can tell me what you have seen.
In front of my window, the plump tree,
Has it blossomed yet? Did you see?

A total of three poems were collated under the same title and from their contents, it was probable that a couple were
staying in opposite sides of the river. A message was given to a boatman crossing the river and after he was told that the
message was delivered, the husband asked the messenger about the state of affairs of his wife’s home.

Poem 9
渭 城 曲                                                                 王 維
渭 城 朝 雨 浥 輕 塵,
客 舍 青 青 柳 色 新 。
勸 君 更 盡 一 杯 酒,
西 出 陽 關 無 故 人。
The Song of Wei City                                            Wang Wei
After the morning shower is a city clean,
Willows in refreshed colour next to the inn.
Can I impose on you one more glass?
You’ll see old friends no more beyond the Pass.

This had become the most popular parting song in ancient China, known as the “Triplet of the Yang Pass”, 陽  關  三  疊  and
it was taken to mean that the song or part of it was to be sung three times over.
Wei City was called Xian Yang 咸 陽 in Qin Dynasty, known as Wei City in Han Dynasty, now in Shaan-Xi 陝 西 Province.
Author: Wang Wei, Tang poet (701-761). He was known as a poet since the age of 15 and some of his popular compositions
were made when he was only 16-17. He became an advanced imperial scholar 進 士 at the age of 20 (721AD). Being a man
of many talents, his calligraphy, painting and knowledge in music were as profound as his poetry.
Pass: “Yang Pass”陽 關, near Dun-Huang 敦 煌.. West of the Pass was the beginning of the route to the West now known as
“Silk Road”.

Poem 10
山居秋暝                                                                王 维
空 山 新 雨 後 ,        天 氣 晚 來 秋 。
明 日 松 間 照 ,        清 泉 石 上 流 。
竹 喧 歸 浣 女 ,        蓮 動 下 渔 舟 。
随 意 春 芳 歇 ,        王 孫 自 可 留 。
An Autumn Night in the Mountains                       Wang Wei
In a quiet mountain after a sudden shower,
Autumn fills the air in late evening hours.
In between the pines, moonlight shows,
Over the rocks, clear spring-water flows.
Finished washing, women-folk come chattering
Homebound through a bamboo path.
Lily foliage are back and forth bending,
As fishing boats slide past.
Though spring is spent,
Following my heart, I still may
Let this lone traveler continue to stay.

Poem 11
將 進 酒                                                                李 白
Please Drink                                                        Li Bai (701-762)
Do you not see sir, from the sky,
The water of Hwang He comes by?
It thunders and flows to the sea,
And forever cannot be retrieved.

For your hair, sir, do you not feel,
Like what the mirror would show?
Fine as silk as the morning may reveal,
But in the evening, white as snow.

When one’s life is riding on a crest,
No revelry seems in excess.
Do not let your time pass,
Facing the moon with an empty glass.

In this world I happen to be,
Heaven will find a purpose for me.
A fortune is only good for spending,
Care less, it will be returning.

Slaughter cattle, make merry and dine,
We should all drink three hundred cups of wine.
Master Cen , dear Dan-qiu,  no matter how,
Drink your wine, don’t stop now.

For you, Sirs, a song I’ll sing,
Lend me your ears to the lyrics:

Pomp in music and food does not count,
I hope I’m drunk forever and not sound.
Saints and sages were lonely men as of old,
Only wine drinkers leave their names bold.

When Prince Chen  once sumptuously dined,
Reveling was the only thing the party did know.
Emptying gallons of precious wine,
Worth its weight in gold.

As host I never mind the cost,
Just buy it and let’s drink with no remorse.
Precious cloak , splendid horse,
Come my page, do not pause.
Sell them for my cause,
Let’s cure our everlasting loss.

Li Bai, the most celebrated poet in Tang Dynasty (701-762)
Cen Xun and岑勲 Yuan Dan-qiu, ,阮丹丘both were friends of Li Bai.
Prince Chen  was son of Cao Cao  in the Three Kingdoms Era.
The cloak referred to was one made of silver fox fur mentioned in Shi-ji,  costing a thousand teals of gold.

Poem 12
送 孟 浩 然 之 廣 陵                                                  李 白
故 人 西 辭 黃 鶴 樓 ,
煙 花 三 月 下 揚 州 。
孤 帆 遠 影 碧 空 盡 ,
惟 見 長 江 天 際 流 。
Bidding Meng farewell to Guang Ling                     Li Bai
I bade my friend farewell at Yellow Crane Tower,
He’s heading east to Yang-zhou amid April flowers.
His lonely sail became a distant silhouette,
Vanishing in the azure skyline.
Where the Yangtze and the sky met,
There was nothing I could find.

Guang Ling 廣 陵 is now Yang-zhou 揚 州 in Jiang-su 江 蘇 Province.
Friend referred to was Meng Ho-ran. (See Poem no. 2)
East: Yellow Crane Tower was west of Guang Ling and therefore the original text used the word “west” 西.
April: The lunar calendar usually starts the year in February and therefore approximately one month behind the Western
calendar. April would generally correspond with 三 月 “the third month” in the original text.

Poem 13
送 友 人                                                                   李 白
Farewell to a friend                                                 Li Bai
North of the citadel a verdant hill lies close,
Around east of the city, a clear river flows.
This is the place to say farewell to my friend,
Who’s to start a lone journey on land.
Drifting clouds reflect his drifting heart,
A setting sun tells us it’s time to part.
To my departing friend I wave my hand,
While his horse is neighing time and again

Poem 14
登 金 陵 鳳 凰 臺                                                     李 白
Ascending Phoenix Terrace  in Jin Ling                 Li Bai
Phoenixes once gathered here and hence,
Phoenix Tower was built where it stands.
The phoenixes had long flown away,
Only the Yangtze is still flowing today.
Palace gardens of Wu  turned a deserted gloom,
Jin  celebrities only remembered by their tombs.
In azure blue, the Triple Peaks  are only partly shown,
Between the rivers , on the isle , herons come to roam.
Clouds always block the sun , it was said,
The Capital  in darkness is what I fret.

Phoenix Terrace: situated at Phoenix Mountain, near Nan-jing. 南京
Jin Ling had been known since the time of the Warring States
(c. 8th century BC) and is now Nan-jing.
Li-Bai: Most celebrated poet in Tang. (701-762)
Wu吳: In the Three Kingdoms era, Jin Ling金陵 was the capital of the State of Wu and palaces were built there (c. 200AD)
over 500 years before the time of the author.
Jin晋: Meaning Eastern Jin東晋 whose capital was also at Jin Ling金陵.(c. 4th century AD)
Triple-Peaks: 三山Name of a mountain south-west of Nan-jing南京 by the River Yangtze.
Rivers: River Qin Huai秦淮 joins Yangtze to the west of Nan-jing
Isle: An alluvial island in the river off the West Gate of Nan-jing. It was frequented by herons and therefore known as Isle of
White Heron.
Clouds block the sun: Meaning undesirable elements in the imperial court having their ways over the righteous.
The Capital: Chang-An, Capital of Tang, now Xi-an西安 in Shaan-xi Province 陝西省.

Poem 15
靜 夜 思                                                                     李 白
床前明月光, 疑是地上霜。
舉頭望明月, 低頭思故鄉。
Night thoughts                                                          Li Bai
My bedroom floor flooded with moonlight,
I thought it was frost, but not quite.
Lifting my sight,
I see the moon shining bright.
Dipping my head, I brood:
How would my home-village be tonight?

The 3rd  line might come from “Autumn song”秋歌 in Jin Dynasty晋 (3rd century):
“Lifting my head I see the moon shining bright as day; 仰頭看明月
“My thoughts go with it, a thousand miles away.”     寄情千里光

Poem 16
下 江 陵                                                                         李 白
Travelling downstream to Jiang Ling                            Li Bai
Leaving Bai-di  city upon sunrise,
Amid vermillion clouds in the sky.
The journey has been made in a day,
Though Jiang Ling is a thousand miles away.
The howling of apes on both banks is still in my ear,
Yet thousands of mountains the boat has cleared.

Jiang Ling江 陵is now in Hu-bei Province, Jiang Ling District, said to be 1200  li(s) from Bai Di city白帝   .
Bai Di city: The city changed its name to Bai Di白帝 towards the end of the Eastern Han Empire 東漢; it is now in Sichuan
Province 四川省.

Poem 17
金 陵 酒 肆                                                                    李 白
Farewell party in a Jin Ling  wine shop                        Li Bai
Willow leaves  fluttering in the wind,
Aroma filled the wine shop, out and in.
A local girl  pressed,  and offered to guests
A new wine, to see if it would pass the test.
Jin Ling elites came out warmly,
To bid me farewell for my journey.
Those travelling and those who are not,
All drained their glasses and finished their lot.
Please try asking the river flowing east ,
When our feelings for one another would cease.

Jin Ling金陵 was founded during the time of the Warring States (circa 8th Century BC) and is now Nanjing. 南京.
Author: Li Bai, the most celebrated poet in Tang Dynasty, (701-762).
Willow “flowers”花 in the Chinese text meant willow branches. The word “flower” was necessary to bring about the last word
“aroma”香 in association and to rhyme the second line of the verse.
“Wu girl” 吳姬in the original text meant a girl of the city. Jin Ling 金陵used to be the capital of the state of Wu, 吳  five centuries
before the time of the author, c.200 AD.
The process of pressing was necessary to extract the new wine from its residue through filtering.
“East flowing water” 東流水in the texts refers to the River Yangtze flowing through Nanjing.

Poem 18
宣州謝朓樓餞別校書叔雲                                                 李  白
Farewell to Uncle Yun in Xie’s Tower                             Li Bai
The by-gone days that forsook me,
Were days that couldn’t be stayed.
Today is the day that ravels me,
And causes disarray.
Setting off is an autumn crane ,
In a fair wind for ten thousand miles away.
Let’s drink to that if we may,
In this tower, before you’re on your way.
Your literal style like Jian An  and Fung Lai ,
And Xie’s elegance also stands high.
Our romantic temperaments want to fly,
To embrace the moon in the sky.
With a blade one tries in vain
To sever water but it flows more.
With wine I try to kill the pain
In my heart but it feels more.
Life is never what we want it to be,
So go on a boat, let down your hair and be free.

Uncle Yun叔雲: Li Yun李雲was a clansman of the author in the rank of uncle.
Xie’s Tower謝朓樓 was a tower named after the mayor of the city of Xuan, 宣州 who was also noted for his achievements as
a poet.
Author:  Li Bai, the most celebrated poet in Tang Dynasty (701-762).
An analogy to Li Yun.
Jieng An建安: A period in Han, which was noted for its essays.
“Fung Lai”蓬萊 is a legendary fairy island in the sea. Li Yun worked in the State Secretariat and the records there were implied
to be as secretive as the fairy island
Ancient Chinese used to tie their hair up and wear attires on their heads. Letting down the hair suggested retired life with no
official attachment.

Poem 19
關 山 月                                                                           李 白
Moon over Mountain Pass                                               Li Bai
A bright moon rose from Tian Shan ,
Breaking through a sea of clouds to shine.
Sweeping from thousands of miles away,
The wind  reached the pass of Jade Gate.
At Bai-deng  the Han Emperor was once embarrassed,
By Tu-fans  gloating over the Lake  to harass.
This is a battleground as of old,
Rarely people return alive and whole.
Frontier solders keeping watch from their base,
Homesickness appeared on their face.
In high chambers wives watching the same moon,
Sighed unceasingly for their husbands marooned.

Tian Shan 天山is now known as Qi-lian Shan祁連山 at the north-west of Gansu  Province甘肅省.   Qi-lian meant sky or heaven in
Hun’s dialect.
The wind: implying the invading foreign tribes.
Jade Gate玉門關: Its site is to the west of Dun-huang, 敦煌 a gateway at China’s  frontier  to the West.
Bai-deng白登: The first Emperor of the Han Dynasty漢高祖 fought the Huns near  Bai-deng and was besieged for 7 days before
The original text mentioned “wu”, 胡meaning foreign tribes generally. In this case it  meant the Tu-fans吐蕃  who made
frequent incursions into the territories of Tang.
Lake: meant Lake Qing-hai, 青海now in Qing-hai Province. 青海省

Poem 20
怨  情                                                                     李  白
美 人 捲 珠 簾 , 深 坐 顰 蛾 眉 。
但 見 淚 痕 濕 , 不 知 心 恨 誰 。
Resentment                                                           Li Bai
By a window is a lady fair,
Blinds rolled up with care.
Eyebrows knitted she sat,
Sinking in her seat, upset.
Traces of tears on her cheeks can be seen,
There is no idea whom she has grudge in.

Poem 21
黃 鶴 樓                                                             崔 顥
Yellow Crane Pavilion                                       Cui Hao (704-754)
Gone with the crane in the Pavilion,
The immortals had flown away;
Leaving it a historical oblivion,
Only a name which remains today.
One could not expect the crane to return,
That the white clouds in the sky had learnt.
Across the expanse of the water one sees,
The city of Han-yang  and its trees.
Parrots’ island lies in between,
With fragrant grass vividly green.
When the evening sun is setting in,
I scan where my home could have been.
The haze over where the waters flow,
Does not render a yearning heart consoled.

Li Bai, the most talented poet of the time, came to the same pavilion but did  not leave any poem, saying: “The scenery is
before me but I cannot compose,  since Cui Hao’s poem has already done so.”
Author: Cui Hao, Tang Poet (704 ?-754) whose early poems were thought to  be filled with levity. However, this poem which
was a later composition  earned  high repute and is thought to be the best of its kind.
Han-yang漢陽 was west of Wu Chang 武昌 and North of Han River漢水 .  Since it is to the north of the river, it was known as

Poem 22
兵 車 行                                                                  杜 甫
Song of Soldiers and Chariots                              Du Fu (712-770)
Chariots rumbling, horses neighed,
Soldiers had bows and arrows to their waist.
Parents, wives and children came,
To bid a last good-bye.
The march off had dust spreading high,
And the main bridge  couldn’t be identified.
Outfits were tugged and fairway blocked, amongst cries,
The wailing could be heard far up in the sky.
Wayfarers were asked by passers-by,
Recurrent conscription was the answer why.
The fifteens are required to guard against Tu-fans’ harm ,
The forties, when not fighting, are garrisoned to farm.
Set off as teens with headbands done for them,
Grey-haired, still guarding in frontier camps.
In the front, soldiers’ blood never stopped to flow,
As a sea turned red would show.
All because of an Emperor  eager to expand
His frontiers to gain more land.
Do you not see all counties east of Hua Mountain,
With ten thousand villages in desolation?
Though able-bodied wives take the tiller,
Fields are weeded over, hither and thither.
The Qin  soldiers were used to war,
And known for the pains they could take.
But they were being driven in awe,
Like poultry, dog and pig.

Though elders may care to ask what they saw,
Dare conscripts demur and deprecate war?
Take for instance winter this year:
Before front soldiers had any respite there,
Rent  is exacted on the soldiers’ share.
Where from can people pay a tax so unfair?

Until then people had no understanding,
Having a son is not exactly a blessing.
It’s better to have a daughter in a family.
Since to a neighbour she can be married,
Whereas, one never knows,
Where one’s own son may be buried.
Do you not see where bare bones lie,
Unattended and unclaimed, by the Lakeside ?
New ghosts are ululating over old ghosts’ cries,
On a gloomy and drizzling day, one could be terrified.

This poem is believed to be written c. 752
Bridge: Xian-Yang Bridge咸陽橋 was at the main thoroughfare, Xian-yang Avenue in the Capital of Chang-An, leading to the
Tu-fans: Foreign tribes making repeated incursions to the western frontier of China at the time. In this case, the conscripts
were sent to the north guarding area to the west of Huang-ho.
A military system in Tang Dynasty where soldiers were sent off to frontier regions to work as excavating farmers when there
was no warfare.
The conscripts were so young that their headbands had to be put on for them by local officials. In this case, it was the
municipal officer for a lane or street.
The emperor mentioned in the text was Wu Di, 武帝 in Han Dynasty漢 but it was an insinuation of the Emperor at the time of
the author, namely Tang Xuan Zong. 玄宗Both were keen to expand their empires’ frontiers. It was obvious in ancient China
that an emperor could not be openly criticized. Insinuation was therefore absolutely necessary. However, later on in the
poem when he raised the matter of  “rent tax” 租稅 he mentioned “winter this year” 今年冬. There is little doubt that he was
depicting contemporary events rather than that of Wu Di 漢武帝
(c.100BC) 850 years ago.
Shan-dong 山東in the original text meant territory east of  Hua Shan (mountain)華  山
Chang-An where the conscripts came from, was Qin 秦territory and since the era of the Warring States its people were
known as veteran soldiers.
租稅The tax in the form of rent payable to the government by the soldiers for the use of the land in their 租稅The tax in the
form of rent payable to the government by the soldiers for the use of the land in their home village, but the land were in
most cases not cultivated for reason that the soldiers were serving in the front without recess.
By the side of Lake Qing-hai, 青海now near the city of Xi-Nin西寧市, a ground over which the Tang soldiers and Tu-fans
fought for a lengthy period.

Poem 23
贈衛八處士                                                                   杜 甫
To Wei Ba, the hermit                                                  Du Fu
Rarely seeing each other, we live afar,
Like the morning and the evening star.
What makes tonight a special night?
For us to share the same candle light.
How long can youth and strength hold?
Now grey hair tells that we are old.
Old friends become fewer and fewer;
Feelings too much for me to endure.
For twenty years we’ve roamed,
Who’d guess today I appear at your home .
We parted as single men in our bloom,
Now your children are all fully-grown.

Pleasantly they asked of me,
Which part I came from the country.
Before I can furnish a reply,
Table was set with food and wine.

In the midnight rain the folks
Cut the chives and serve with oats.
By the host the encounter is treasured,
Wine we consumed without measure
In goblets, but we are not drunk,
Old sentiments should not be unsung.
We shall be mountains apart by the morrow;
There is no telling of this endless sorrow.

Wei Ba衛八 was an old friend of the author by the surname Wei衛 who lived as a hermit. He was 8th among his brothers
and therefore named Ba八. His other names were unknown.
Du Fu, born in Hu-nan Province, one of the most celebrated poets in Tang Dynasty  (712-770). Known as the ” Poet Sage “.
詩   聖
This poem was believed to be written in 758 by the author, (aged 46) when he was on his way to Lo-yang and met his old
friend Wei Ba by chance after 20 years and was being invited to Wei Ba’s home.

Poem 24
客  至                                                                            杜 甫
Visitor                                                                          Du Fu
To the north and south of my hut the rivulets flow;
Only seagulls are daily visitors to and fro.
Hitherto unswept, the patio floor;
For my first visitor I open my humble door.
Far from market, I can only offer food of a kind,
And nothing more in a poor home, than last year’s wine.
For one more company next door, do you mind?
If I shout over the fence for him, to finish off our wine.

The visitor on this occasion was the County Magistrate. : The author had made a note on this poem to the following
effect: “pleased with county magistrate Cui’s崔visit”. From the description in the poem one can see that the author was
living under meager conditions. He was therefore pleased with the honour given to him by the magistrate’s visit, despite
his humble abode.
Du Fu, one of the most celebrated Tang poets .(712-770)

Poem 25
旅夜書懷                                                                      杜 甫
細草微風岸, 危檣獨夜舟。
星垂平野闊, 月湧大江流。
名豈文章著? 官應老病休。
飄飄何所似? 天地一沙鷗。
Night thoughts during travel                                       Du Fu
In a gentle breeze by a grassy bank,
Under a tall mast, in a lone boat I stay.
Over a wide plain, the stars hang,
And the moon rose from the River  thundering away.
By my writings should my name be known?
Because of my age  should my office  end?
Drifting like a seagull all alone,
Under a vast sky, stranded on sand.

River Yangtze or Chang-Jiang 長江(long river).
When this poem was written, the author was 54,. (765 AD)
In the first month of the year, 765, the author resigned from his office and was leaving his home with his family from
Cheng Du成都 , travelling down the River Yangtze.
Jiang 長江(long river).

Poem 26
登 高                                                                           杜 甫
Hiking on Double 9th                                                 Du Fu
In a gusty wind and under a lofty sky,
Apes are howling ululant cries.
Over an isle with snow-white sand,
Birds gather hovering before they land.
The wood spreads far and wide without bound,
Leaves are falling with a rustling sound.
The unceasing Yangtze comes thundering on;
For a traveller, miles away from home,
Autumn doesn’t make his heart grow fond.
Aged and frail, I ascend this tower alone,
Troubling times render my mind torn.
More grey each day, my sideburns have grown;
There’s not even wine  over which to mourn,
My dismal state, only to myself known.

It has been ancient Chinese custom to perform hiking to high places and mountains on the 9th day of the 9th month of the
Chinese calendar (lunar calendar), customarily called the Double 9th Festival or simply Double 9th.  The original title was
“5 poems on the 9th” with this poem under the title登高.
Poet of Tang Dynasty (712-770). This poem was written in 767 when the author was at Kui Zhou         .
At the time, the author was obliged to abstain from wine because of his prevailing ailments.

Poem 27
登岳陽樓                                                                      杜 甫
Ascending Yue-yang  Tower                                        Du Fu
I heard about the waters of
 Dong Ting in the past,
Now I‘ve ascended Yue-yang Tower at last.
By these waters were the states of Wu and Chu  demarked,
Over it’s expanse, nature changes from light to dark.
Relatives and friends had no word for me,
Aged and frail, my boat is my company.
Against the Tu-fans  the mountain pass must hold,
Therefore to the North, the soldiers would go.
Leaning against this lofty window,
I cannot stop my tears flow.

Yue-yang Tower 岳陽樓was the tower of the West Gate of Yue-yang city岳陽城, overlooking   Lake Dong-ting. 洞庭湖It was built
in Tang Dynasty and repaired in Soong Dynasty.
Du Fu, born in Hu-nan Province, one of the most celebrated poets in Tang Dynasty  (712- 770).   Known as the ” Poet Sage “.
Dong-ting洞庭: Lake Dong-ting is on the south bank of the Yangtze River, north of Hu-nan   Province.
Wu吳and Chu楚: State of Wu was East to the Lake and Chu on the West. Wu: A state in the  Three Kingdoms Era.(c. 200AD)
Chu was sstate of the Warring States Era (c.200BC)
Aged: When the poem was written, Du Fu was 57 and suffering from various ailments. He and  his family lived on a boat.
He died one year later in 770 AD.
The Tu-fans invaded from the north and soldiers were deployed to defend north of the pass.

Poem 28
春    望                                                                       杜  甫
國 破 山 河 在 , 城 春 草 木 深 。
感 時 花 濺 淚 , 恨 別 鳥 驚 心 。
烽 火 連 三 月 , 家 書 抵 萬 金 。
白 頭 搔 更 短 , 渾 欲 不 勝 簪 。
Spring outlook                                                          Du Fu
A country shattered with its capital  wrecked,
Only the mountains and rivers are intact.
A city despite the return of spring,
Only grass and bushes wildly reigned.
Flowers showing the season only brought
Tears against which in vain I fought.
Even birds could cause me a fright,
Reminding me of my parted family’s plight.
The war raged on for three months old,
A home letter would worth more than gold.
My grey hair became short and rare,
To what could I pin my hat on there?

The Capital Chang-an 長 安 was lost to rebel An Lu shan 安 祿 山 with the Emperor in exile.

Poem 29
塞 下 曲                                                              盧  綸
Songs on the Wilderness                                   Lu Lun (748-799)
The wood was dark and windy in the night,
The undergrowth was shaken with might.
The general drew his bow,
And let his arrow go.
In first light he was curious where it went,
And found it embedded into a rock indent.
Wild-geese were flying high,
There was no moon in the sky.
Attempting to break away in the night,
Shan-yu and his soldiers took flight.
Our light cavalry was giving chase,
Weapons snow-laden in the haste.

Lu Lun, Tang poet (748-799).
Shan-yu: 單于A name for the chieftain of the Hun tribes.

野幕敞瓊筵,    戎賀勞旋; 醉和金甲舞, 雷鼓動山川。
We laid out a great feast in full view,
Among our tents in jubilation.
Returning victorious over foes in the battlefield,
We deserved a great celebration.
In golden amour we merrily danced around,
While rolling drums shook the ground.

The title was the name of a tune of the Imperial Music Academy 樂府曲名  at the time.
Author: Li Yi, poet of Tang Dynasty (748-827), qualified as an advanced imperial scholar進士 at 21. Disillusioned by the
imperial court duties, he self-exiled to the western frontiers and spent 26 years with the armies there. He was later recalled
to the court by Xian Zong憲宗.
Chi-tang瞿塘: Chi-tang Gorge瞿塘峽, one of the three famous gorges of Yangtze River, in present day Sichuan Province四川省.

Poem 30
江 南 曲                                                              李 益
A song south of Yangtze                                   Li Yi (748-827)
I married my husband from Chi-tang  engaged in trade,
Who always managed to miss his returning dates.
Had I known more dependable is the tide,
I would have married a lad by the seaside.

Poem 31
遊 子 吟                                                              孟 郊
Song for a Traveling Son                                   Meng Jiao (751-814)
A piece of thread in the mother’s hand,
Up and down the son’s clothes it ran.
One stitch follows another,
By a mother concerned;
Waiting for her son’s early return.
How can his heart, feeble as a straw,
Return the sunny warmth of his mother at all.

Author: Meng Jiao (751-814) in his younger days lived as a hermit in Xiung  Mountain嵩 山 in He-nan Province河南省. He only
qualified as an imperial advanced scholar at the age of 46 in 796. He worked as a low ranking official in various post and
later resigned. He died while he was on his way to his appointment as an army chief of staff.

Poem 32
楓 橋 夜 泊                                                       張 繼
月 落 烏 啼 霜 滿 天 ,
江 楓 漁 火 對 愁 眠 。
姑 蘇 城 外 寒 山 寺 ,
夜 半 鐘 聲 到 客 船 。
Night berth by Maple Bridge                            Zhang Ji (c.753)
Against a setting moon, the crows caw,
The sky is covered by pelting frost.
A woeful traveler lying awake by the dyke,
Watching maples under fishing lights.
Outside the city wall of Gu Su one can tell,
Where exactly is Han Shan Temple.
For each chime of its midnight bell,
Strikes in my floating heart an echo.

Poem 33
烏 衣 巷                                                   劉 禹 錫
Black shirt lane                                      Liu Yu-xi (772-842)
By the bridge  over Qin-wei River,
Wild flowers and grass had grown over.
In Black Shirt Lane, nothing much differed,
And at the entrance it was the same sunset ever.
Into the halls of dignities , the swallows once flown,
But now they are finding their way in ordinary homes.

Now in Nanjing city, south of the Qin-wei River秦淮河 in Jiangsu Province江蘇省. The place  used to garrison soldiers dressed
in black during the time of the state of Wu吳, hence its name.
Poet of the Tang Dynasty (772-842). Qualified as an advanced imperial scholar at the age of 21, he spent his life in various
high court official posts and in later years was demoted as acting  prefects of provinces.
In the original text, 朱雀橋 was a floating bridge across Qin-wei River built in the Eastern Jin Dynasty 東晉 (c. 400AD), about
400 years before the time of the author.
The names mentioned in the original text were Wang-du王導 and Xie-an謝安, dignities of the  Eastern Jin period, living in
that area.

Poem 34
                                                              白 居 易
離 離 原 上 草 ,   一 歲 一 枯 榮 。
野 火 燒 不 盡 ,   春 風 吹 又 生 。
遠 芳 侵 古 道 ,   晴 翠 接 荒 城 。
又 送 王 孫 去 ,   萋 萋 滿 別 情 。
Grass                                                        Bai Ju Yi
On the meadow the grass supplely lie,
Each year, they grow and die.
Wild fires cannot kill them all,
Spring comes and again they grow tall.
Ancient paths are their favourite grounds,
In the sunshine covering ruined towns.
They see royal princes come and go,
Waving adieu with a heart of gold.

Tang poet (772-846) born in Henan 河 南, qualified as an advanced imperial scholar 進 士 in the years Jing Yuan 貞 元.
Initially he worked in the imperial secretariat as 校 書 郎;and later because of court intrigues, was demoted to Jiang Zhou
江 州 as deputy prefect 司 馬 at the age of 43. He was also posted as prefect to Hang Zhou 杭 州 and Su Zhou 蘇 州 and then
as tutor to the crown prince 太 子 少 傅.
He was minister of law 刑 部 尚 書 in 842 and died in office four years later in Luo-yang 洛 陽 at the age of 75.  He served the
reign of eight Emperors, from De Zhong 德 宗 to Huan Zhong 宣 宗 and left almost 3000 poems, which was a rare record.

Poem 35
琵 琶 行                                                  白居易
Pi Pa Verse                                                Bai Ju-yi (772-846)
Bidding farewell to my friend in the night,
By the quayside on the Yangtze River .
Nakai flowers in the autumn moonlight,
And maple leaves in the wind quivered.
I dismounted after my friend,
Who had already stepped on deck.
We had wine cups in our hands,
But music was what we lacked.
With a dismal farewell in mind,
Little pleasure could be sought from wine.

We seemed lost, so was the moon in the river.
Then we heard the sound of pi-pa over the water,
And forgot what we were there for.
Following the sound, we discreetly called
For the fiddler but the music broke;
Only belatedly a reply was evoked.
We drew our boat near,
And invited the fiddler to appear.
In better lights we refilled our wine,
And prepared afresh to dine.

Under thousands of pleas, she slowly paced
Her debut with a pi-pa shading her face.
Tuning the peg, only a few notes she played,
But found it hard to keep her emotions at bay.
For each measure, unleashed a private sob she made,
As if delivering a plaint of her fate.
With knitted eyebrows she casually played,
To empty what her heart longed to say.
Lightly she plucked her strings with care,
Fluently playing melodies  with flair.

The heavy string was strong and fast like driven rain,
The small string delicate, like a whisper faint.
All mingled, notes played slow and forte,
Like assorted pearls, landing on a plate of jade.
Like nightingales amongst the flowers sang,
Like murmuring water flowing on shallow sand.
As the strings became frozen still,
Even flowing water turned bitterly chilled.
When for a moment all sounds froze,
From the bottom of our hearts arose
All secret woes hitherto untold,
For this moment, silence was gold.

Then suddenly a silver vase explodes;
With water splashed.
And I hear cavalry riding bold
In a sortie, with weapons clashed.
As the tune came to the end,
Sweeping the fiddles, she flicked her hand.
With the sound like fabrics torn apart,
Four strings in unison, shaking my heart.
The boats next to us turned silent and still,
Over the river, only a moon hanging in the autumn chill.
With a face full of thoughts,
She put the plectrum back into slot.
Rising, aligning her attire and she
Was as composed as one could be.

“A girl from the Capital was I,” she said,
“Under Sha-mo  Hill, a home I once had.
By thirteen, in pi-pa I already made a name,
From the first group of Imperial Minstrels I came.
My talent was, even by the masters, unsurpassed,
My visage made other music girls outclassed.
Gallant young men fought to present
Gifts to me to befriend.
For every tune I played,
Countless silk pieces came my way.
Jade and silver hairpins bashed
To keep time beats and smashed.
In the revelries, silk gowns dashed
All over with wine splashed.

Frivolity carried on, year in, year out,
Spring turned autumn, I cared little about.
Then my brother joined the army one day,
And my aunt passed away.
Dawn followed dusk and my beauty faded,
Visitors were few and they shunned my gate.
Until no longer young I tarried,
And finally to a merchant I married.
He cared more for business than leaving me,
Last month he went on a trip buying tea.
All alone I wait in a boat by the quay,
A bright moon over the river is all I see.
In midnight dreams, youthful times I recall,
Down my rouged cheeks tears would fall.”

I heard the tunes of pi-pa and I sighed,
Hearing the recitation, my woes multiplied.
We are both castaways amnestied,
By time and tide to a life undignified.
Despite we weren’t acquainted before,
This encounter is worthwhile after all.

Since leaving the Capital  last year in exile,
Relegated to this city , my health failed.
Void of music, for a desolate city I wail,
Not hearing flutes and strings made me ail.
I live in soggy lowland and can only find,
Bamboo and wild creepers entwined.
What did I hear from dusk to sunrise?
Only apes’ and cuckoos’ awful cries.
In spring mornings and autumn moon’s time,
I grab a bottle and pour my lonely wine.
Aren’t there mountain songs and peasant’s flutes?
Aye, but their noises appear to my ears too crude.

I heard your pi-pa articulation tonight,
Opening up my ears with fairy music in flight.
Please be kind to play one more tune,
I shall compose the pi-pa lyrics for you soon.
Brooding over my words for a while she stood,
Then resumed seated and play she would.
With strings tightened and a tempo quick,
A new wailing tune had us overwhelmed and transfixed.
All those present could not but cried,
Tears too obvious for their sleeves to hide.
Which audience had most tears to come by?
A moistened gown showed that it was I.

It was a hill to the South-east of Chang-An near the tomb of a minister by the name of Tung . As a gesture of respect, his
kinsmen always dismounted when passing by. So it was known as Dismount Hill下馬陵. Later, people took the mickey out
of it and called it “Toad’s Hill”, 蝦
蟆陵 by similarity of the pronunciation of “Sha-ma” 下馬 (dismount) and “Sha-mo” 蝦蟆 (toad).
Capital of Tang was at Chang-an, 長安 now Xian 西安. Xun-Yang City. 潯陽城
The original text mentioned the “Deputy Prefect of Jiang Zhou” , 江州司馬 who was the author and his “green gown” 青衫
getting wet. Green gown was the gown for court officials of the lowest grade. It is presumed that the author, being in exile,
mentioned this for modesty.

Poem 36
江  雪                                                       柳宗元
River in Snow                                          Liu Zong Yuan (773-819)
Not a bird in miles flying in the cold,
On all roads and tracks, not even a soul.
Only one old man with a grass hat  and shawl,
Fishing in his lonely boat in the snow.

Author: Liu Zong Yuan, Tang poet (773-819) noted for his simple and elegant style in poetry and also his calligraphy. He
became an advanced imperial scholar 進士  by the age of 20 in 793 and was involved in a movement in the reformation of
the government. He was later exiled to Yong Zhou  州 as Acting Prefect司馬 and later to Liu Zhou柳州 as Prefect 剌史 . He was t
herefore known in generally as Liu Liu Zhou 柳柳州 (with the name of the prefecture as his 2nd name). This poem was
written after his exile to Yong Zhou and fully reflected his state of mind to court politics.
Grass hat and shawl: Hat 笠 (of a conical shape) and shawl 簑were usually woven with palm leaves and worn by peasants
in ancient China to keep the rain out while working in the field.

Poem 37
行 宮                                                           元 稹
Transitory Palace                                        Yuan Zhen
An ancient palace deserted and want of mend,
Only the flowers there bloom once again.
Now grey-haired, but a maid-in-waiting  before,
Passes her time, telling stories of the Emperor.

Transitory Palace: a temporary residence of the emperor while he was on a tour.
Author: Yuan Zhen, Tang poet (779-831)  whose father died at the age of 8 and he was taught by his mother. He came 2nd
及第in the official Court Examination at the age of 15. He was a close friend of Bai Ju-yi  白居易who was 7 years to his senior.
Bai’s poem once had this reference of him:
“At every post-station I must first dismount;
Walk around the columns to see if your poems could be found.”“每去驛亭先下馬,循牆繞柱覓君詩”. The style of these two poets was
so close that it was known as “Yuan-Bai” style. 元白體
This poem was written around 810, after the “An-Shih” Rebellion  安史之亂  and about 50 years after the death of Yang
Yu Huan楊玉環 (Emperor’s consort) in 756. So a maid-in-waiting in her late teens at Xian Zong’s玄宗 time would be about 70,
telling stories about the ex-Emperor.
Emperor: Emperor Xian Zong 玄宗 in the years of Kai Yuan開元   which were years of prosperity in the Tang Dynasty.

Poem 38
赤  壁                                                                     杜 牧
The Red Cliff                                                          Du Mu
A broken halberd to the bottom of Yangtze sank,
Preserved for centuries , buried in sand.
Retrieved and re-polished, it could still be,
A fine relic of a former dynasty.
Had the East wind  blown otherwise
Than Marshall Zhou  had visualised,
His country might well be overwhelmed,
With the Qiao  sisters as captives in enemy camp.

Red Cliff was site of a famous battlefield on the southern bank of the Yangtze  River and is now in Wu Chang武昌, Hu Bei
湖北 Province.
The battle took place in the Eastern Han Dynasty東漢  , the 13th Year of Jian An 建安   between the states of Wei   魏   (north
of Yangtze) and Wu  吳(south) in the Autumn of AD 208.
Du Mu, Poet of Tang Dynasty (803-852).
The poem was written circa 842 AD, when Du Mu was Prefect of Wang  Zhou黃州  剌史at the age of 40, well over 600 years
after the Battle of Red  Cliff was fought.
East wind: it was the legend that the northern invading navy were attacked by fire  at their base by the southern navy,
spread by an  easterly wind which was  unusual in autumn season and burnt all their ships upstream of the Yangtze
Marshall Zhou was Zhou Yu周瑜 who led the Wu army and navy.
The Qiao sisters大喬,小喬 were famous beauties at the time in the State of Wu. One was the wife of Marshall Zhou and
the other Queen to the King of Wu.孫策
The original text mentioned “bronze bird” which refers to a tower built by Cao Cao曹曹   of the State of Wei 魏   in He-Bei
河北  for his pleasures and was known, by a huge bronze figure of a bird at the top, as Bronze Bird Tower 銅雀臺. At the
time of the battle, in fact the tower was non-existent. It was only built 2 years later in 210 AD.

Poem 39
遣 懷                                                                            杜 牧
Consoling one’s mind                                                  Du Mu
Travelling without purpose and idling around,
Nothing else mattered when wine was abound.
Southern beauties had slim waists  for your arm,
And could dance like butterflies on your palm.
For ten years I lived in a dream, in houses of ill fame,
And earned myself in Yang-zhou a perfidious name.

The original text mentioned 楚腰 “Chu waist”  which means the waist of girls in the State of Chu  楚. Chu was established in
the era of the Warring States  and occupied area to the South of the Yangtze River.
The legend was that a famous dancer in the Han Dynasty known, as “Zhao, the Swallow”趙飛燕  , was so light-footed that
she could dance on someone’s palm.
The original text mentioned “green houses” 青樓 which means brothels in ancient China.

Poem 40
秋夕                                                              杜 牧
Autumn Night                                               Du Mu
Silvery candles in an autumn scene,
Casting light coldly on the pictorial screen.
With tiny silk fans, children in the night,
Were after glowworms flying bright.
In the courtyard, the air was cold as water,
Lying, I could see in the sky the Altair and Vega.

Altair牽牛星 and Vega織女星 (the latter being a class 1 star) are on opposite sides of the Milky Way 銀河.

Poem 41
登樂遊原                                                         李 商 隠
Ascending Leisure Plateau                              Li Shang-yin
Late afternoon I felt a slight displeasure,
And drove my carriage up the plateau.
A gorgeous sunset I watched with leisure,
But dusk was setting in and time wouldn’t hold.

Leisure Plateau: 樂遊原Originally a leisure ground for Han Emperor Xun Di宣帝. It was to the south-east of Chang An 長安 and
from its elevated position, the whole of the Capital could be overlooked.
Author:  poet and scholar in Tang Dynasty, (812-858), qualified as an advanced imperial scholar進士at the age of 25. He
was involuntarily involved in the court factional struggles (Nu-Li factional struggle牛李黨争) prevailing at the time and had
never held any high-ranking office. His poetry style was closely related to Du Mu 牡牧 and was referred to as “Li-Du” junior
小李杜.(The proper authentic poetry “Li-Du” 李杜
were Li Bai- Du Fu).  His 20 odd poems captioned as “untitled” were most popular but their main objects have always
been wooly, secretive and controversial to later critics.

Poem 42
嫦 蛾                                                            李商隱
Moon Fairy                                                  Li Shang-yin
Under candlelight on a mosaic screen ,
Deep shadows were cast.
The Milky Way could be seen,
With the morning star subsiding last.
Stealing the immortal potion should have been
Something for Shang-Er  to regret.
For there is nothing more she would fret
Than gazing at the blue sky and sea,
Each night with her heart getting more sad.
A screen decorated with in-sets of mother-of-pearls and stones.

A screen decorated with in-sets of mother-of-pearls and stones.
Shang-Er: It was ancient Chinese legend that Shang-Er’s husband was King Hao-yi (,后羿) who was given a potion of
immortality by a goddess. She stole that potion from her husband who was infuriated and she fled to the moon, hence
becoming the Moon Fairy (the equivalent of Cynthia in Greek mythology).

Poem 43
無  題                                                            李 商 隠
Untitled                                                        Li Shang-yin
From emptiness the dream came, and soon
It vanished again into thin air.
Up in my chamber I can see the moon,
In the early morning, it’s still there.
My beloved in a distant land marooned,
A dream in vain is too much to bear.
In a hurry, a letter I have to write,
Before the ink is made to be right.

The golden leaves on my duvet in candlelight,
Was partly dim and partly bright.
Faintly the floral embroidery on my posted-net,
Was tinted by musk incense near my bed.
On a fairy island is as far
As one’s mind can get,
But he’s thousands-fold away,
Which makes me so sad.

Poem 44
隴西行                                                                  陳 陶 
A song west of Lung Mountain                           Chen Tao (812-885)
Sworn to wipe out the Huns , every man
Was prepared to fight to the very end.
Five thousand gallant soldiers went,
But were all lost in foreign sands.
By the river  the pitiful bones,
Were soldiers who died unknown.
Yet in their wives’ dreams at home,
They are still each a living man.

Poem 45
金 縷 衣                                                                         杜 秋 娘
Cloak of Golden Threads                                              Madame Du
Please forsake your cloak of golden threads,
Please spend youthful time wisely with your head.
Gather your roses with the chance you get,
If you wait and tarry you will regret.

In “Anthology of Tang Poems” 全唐詩 the author was ascribed as anonymous. In Du Mu’s preface to “Madame Du’s Poetry”,
she was described as of Jin Ling (now Nanjing) origin, concubine to a marshal in the frontier. She excelled in singing this
song of Cloak of Golden Threads and once sang in the imperial court. It might be for reason that she was subsequently
attributed to her name.

Poem 46
哥 舒 歌                                                        西 鄙 人
Song of Ge-shu                                           Anonymous
Up in the night sky,
The Great Bear hanging high.
Ge-shu fully armed,
Touring a midnight round
The infamous Tu-Fan ,
Who spy on our land,
Know its different now;
And dare not cross Lin-tao .

Geshu: Originally the name of a tribe of “Tu-jue” 突厥 to the West of China. Here Geshu suggests Geshuhan哥舒翰 who was
the name of their leader, guarding the West.
Author: “Si Pe Ren”西鄙人in the original text meant that it was somebody anonymous who was a “western frontier man”.
Great Bear大熊星座: (Ursa Major)  卝斗星座 The group of  7 stars that spread out like a bucket pointing toward the North  Star,
is also commonly known as the “Plough “.
Tu Fan: 吐蕃   Name of a tribe of Mongols to the North West of China.
Lin-tao: Now “Min County”  岷縣  of Gansu  Province甘肅 , the western end of the Great Wall of China built in Qin Dynasty秦.
(c. 3rd century BC)

Poem 47
贈     別 (1)                                                            杜 牧
娉 娉 裊 裊 十 三 餘 , 豆 蔻 梢 頭 二 月 初 。
春 風 十 里 揚 州 路 , 捲 上 珠 簾 總 不 如 。
Farewell (1)                                                          Du Mu
Swaying with grace she walks, a thirteen plus,
Like a bud in early spring, before it does unfold.
For miles in Yang Zhou, I failed to find a lass
Who rolled up window blinds, an equal.

This poem was written abut 835 when Du Mu 杜 牧 was leaving Yang Zhou 揚 州 for Chang-an 長 安 , in tribute to a young
courtesan between thirteen and fourteen years old whom he just bade farewell.
Author, Du Mu, (803-853) Tang poet. When the author was in his early thirties, he worked as a secretarial staff 幕 僚  for
the Governor  節 度 使 at Yang Zhou 揚 州, and he was a frequent patron to the numerous brothels in the city, leading a
care-free life. See Poem 40. Later he was promoted to the capital. His superior, Governor Niu (牛 僧 孺 ) gave him some
advice in his farewell party 餞 行, showing him privately all the reports on him visiting the disorderly houses during the
years. He was fully grateful to Niu 牛 for his tolerance and changed his attitude thereafter.
裊 (音 鳥, niao),柔 美 貌 豆 簆  (mace, an East Indian spice. It only flowers in summer. In early spring, it is only budding and
therefore implies
a state of virginity.) 至 初 夏 開 花, 二 月 初 尚 未 開, 故 以 喻 處 女, 後 因 稱 少 女 處 子 為 豆 簆 年 華. 意 指 路 上 珠 簾 捲 處 , 看 到 女 子 總 不
及 作
者 所 贈 別 的 那 一 位 . (Translator: It is envisaged that Du Mu was given a ceremonial departure for his promotion to the
capital and citizens of Yang Zhou crowded to watch the possession. And ladies of easy virtue rolled up their window blinds
[horizontal bamboo strips decorated with pearls] upstairs to have a vantage view of him and waved him goodbye.)

Poem 48
贈 別  (2)                                                               杜 牧
多 情 卻 似 總 無 情 ,         唯 覺 樽 前 笑 不 成 。
蠟 燭 有 心 還 惜 別 ,         替 人 垂 淚 到 天 明 。
Farewell (2)                                                           Du Mu
Full of passion but words fail me,
Wine cup in hand but I find no glee.
The candle has a heart for this parting night,
Dropping tears for me till day is bright.

[Translator: This poem was written, under the same heading as the previous one, to the girl courtesan he was saying
goodbye to.]

Poem 49
泊 秦 淮                                                                  杜  牧
煙 籠 寒 水 月籠 沙 , 夜 泊 秦 淮 近 酒 家 。
商 女  不 知 亡 國 恨 , 隔 江 猶 唱 後 庭 花 。
Berthing on Qin Wei River                                      Du Mu
A freezing river shrouded in haze,
A moon hiding behind lace.
I berthed on Qin Wei River
At night near a wine bar.
The sorrow of a country  lost, it seemed,
was beyond a singer’s esteem.
A girl on a merchant’s boat in late hours,
Was singing a tune of “Palace garden flowers”.

商 女 means a girl on a merchant’s boat, in this context, a singing girl.
Wei River 淮 河, a tributary to Chang Jiang 長 江, flowing through Jinling, 金 陵 (Nanjing 南 京 nowadays).  Because it was
believed to be first irrigated in Qin dynasty 秦 朝  that it was called Qin Wei 秦 淮.
Author, Tang poet (803-853).
The kingdom of Chen 陳I in the Era of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms.
後 庭 花 literally: back garden flowers, also known as 玉 樹 後 庭 花. It was s tune composed by the last king of the Chen
Kingdom 陳 後 主 who lost his kingdom in 589 and became a captive of the Sui Dynasty 隋 朝.. Jingling had been a capital
of the Chen Kingdom and the tune was therefore reckoned as one reminiscent of a dying kingdom. Incidentally, Tang
Dynasty ended about 50 years after the author died.

Poem 50
新 嫁 娘                                                        王 建
三 日 入 厨 下,  洗 手 作 湯 羹 。
未 諳
 姑 食 性 ,  先 遣 小 姑 嘗 。
A new Bride                                                 Wang Jian
In the kitchen, hardly a bride for three days,
Making a meal I wash my hands in haste.
A new family’s usual cuisine, I have no hint,
My sister-in-law can tell me with a first taste.

Author was born c.767 in Henan, an advanced imperial scholar 進 士  and once appointed deputy prefect of Shaan Zhou
陝  州 司  馬  .


All copyrights are reserved for the
s reproduced, transmitted
in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, recording or
otherwise, or stored in a retrieval
system, without the prior consent of
the publisher or writer is an
infringement of the copyright law.

Copyright © 2008

We will discuss Chinese calligraphy in this short introductory article and also
explore the differences between Chinese calligraphy and calligraphy in other

Since calligraphy is based on the written version of a language, we need to
have a simple knowledge of the Chinese language before we can have an
understanding of Chinese calligraphy. However, for the purpose of this article,
I will not talk about the origin of the Chinese language and other
characteristics. I will just concentrate on the form of written Chinese here.

The written form of Chinese is called Chinese characters which are square in
shape and monosyllabic. Each character’s pronunciation stands on its own
and is not affected or altered by the pronunciations of the character before it.
Each character or a group of two or three characters carries a meaning, but
sometimes a character or a phrase may have more than one meaning.

There are basically eight different scripts in the Chinese language; in other
words, the same Chinese character can be written in eight different ways.
However, most of the scripts have become obsolete and only two scripts, the
regular script and the running script, are in common use today. The
characters we see printed in newspapers and most of the books belong to
what is called the songtizi,  which is a typeface first used in the Ming Dynasty
but popularly attributed to the Song Dynasty. This typeface belongs to the
Regular Script. This is not the first script created for the Chinese written

Jia Gu Wen (Shell and Bone Script)

From the animal bones and turtle shells excavated during the latter part of the
Qing Dynasty of China, ie, in early 18th century, there is clear evidence that in
the Yin period of the Shang Dynasty (circa 1300 BC to circa 1027 BC),
primitive characters developed from the shapes of animals, articles, and other
natural phenomenon and also ideas and concepts were carved on those
bones and shells which were used for divination purpose. There were oracles
who were in fact officials in the imperial court trained to forecast future events
by seeking advice from heaven or supernatural beings. They first drilled holes
on animal bones and turtle shells and then put them on fire and placed them
on fire. The shells or bones became cracked and the divining officials, acting
as a medium between heaven and human beings, were supposed to be able
to interpret the cracks and forecast the weather or the outcomes of future
events and activities. After each process, the date and the name of the
divining official, the question, and the oracle received from the gods were
engraved on the bones or shells. After the event, the actual happening was
also engraved on the bones or shells.

These characters are called Jia Gu Wen, meaning Shell and Bone Script. A
sample of Jiaguwen is shown below.

Jin Wen (Metal (Bronze) Script)

Similar but more mature writings are also found engraved on bronze vessels,
utensils, weapons etc. and they are called Jin Wen meaning Metal or Bronze
Script. A sample is shown below.

Zhuan Shu (Seal Script)

The Seal Script was developed in the late Western Zhou Dynasty (circa 850
BC) and became popular in the Qin State during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty
(770 BC to 256 BC). In view of the geographical spread of the different
states which were able to enjoy a high degree of autonomy under the weak
Eastern Zhou Emperor, variations caused by different dialects and attitudes
had appeared in the written form of the languages used in the different
states. After the Qin State (256 BC to 202 BC) had conquered all the other
states during the Warring States Period (475 BC to 222BC) and then unified
China, Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of the Qin Dynasty, decreed that the
written language be standardized and it is called Zhuan Shu.

In order to differentiate the styles of the Seal Script before and after
standardization, the Seal Script used during the Zhou Dynasty is called Da
Zhuan meaning Large Seal Script and the script adopted after standardization
is called Xiao Zhuan meaning Small Seal Script.

The reason why this script is called Seal Script is that it is commonly used for
engraving seals owing to its solemn but graceful style. The structure of the
characters written in the Seal Script is quite different from that of the Regular
Script and looks like characters of an entirely different language. Eyes that
have not been trained cannot read the script which has fallen into disuse. A
sample is shown on the right.

Zhu Mu Jian (Bo shu) (Bamboo and Wood Script)

Because of the regular and even structure of the Seal Script, writing it
requires tremendous efforts and time. Political and military exchanges
between the warring states in the late Eastern Zhou Dynasty rendered a lot
of written work for officials who were under pressure to do their written work
speedily. Apart from formal commemorative documents, most written work
was done with brush and ink on wooden or bamboo strips. The characters
were made less complex and less attention was paid to the regular structure
of the characters. A cursive style of Seal Script was developed. In recent
years, a large amount of bamboo and wooden strips were unearthed
providing vital information or the history of ancient China. The bamboo and
wood script is also called Bo Shu because silk was also used for writing
before paper was invented. A sample of bamboo and wood script is shown

Ba Fen, or Fen Shu or Li Shu (Clerical Script)

Ba Fen was developed in the Qin Dynasty when numerous prosecutions were
taken out against educated people and those showing the slightest
dissentient attitude. Prison matters became voluminous. Government affairs
were made bureaucratic and more or less everything had to be in black and
white. For example, there was a decree to the effect that government
officials had to seek instructions in writing. Government officials could not
cope with such a large amount of written work with Seal Script which had to
be written in an elaborate and careful manner. They had to do their written
work cursively, with the result that the beginning of a stroke might be heavier
and the end of a stroke might be thicker than an ordinary Seal Script stroke.
From this was developed the Ba Fen (Li Shu), or Clerical Script. However,
the form and style of the Clerical Script in the Qin and early Han periods
varied considerably depending on the artistic accomplishment of the
calligrapher. The Clerical Script became mature and the form stabilized in the
middle of Eastern Han Dynasty and replaced the Seal Script. A sample of a
passage written in Clerical Script is shown below.

Cao Shu (Cursive Script)

As people’s communication became more frequent in the Eastern Han
Dynasty, they tended to seek a more efficient way to do their handwriting. At
the same time, paper was invented which facilitated writing. Cao Shu or
Cursive Script as is seen and written today was developed and became
mature and very common in the Jin Dynasty (265 AD to 316 AD). A sample is
shown below.

This free flowing and much abbreviated style enabled the writer who was
normally an educated person to express himself * artistically. Characters
were not confined to their respective squares and could be written as small or
as large as the calligrapher wished. Characters can be positioned leaning
towards the left or the right and strokes may have various thickness and can
be joined together so as to create as much contrast as possible yet
maintaining harmony in the entire calligraphy work.

*There were not that many women who were fortunate enough to have an
education in ancient China, but the most famous and respected Chinese
calligrapher in the entire Chinese history, WANG XiZhi, studied calligraphy
from a lady by the name of Madame Wei.

Xing Shu (Running Script)

At more or less the same time, ie, during the late Eastern Han Dynasty,
another script which was a hybrid of the Cursive Script and the Clerical Script
was developed. Characters written in Running Script are also free flowing
with many variations but they are not as abbreviated as the Cursive Script
and can easily be deciphered by the readers. A sample is shown on the left.

Kai Shu (Regular Script)

The Regular Script evolved from the Clerical Script and during the transition
period, the two terms were interchangeable. This script became very popular
in the Wei, Jin, and the North/South Dynasties and was widely used. On the
one hand, it is as regular as the Clerical Script, but on the other, the strokes
have more variations and are more stylish and more expressive than those of
the Clerical Script. This script is used up to the present day and a sample is
shown below.

Four Treasures in the Study

Having talked about the eight different scripts of Chinese handwriting, let us
discuss how we can do Chinese calligraphy. Although in recent years, there is
growing interest in learning how to do Chinese calligraphy with a fountain pen
or a ball point pen, the traditional way of writing Chinese is to use brushes,
which is one of the four ‘treasures’ in a literati’s study.


A Chinese writing brush consists of two parts: the stem and the tuft. The tuft
is usually made of animal hair such as rabbit or goat hair. Goat hair is softer
than other animal hair and as it is longer than other animal hair, it is normally
used to make large brushes. Other materials such as weasel hair, which is
harder than goat hair, hen feather or reed have also been used but they are
not common. In order to render the tuft of a brush harder though still pliable,
a combination of weasel hair and goat hair is used and the weasel hair
normally forms the core of the tuft.

The stem can be made of wood, bamboo, ceramic or other materials and is

Brushes come in many sizes and big brushes are used for writing large

It is the use of brushes that enables the writing of Chinese to be developed
into an art form. The elasticity of the hair used to make the brush, the
tapering of the tuft of the brush at the end coupled with the different degrees
of concentration of the Chinese ink and the absorbent nature of the rice paper
used for Chinese calligraphy all enable the strokes in a Chinese character to
be written with varied thickness in a stylish manner and in different shades of
black, bringing out the artistic nature of the writing.


Paper used for doing Chinese calligraphy is made of bamboo, rice straw,
mulberry or hemp. The production process is a lengthy one, involving soaking
the plant in water for over a month, boiling the soaked plant fibre, pulping and
then sifting the pulp on a mesh to form a thin sheet of wet and soft rice
paper. The last and most important step is to remove the mesh from the wet
sheet of rice paper and to let it dry.

Paper produced in this process is called Xuan paper and is absorbent,
enabling the ink applied to permeate and spread outward; the stroke thus
appears thick and fat. On the other hand, if the brush is quite dry or if the
calligrapher writes at a high speed, the strokes will look sandy (dry).

Rice paper is made with different degrees of absorbency to suit the artists’

Ink Stick

Ink sticks are made of soot from burning pine wood or ‘tung’ oil or sesame oil,
and gelatin. Ink used for Chinese handwriting is produced by rubbing an ink
stick in circles on an ink slab containing a small quantity of water. The longer
we rub the ink stick, the thicker the ink will become; the ink can be diluted by
adding water on the ink slab.

Nowadays, calligraphers normally used prepared ink liquid for practice as
producing ink by rubbing ink sticks on an ink slab is time consuming and
laborious. Ink sticks are only used to produce ink when a calligrapher wishes
to do serious calligraphy works either for exhibition or for works that are

Ink Slab

Ink slabs are made from stones with a special quality. On the one hand, the
stones should be very hard, but their texture should be extremely smooth on
the other. The best ink slabs are produced from the quarry in Zhao Qing in
Guangdong Province. These ink slabs are called Duan Yan, being named
after the place which was called Duan Zhou in the past. Ink slabs are also
mined in She Zhou in Anhui Province and Tao Yan in Gansu Province.

Ink slabs are often embellished with carving at the edges and round the
trough. Good ink slabs are extremely expensive and have become collectors’

Ink slabs are useless on their own because without ink sticks and water, they
can best be used to decorate the literati’s study. When we wish to make ink,
we pour a small quantity of water on an ink slab and then rub an ink stick on
the ink slab in circles gently and evenly. While we are rubbing the ink stick on
ink slab, we can either study bei tie (rubbings of inscriptions on famous stelae
or copies of calligraphy works of ancient calligraphers) or do meditation.

How to Hold a Chinese Writing Brush

Holding a brush is different from holding a fountain pen or a pencil. For
beginners, the requirement is that the brush must be maintained upright
throughout the writing process. At a later stage, the brush may be allowed to
lean slightly on one side but the tip of the tuft of the brush should ‘always’ be
perpendicular to the paper, unless we wish to produce special effects.

When we pick up a brush, we should press (ye) the thumb gently on the stem
of the brush. At the same time, we should hold or guard (ya) the brush with
the first joint of the index finger from the finger tip, thus exerting opposing
pressure against the thumb. We should form the middle finger into a hook
(gou) and also press the first joint of the middle finger from the finger tip
gently against the brush, so that the total pressure from both the index and
middle fingers should equal the pressure from the thumb. The ring finger
should be placed behind the brush, providing the middle finger with support
(ge). The small finger should be just beneath the ring finger, also providing
support for it (di).

The whole idea of holding the brush in this manner is to surround the brush
with even pressure from all directions so that the brush can remain in a
steady and upright position.

While we are holding the brush, we should pay attention to the following

a.        there should be as little gap as possible between the fingers.
b.        the palm should be hollow as if it is holding an egg and should be kept
more or less upright but the forearm should be parallel to the desk.
c.        when we are writing characters larger than three inches square, we
should not let the forearm touch the desk, neither should we rest the elbow
on the desk. When we are writing smaller characters, we can let the forearm
rest on the desk.
d.        the brush should be maintained in an upright position, especially when
we are doing Seal, Clerical or Regular Scripts.
e.        the motion of the brush is caused by the rotation of the wrist and the
movement of the arm. Under no circumstances should we move our fingers in
order to move the brush.
f.        we should keep the arm and the hand holding the brush in a relaxed
state and hold the brush softly as if it is about to fall; never should we
squeeze the brush tightly.

There are a number of other ways of holding the brush, for example, holding
the brush with all the fingers on the same side acting against the thumb, or
holding the brush with the thumb and the tips of only the index and middle
fingers. However, the way I have described above is the most common and
easiest to learn and master.

How to Write Different Strokes in Chinese Characters

It may have been noticed that the strokes in the Seal Script comprise
basically horizontal, vertical and semi-circular strokes which are regular and
evenly spaced. There are no dots or strokes that taper off at the end like
those in the Regular Script. It was suggested by past masters that the
following character (Yong) consists of all the different strokes in Chinese
characters (this is disputed because it does not contain several other stroke
forms, for example, the right falling circular stroke with a hook) and each
stroke is given a name as follows:

1.        Ce – dot
2.        Le – Horizontal stroke
3.        Nu – Vertical stroke
4.        Ti – Hook
5.        Ce – Left rising whip
6.        Lue – Left falling sweep
7.        Zhuo – Peck
8.        Zhe – Right falling slice

When one looks at the strokes in the above character, one may think that if
one were to follow the strokes, one should be able to write the character.
This may be true with ordinary handwriting. However, if we were to do it
properly and artistically, we would need to move the tip of the brush
according to the directions as shown within the strokes in the figure below.

At the beginning, we may not find it easy to follow the directions and move
the brush forward and backward within the small space of a dot or when we
start writing a horizontal or vertical stroke. The secret is that when we start
writing a stroke, we should use the tip of the brush to follow the directions as
shown above. After we have finished the ‘start’ of a stroke, we may then
press the brush slightly to complete the stroke.

For example, if we wish to write a horizontal stroke from left to right, we
should start the stroke by moving the tip of the brush from the right and then
move it to the left before we actually start the stroke from left to right. The
same applies if we wish to write a downward vertical stroke, ie, we should
move the tip of the brush upwards before we move the brush downwards.

There are several other essential points that should be borne in mind when
we do Chinese calligraphy. While writing, we should imagine that something is
holding back our brush while we are moving the brush in the direction of our
choice. By injecting this feeling into our hand movements, the strokes will
become powerful and robust.

We should hold the brush just tightly enough so that it does not fall on the
desk. By holding the brush lightly and tenderly, the weight of our arm and the
weight of the brush will enable the brush to have contact with the paper.
Writing of course involves the brush touching the paper, but ‘touching’ only will
bring about weak and insipid strokes. We should avoid such strokes.

In this context, touching is quite different from contact which involves control
and feeling and enables the brush to ‘speak’ with the paper.

Before we start writing a character, we should first of all have an image on
the paper of the character we wish to write and then follow the image. An
image can be changed many times and improved upon but once a stroke has
been written, it cannot be altered.

Let me use three alphabets GGG (Guard, Guide and Glide) to assist
beginners in remembering the above seemingly complicated instructions. First
of all, we should guard the brush as if it is a very important person.
Bodyguards should be very near to the VIP whom they are protecting but
should not be too close as to be in the VIP’s way. Therefore we should hold
the brush very gently so that the brush engages fully with the paper.

After we have formed an image of the character we are about to write on the
paper, we should just guide the brush through the image. Through this mental
process, the strokes in a character will flow smoothly and appear to link
together although physically they are separate.

If we hold a brush gently, we will be able to let it glide along the paper so that
the contact between the brush and the paper is enhanced. Of course, we
should not forget the imaginary force that holds back the brush.

Sequence of Writing Strokes in a Chinese Character

Most Chinese characters consist of more than one radical and several
strokes. Past scholars have from their experience suggested that the radicals
and strokes in a character be written in the following sequence so as to
enable us to achieve better balance and better spacing of the strokes in a

        From top to bottom
        From left to right
        Horizontal strokes first, then vertical strokes
        (If there are 3 radicals in a character) Centre first, then first left and
then right
        Border first, then strokes inside border
        Upper border first, then strokes inside, bottom stroke last.

Health benefits of doing Chinese calligraphy

Back in the 1980’s. the Psychology Faculty of the University of Hong Kong
carried some research studies into the mental and physical effects of writing
Chinese calligraphy on people doing it. The results, which were most
interesting, were as follows:
a.        Relaxation or calmness developed during the writing of Chinese
calligraphy, suggesting that it could be used to alleviate stress.
b.        While writing Chinese calligraphy, the heart rate gradually decelerated
and became regular and there was a much lower heart rate during writing
than during resting. The subjects in the research were found to inhale and
exhale more deeply when writing Chinese calligraphy than during their resting
c.        Blood pressure was found to be lower during the writing of each
character than during the short rest breaks between the writing of each
d.        There was a lower brain wave activity in the subjects while writing
Chinese characters than during the short resting periods immediately before
writing each character.
e.        There was greater physiological reduction while writing Chinese
characters than English words, most probably because of the stroke
complexity, aesthetic value and the flexibility of the brush which required
complete concentration.
f.        Physiological relaxation effect associated with Chinese calligraphy
writing was not restricted to Chinese people.
g.        Westerners writing English could also gain the benefit of relaxation,
though at a slightly lesser magnitude.
h.        Experience in Chinese calligraphy was not necessarily a prerequisite
for the calligraphic benefit to occur.


Learning Chinese calligraphy appears to be a formidable undertaking at first.
However, I can assure you that once you have started learning, you will find
untold enjoyment and contentment in the practice and in the creative process
at a later stage.

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a first step of our feet.


All copyrights are reserved for the author.  The use of any part of this
publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means,electronic,
mechanical, recording or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the
prior consent of the publisher or writer is an infringement of the copyright law.


Chapter 1    Pre-historic periods:
Paleolithic, Neolithic periods and the First Kings
舊, 新 石 器 時 代 及 炎,黃,堯,舜,禹帝

Chapter One
Pre-historic China and the First Kings

Paleolithic China – Neolithic China – The First Kings— Yan Di 炎帝 —
Huang Di 黄帝— Yao Di 堯帝— Shun Di 舜帝— Yu Di 禹帝

Paleolithic China 舊石器時代的中國  (c.1.7million-10,000 years ago)

Evidence of the habitation of early humans in China could be dated as far
back as 1.7 million years ago. In human evolution terms, they were of the
genus homo erectus, commonly believed to be the ancestors of our present
human genus, homo sapiens (Latin: “man the wise”). It was the accidental
finding of fossils of teeth near Yuanmau 元謀 in Yunan 雲南 in 1965,
which were identified and put the earliest homo erectus in China back by
almost one million years from the dating of the “Peking Man” discovered in
the 1920’s in Zhoukoudian 周口店 near Beijing (then Beiping 北平).

We know very little about this early Yuanmau Man 元謀人 except that they
used stone tools and possibly mastered the use of fire. They could look ape-
like but the stance and gait of walking was upright, and would therefore be
the earliest kind of homo erectus.

Paleolithic Civilizations

Sites of other earliest prehistoric habitation of humans in China were
generally found along the great rivers of China, the Huang He 黄河, and
Chang Jiang 長江 (Yangtze river), flowing from the high plateaus and
mountains in the west to the coast in the east. Some of the most famous
names in these locations are: Lantian Man 藍田人 (c.800,000 – 650,000
years ago) Peking Man 北京人 (c.700,000- 200,000 years ago), Dingcun
Man 丁村人 (c. 210,000 – 80,000 years ago). And in the Neolithic period
新石器時代, there was Hemudu civilization 河姆渡文化 which was south
of Chang Jiang 長江 (c.7,000-5,500 years ago); and Yangshao civilization
仰韶文化 which was north of Huang He 黄河 (c. 6,000 years ago).

The Peking Man

Of all these, the Peking Man was the most world famous. Since the ground-
breaking theory of human evolution published by Darwin in the 1830’s,
human evolution had been the hottest topic in the world of science and one
of the most controversial issues in the Christian religion. Fossils of both
homo erectus and homo sapiens species were discovered in Africa,
Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia (notably, the Java Man), but
there was no evidence at all on how the specie of “erectus” became
“sapiens”. In short, there was almost a million years of “evolution” from
the “Ape” to the “Man” which had not been accounted for; and this lack of
evidence was popularly known as the “missing link” at the beginning of last

It was only in 1927 that in a cave in Zhoukoudian 周口店, near Peking,
Davidson Black, a Canadian archeologist unearthed one single tooth which
miraculously fitted the “Ape-man” belonging to the missing link.
Subsequent excavations uncovered more teeth and 14 skull caps and a lot of
fragmented bone fossils, all these were later known as the category of the
Peking Man. The importance of this discovery was self-evident since this
specie was post Java Man and provided a concrete proof of the evolution
of humankind from “homo erectus” to “homo sapiens”. It filled in the range
between 900,000 to 130,000 years ago. The link had been closed and
Darwin’s theory on human evolution was proved beyond doubt a full
century after its formulation.

These precious original fossil items were examined in the Peking Union
Medical College but were lost in a mixture of bad fortune and mystery. In
1937, when Peking was under imminent threat of Japanese invasion, these
fossils were packed up without any identification and secretly smuggled out
of Peking with USA as their final destination. They were under the escort of
US marines. However, the truck was stopped before it reached the nearest
port by the Japanese army which were already stationed in China to
“guard” the security of their railway invested by the Manchurian Railway
Corporation. Both Chinese and American personnel were detained and
taken away and the whereabouts of the “goods” in the truck was unknown.
War on Peking erupted soon afterwards and the Peking Man fossils could
not be traced. Were they discarded by the roadside as worthless bones or
secretly transported to Japan for their priceless scientific value was a
question unanswered even today. Studies which continued after the war
could only be conducted on plaster casts and other subsequent finds.

Neolithic China 新石器時代的中國  (c. 10,000- 4,000 years ago)

This period was marked by the use of more refined stone tools, the regular
use of fire and the invention of pottery wares. Homo sapiens gradually
changed from quintessential hunters to localized herdsmen and agricultural
production became the main theme. Groups in greater numbers developed
into communities. One of the special features of this new period was the
beginning of religious worship and evidence of burial rituals.

Hemudu civilization 河姆渡文化 was so named because it was located on
the south bank of Hangzhou estuary 杭州灣, near Hemudu 河姆渡 in
Zhejiang 浙江 and in Zhoushan Archipelago 舟山群島. The houses were
made of wooden structure with thatched roof and walls and a special
feature was that they were elevated on stilts. There was evidence of
shoulder bones of buffalos used for cultivation and pottery for cooking
wares. It was the oldest known civilization with watered rice plantations.

Yangshao civilization 仰韶文化 was named after its first finding in 1921 in
Henan 河南 near the village of Yangshao. There are now over a thousand
sites of the same period and exhaustive excavations were made in Banpo 半
坡 near Xi’an 西安, and in Lintung 臨潼, Baoji 寶雞, Luoyang 洛陽, and
Zhengzhou 鄭州 etc. These civilizations were marked with evidence of an
agricultural style of living, its members having fixed habitats, generally in
small communities and the typical Banpo 半坡 site was surrounded by a
protective moat or trench of over two meters wide, three meters deep and
extended for over a hundred meters. The people grew crops of millet and
used stone or pottery knives and they had bows and arrows and spears for
hunting. There were also hooks and tridents for fishing. Pottery wares
varied in size and shape, and were decorated with patterns and drawings
some of which were glazed.  An unusual feature in those wares was the
design of an outer pot for holding water and an inner pot with holes
perforating the bottom, allowing steam to go through. In essence, a steaming
device invented 6000 years before our modern home electrical appliances.
Utensils for wine brewing during this period were also uncovered. This
roughly corresponds with the Egyptians brewing beer over 5000 years ago.

The First Kings of China (c. 2600 BC — c. 2070 BC)

Yan Di  炎帝
The first legendary king of China was Yan-Di 炎帝 (c. 2600 B.C.) believed
to be so called because of his expert use of fire 火. However, he was more
popularly known as Shen-nong Shi 神農氏 and remembered as the “Father
of Herbs” who had tasted the myriad species of herbs to determine their
healing effects. He was followed by another great king called Huang Di 黄
帝. When modern Chinese describe themselves as “descendants of Yan and
Huang” 炎黄子孫, we are referring to these two legendary kings, Yan Di
炎 帝 and Huang Di 黄帝.

Huang Di  黄帝
Huang Di黄帝 was said to be the earliest known common ruler of central
China. His surname was Ji 姬, and because he was born near a place called
Xuanyuan 軒轅, he was also known as Xuanyuan Huang Di 軒轅黄帝. In
the most ancient battlefield in China, Zhuolu 涿鹿 in Hebei 河北 (about
120 Km north-west of present day Beijing 北京), Huang Di defeated a
notorious tribal leader Chiyou 蚩尤 and was thereafter nominated as king
of all the tribes. He commissioned his minister Cangjie 倉頡 to devise a
system of logographic writing with pictorial origins and the first written
Chinese language thus came into being. An almanac to assist farming and
cultivation was introduced and up to now it is still referred to as Huang’s
Calendar, 黄曆. His observations and discussions with his ministers
regarding Chinese medicine were recorded and it is still today a classical
text for study in that field. It was entitled Huang Di Neijing, 黄帝內經.
From that text, acupuncture 針炙 was obviously in general practice and
well documented during that period.

Measurements of weights and lengths were standardized, so were the five
basic musical notes 定五音. (Music thus recreated, notably copper bells,
was for thousands of years used only on state occasions and for official
rituals.  That was why a State Temple was called Bell Temple, 鐘廟.)
People were taught the ways of constructing houses, building boats and
carriages. The queen of Huang Di, Leizu 嫘祖 was said to be a master in
weaving and silkworm raising. Such arts were handed down from
generation to generation.

Yao Di  堯 帝
The next popular King of China was a descendant of Huang Di but already
about 400 years after him. He was Yao Di, 堯帝 (c.2200 BC). His capital
was at Pingyang 平陽, in today’s Shanxi Province 山西. It was believed
that his reign lasted for almost 100 years. Yao Di was called Fang-xun 放
勳 and he succeeded his elder brother Zhi 摯 who died on the throne but
ruled without notable merits. Yao was described in Sima Qian’s 司馬遷
Shi-ji 史記 as a wise and virtuous person. He was rich but not arrogant,
eminent but not lazy-bodied. He wore a golden crown, donned a black
scholar’s dress, and rode in a red carriage drawn by white horses. His
officials watched meticulously the shadow of the sun and when the day was
the longest and Mars 火星 appeared due south in the evening, this was
marked as summer solstice 夏至. The year was recognized as consisting of
366 days and additions and subtractions were made in the days of an
intercalary month to adjust any discrepancy.

When Yao Di 堯 was on the throne for 70 years he asked his ministers to
suggest someone to succeed him. All of them named a civilian called Yu
Shun 虞舜. They said, “Shun is the son of a blind man who is never an
upright person, his mother never talks sense, his younger brother is arrogant
and acts with impropriety. Yet he can keep his family harmonious and acts
with filial duty and beyond reproach.” Yao said, “Let me give him a try.”

Shun Di  舜 帝
Shun 舜 was about 30 at the time and only a commoner with no official post
at all. His father was a blind man. After Shun’s mother died, His father had
a step-wife and his brother Xiang 象 was born. Xiang was a spoiled child
and he grew up to be an arrogant and avaricious young man. His father
loved his younger son and always wanted to kill Shun. Shun had been a
farmer, fisherman, potter and a petty tradesman at markets.

Shun’s 舜 father once asked him to patch up the roof of his barn and when
he was up on the roof, his father set fire to the barn. Shun was only able to
escape by jumping down holding two straw hats. Later his father told him to
dig a well. Shun knew it was another evil scheme and he dug a small tunnel
by the side for escape. When Shun was deep down in the well, his father
and Xiang poured down soil to fill up the well. Shun however, escaped
through the side-tunnel. Xiang and his father were happy with what they did
and thought Shun 舜 must be dead this time. Xiang 象 said to his father,“
Shun’s wives are mine, his zither is mine. His cattle and barn are yours.”

Xiang went to Shun’s chamber and played his zither. Shun suddenly
appeared and Xiang was totally surprised and displeased. He said, “At the
moment I am missing you a lot.” Shun replied, “If this is so, it is very kind
of you.”

Earlier, Yao Di 堯帝 married two of his daughters to Shun and observed
closely how he treated his wives. Shun 舜 was able to manage the two
princesses to live with him in his humble abode with condescendence but
free from complaints. Yao Di 堯帝 was pleased. He gave Shun 舜 official
duties, which he performed to perfection. Shun 舜 was asked to receive
emissaries from all quarters of the country in the capital at the same time
and the result was everybody was being taken care of. Seeing this, all
officials and guests from far off places had a sense of respect for him. After
twenty years, Yao called Shun 舜 to his audience and said, “Your planning
is meticulous. What you promised you can deliver. I have watched you
closely. It is time for you now to take over the throne.”

Thereupon, in the ancestry temple, Yao gave Shun his mandate to act as
King and retired to his home to watch the will of Heaven as to his
successor. Shun 舜toured the four boundaries of the country under his
charge and worshipped Heaven and Earth. The country was divided into
twelve prefectures and they were all well governed.  Eight years later Yao
died and the whole country was in mourning. Music of any kind was not
played for three years.

After three years, as a token to pass the kingship back to Yao’s son Dan-zhu
丹朱, Shun 舜 retreated to the south. However, the nobility and the litigants
did not go to Dan-zhu in the capital but they went to Shun 舜, whereupon
Shun said, “Is this not Heaven’s will?” He returned to the capital and
became Shun Di 舜帝 (c.2250 BC). At that time he was 61. He ruled for 39
more years and when he was touring the south, he died near the south bank
of Chang Jiang 長江 and was buried there, a place which is now called
Lingling, 零陵.

Xia-yu 夏禹
During Yao Di’s 堯帝 reign, flood was the biggest problem of China. Yao
堯 asked his ministers if there was anyone who could manage the problem.
The four chief ministers nominated Gun 鲧, but after nine years nothing was
achieved. Then Yao Di 堯帝 got Shun 舜 and promoted him as his deputy.
Shun 舜 found that Gun 鲧 was not up to his job and exiled him to Yushan
羽山 where he died. Shun 舜 used Guan’s son, Yu 禹, who was more
capable, to carry on with the job. Yu 禹 was in fact the grandson of the
grandson 玄孫 of Huang Di 黄帝. Yu was given the assignment to resolve
the flooding problem. He applied his heart and soul to his task. He
surveyed the topology of the mountains, valleys, rivers and plains, carrying
with him surveying instruments wherever he went. He worked outdoors for
thirteen years and it was said that on many occasions he passed his home
but did not stop for a visit. (三過其門而不入). He carried on with his
work the fourth day after his marriage and had no opportunity to raise and
teach his son Qi 啓 after he was born.

Because of Yu’s 禹 work on the rivers, tributaries and canals, he was
designated heir to the throne by Shun Di 舜帝. Seventeen years after that
Shun Di 舜帝 died and Yu 禹 observed the mandatory three-year mourning.
He retreated to his hometown of Yang City 陽城, leaving the capital to
Shun Di’s son Shang-jun 商均. The feudal lords however, all sought
audience with Yu instead with Shang-jun. Yu 禹 returned to the capital to
take the throne and founded the new empire of Xia 夏 (c. 2070 BC).

Events in other parts of the World during comparative period
(Pre-historic – 2070BC)
BC40,000 Last Ice Age in Europe, settlement of Cro-Magnon Man
20,000      Cave paintings in France
7,000        Walled settlement in Jericho
6,000        Neolithic period in Europe
5,000        Sea level rose to divide Britain from Europe
4,200        First date in Egyptian calendar
3,760        Earliest date in Jewish calendar
3,100        First Egyptian dynasty
3,000        Phoenicians in eastern Mediterranean coast
2,780        First pyramid built in Egypt
2,500        Civilization in Indus valley, India
2,500        Knossos founded by Minoans in Crete
2,000        Bronze Age in Europe

Chapter Two  
Xia, Shang & Zhou

Xia Dynasty 夏朝 (c. 2070 BC — c. 1766 BC) — Shang Dynasty 商朝 (c.
1600 BC – 1046 BC) — Zhou Dynasty 周朝 (c. 1045 BC — 221 BC)

Xia Dynasty 夏朝  (c.2070 BC — c. 1766 BC)

Before the death of Yu Di, 禹帝, it was said that he appointed Bo-yi 伯益
as his successor. After Yu’s death, Bo-yi, in observation of the tradition,
left the throne to Yu’s son Qi 啓. In contrast to the previous custom of
“shanrang” 禪讓, the feudal lords all favoured Qi啓 and sought his
audience instead of Bo-yi伯益. Qi啓, therefore, took the throne and started
the long history of hereditary succession in the history of China. Historians
called this reign Xia Dynasty 夏朝 which lasted for about 430 years.

Xia 夏 was the first prototype dynasty in China with a complete government
hierarchy. There was an official for each and every public function, all
occupied by nobles of the king’s family. Evidence shows that it was as
early as Xia that human (mostly slaves) and animals were sacrificed during
burial rituals of kings and nobles. These barbaric rituals continued in the
next dynasty, Shang 商; and seemed to have stopped in the more civilized
dynasty of Zhou 周.

The Empire of Xia 夏 was interrupted for about forty years in the reign of
its 4th king, Xiang 相. The leader Hou-yi, 后羿 of a tribe called Youqiong
Shi有窮氏 attacked the capital and successfully ousted the King of Xia who
became a fugitive in exile. It was only until the time of his son, Shao-kang
少康 that the Xia Dynasty was able to restore its bloodline to the throne,
after a period of forty odd years in civil war.

A new refined black pottery 黑陶 emerged during this period, which was
of better quality than the primitive grazed pottery. This culture spread
almost throughout China except in the remote regions. It is believed that it
was made on the wheel, which was at the time an advanced invention.

Handwriting was more developed now since its legendary introduction by
Huang Di, which was basically pictorial or logographic in nature.
However, what was left in archaeological finds was only inscriptions on
animal bones and tortoise shells for oracular divination 甲骨文 performed
by the state, mainly dating from the next dynasty, Shang.

The 16th and the last king of Xia 夏was the infamous Xia Jie, 夏桀. He
was in every respect a despot and was feared by his subjects, ministers and
neighbouring states. A particularly developed state to the east was Shang
商 and its leader was Tang 湯. He raised an army and attacked Jie at his
capital Anyi 安邑. Jie was deserted by his nobles and allies and he
retreated his army to Mingtiao 鳴條, where it was routed. Jie 桀 died while
fleeing from the battlefield and it was about 1766 BC, which marked the
end of this first Dynasty of China. This battle was fought near the banks of
Huang He 黄河, in the southern part of today’s Shanxi 山西 Province.

Shang Dynasty 商朝  (c. 1600 BC – 1046 BC)

Shang 商 started as a subordinate satellite tribe 附庸 to Xia 夏. When it
was obvious that the administration of Xia Jie 夏桀 was deserted by its
feudal lords and people, Tang 湯 led the Shang army to overthrow a dying
empire. Tang was assisted by able ministers and one of them was the
renowned Yi-yin 伊尹. He was a man of virtuous disposition, an able
administrator, a shrewd military strategist and an accomplished politician.

Shang Dynasty had a two-tier succession system which was adopted
occasionally by subsequent dynasties. Of its 31 kings, some were
succeeded by younger brothers 兄終弟及 and the others by sons. Its capital
was moved no less than four times since establishing in Bo 亳, near today’s
Luoyang 洛陽 and later to Yin 殷, which is today’s Anyang 安陽 in Henan
河南 bordering on Hebei 河北 and finally to Chaoge 朝歌. Because of its
capital in Yin, the term Shang 商 and Yin 殷 are interchangeable by
historians and they refer to the same dynasty. The old city of Yin殷
produced rich archaeological finds today and was estimated to occupy over
15 square miles in its walled city in its haydays.

Shang was an advanced agricultural society believed to be supporting a
population of 5-8 million people. The government issued orders as to what
and when to plant crops, and it had a calendar system with a 360-day year
of 12 months of 30 days each. They observed that the moon’s orbit around
the Earth was 30 days and in Chinese writing, moon 月and month 月 are
still the same character. The calendar took cognizance of both lunar and
solar cycles; and, when it became necessary to adjust the lunar year to the
solar year, an intercalary month would be added. Musical instruments had
evidently come down from Xia. They included clay ocarina, bells and
drums of bronze, which were music for the state and the nobility.

Bronze 青銅 was invented in Shang Dynasty. It was an alloy of copper and
tin and the hardest metal known at the time before the discovery of iron. It
was commonly used for weaponry, armory and chariots, apart from
ceremonial vessels of various shapes and sizes such as cauldron 鼎 and
square cauldron 方尊 (a 1000 Kg. cauldron was possible); and hardwares
such as tripods, food utensils and drinking cups, notably those with
elaborate elongated spouts for the kings and aristocrats.

As early as Huang Di’s time黄帝 it was believed that people barter for the
goods they wanted and used seashells as a token for money. In Shang,
bronze was used to produce bronze shells 銅貝 and this was the earliest
kind of money in the world, which was dated 3600 years ago. Because
society was quite developed in Shang, apart from people who produced for
themselves, a class of people specially bought and sold goods as a trade
and their activities could be traced throughout the empire and in
neighbouring regions, so these people were known as Shang people 商人,
which name had been borrowed to mean traders or businessmen in the
Chinese language.

Near the archaeological remains of Yin 殷 were uncovered a dozen of
royal tombs dug over ten meters underground. Assortment of artifacts and
daily utensils were uncovered. Together with these, there was abundant
evidence of human (believed to be slaves and workmen) and animal
(horses and dogs) sacrifices. They were killed presumably as a burial ritual
so that their masters were not short of any service after death and possibly
to silence workers who knew the entrances to the underground tombs.

Chariots used in the army and for hunting seem a Shang innovation. It is
believed to be drawn by four horses and could carry 3 persons, the driver,
a spearman and a bowman. The axle was made in bronze and almost twice
in width as those found in the remains of Troy, which was roughly of the
same period. They were used both in hunting and in war. However, there
was insufficient evidence to tell whether they were used in great numbers
as an army unit or merely as mobile command posts for generals and

Pottery objects were abundant in Shang. Potters made fired-clay sectional
molds for casting bronze utensils. Refined pottery included dishes and
bowls in a white glaze 彩陶 for ceremonial and ritual use, and black
pottery 黑陶 with a rich brown glaze was found in greater numbers,
obviously for more common purposes. The builders of the Shang period
built houses of timber over earth floors, with walls of wattle and roofs of
thatch. These were basically of the same features as the houses in Xia 夏 as
exhibited in the Erlitao civilization 二里頭文化 in Henan 河南.

Jade carving became quite advanced in the Shang period; ceremonial jade
and other articles were made such as swords 劍, halberds 戟, axes 斧,
rings 環 and buckles 扣. Jade figurines included human and animal shapes,
such as tiger 虎, dog 犬, fish 魚 and cicada 蟬. Many of these have been
found in tombs of the period.

Oracle Scripts 甲 骨 文

The earliest form of Chinese written language was found dating to the
Shang period. Most of the findings came from Yin 殷, (present day Anyang
安陽). Characters such as silk 絲, mulberry 桑, scarf 巾, clothe 帛, well
井, field 田 and other oracle records were found inscribed on animal bones
and tortoise-shells.  They were either carved on or burnt into the bones,
now known as “oracle scripts” 甲骨文. These most ancient scripts were
only uncovered a century ago by accident. A scholar in literature in late
Qing Dynasty fell ill and he was prescribed a Chinese medicine called
“dragon bone” 龍骨, which was in fact tortoise shells. His friend found
writings on the shells and some of them were identifiable but some were
not. They asked the medicine shop for the source and were told it came
from a village near Anyang 安陽. They knew from Shi-ji’s 史記 record that
“south of River Huan 洹 水 was capital of Yin 殷墟. Their research led to
continuous findings which produced half a million pieces of fragmented
shells and fossils and some 3000 individual written characters were
uncovered. Over half of them are now identifiable.

Zhòu Wang 紂 王

The last king of Shang was Di Xin 帝辛, more commonly known as Zhòu
Wang 紂王. (c.1078-1045 BC) He was even a worse king than Xia Jie 夏
傑 of the last dynasty. The reign of Zhòu 紂 developed into a notorious
tyranny. Its subjects were severely exploited and they lived under
oppression. Zhòu 紂 only lived in his world of hunting, drinking and
womanizing and he even invented ways of torturing people as a form of
entertainment. The torture of roasting people alive by tying them to a
circular copper pillar with burning charcoal below (炮烙刑 ) was
attributed to him.

In his later years he took to the liking of a consort called Daji 妲已. She
was a woman of enchanting beauty but unruly in behaviour. In the palace
gardens, it was said that wine filled the ponds and meat hung from the trees,
酒池肉林. Hundreds of men and women either naked or with immodest
attire were let in and engaged day and night in revelries of lust, food and
wine. Zhòu 紂 and Daji 妲已 would enjoy themselves watching these
licentious acts.

Zhòu’s 紂 tyrannical rule had caused great dissent among his people and
fear among the neighbouring states. Finally when Ji Fa姬發 (later known as
Zhou Wu Wang 周武王) allied with other smaller states, led an army
across Huang He黄河 to attack the capital of Shang at Chaoge 朝歌 (in
present day Henan 河南), the Shang army, though said to be of over half a
million men, composed partly of slaves and prisoners of war, disintegrated
in the battlefield and the battle at Muye 牧野 was lost as soon as it was
joined. Zhòu Wang 紂王 fled to his palace, set it on fire and died within the
flames. That was the end of Shang Dynasty 商朝 after almost six centuries
and the beginning of another new era in China, Zhou 周 which would last
for over eight centuries (the longest dynasty in China) before harmonious
order was shattered and China would plunge again into the tumult of the
Warring States 戰國 period.

Zhou Dynasty 周 朝  (c. 1045 BC — 221 BC)

The Zhou people were relatively primitive frontiersmen of the western
highlands of China, settling along Huai River 淮河from the mid-Xia era
near today’s Xi’an 西安 in Shanxi山西 district. They, however, adopted
the more civilized style of living of the Xia people and gained strength as a
state among the other smaller tribes. When Zhòu 紂 of Xia was dissipating
his country’s power in extravagant pleasures and was having troubles with
his neighbours and internally nurturing resentment from his ministers, the
most honest and righteous batch of whom were being executed or exiled
one after another, the leader of the Zhou周 people, Ji Fa姬發thought the
time was ripe. He led a league of small army from the other smaller lords
and attacked the capital across the Huang He (Yellow River) 黄河 in the

At Mengjin 孟津 the gathered army held a massive marching off ceremony
and the manifesto given by Ji Fa 姬發 (later known as Zhou Wu Wang 周武
王) under oath was a piece of highly revered ancient literature, known as
“Qin Shi” 秦誓. It contained the following motto: “一心一德, 立定厥功,
惟克永世”.  It meant “ Let all of us with one heart and one purpose,
determine to conquer our enemy and the people of the world shall live in
peace thereafter.”

After the decisive defeat of the Shang 商 army and the demise of Zhòu 紂,
Ji Fa 姬發 took over the large domain of the toppled empire and founded
the Zhou Dynasty 周朝. To honour his deceased father, Ji Chang 姬昌, a
posthumous title was given to him and it was Zhou Wen Wang 周文王
(meaning: Literal King). After Ji Fa died, he was called Zhou Wu Wang 周
武王 (meaning: Martial King). This practice of ancestral title elevation has
caused non-Chinese historians to wonder who founded the new dynasty and
this aberration was to be repeated in similar situations.

In order to maintain stability and order of the empire, Wu Wang
systematically carved his domain into smaller states and divided them
among his feudal lords. Feudalism in Chinese is represented by the words
“feng jian” 封建. “Feng” 封 meant 封國, that is “awarding a state by
imperial decree”. “Jian” 建 meant 建君, that is “establishing a king”. To
this end, the prince of Shang 商, Wu Geng 武庚, son of Zhòu 紂 was
awarded Yin 殷, to govern the people of the demised Shang dynasty. Wu
Wang 武王 rightly estimated that his power was not enough to control the
population of Shang by the millions. To watch over this remnant prince of
the past dynasty, Wu-wang had three other lords of his kin establishing
states around him. Descendents of former kings (Huang Di黄帝, Yao Di 堯
帝, Shun Di 舜帝, Yu Di 禹帝) were also given lordships and they had
their feudal states in Ji 薊, Zhu 祝, Chen 陳, and Qi杞 respectively. This
was recognized as a benevolent act of “reviving lost countries and restoring
broken bloodlines”, 興滅國, 繼絕世, professing magnanimity and fairplay
to the world.

Two years after this Zhou victory, Wu Wang died, leaving an under-age
prince Song 誦; and Wu Wang’s brother Zhou Gong Dan (Duke of Zhou) 周
公旦 was nominated as regent to the throne. Taking advantage of the
situation, Wugeng 武庚 and other feudal lords who had an ambition for the
throne rose in rebellion. Zhou Gong Dan 旦 led an army to suppress the
uprising and it took him three years to re-conquer the Shang 商 remnant
forces and other smaller states in collusion against a new empire under
regency. The Zhou Empire as a result expanded to Shandong 山東 and
Zhejiang 浙江 in the east, and to the bank of Chang Jiang 長江 in the south.

When peace was restored, Zhou Gong 周公 proceeded with a second
feudal decree, 二次封建. This time all the feudal lords were either his
brothers or close relatives. The Shang people were emigrated to Luoyi 洛
邑 en mass, for close control under the new rulers. In the whole exercise,
more than 70 states were created. After 7 years, Zhou Gong re-established
good order to the empire and resigned his regency when his nephew Song
誦 came to age, who was known as Cheng Wang 成王.

These early kings of Zhou had a high place in the minds of rulers and
historians of later centuries, regarded as icons of kings and sages.
Collectively they were referred to as “Three Kings and Five Dis” 三王五
帝. In chronological order, they were Huang Di黄帝, Yao Di 堯帝, Shun
Di 舜帝, Yu Di 禹帝, Tang Di 湯帝, Wen Wang 文王, Wu Wang 武王 and
Zhou Gong 周公.

The “Zhou Rituals” 周禮 was a national system devised by Zhou Gong 周
公 for the administration of the empire in terms of state ancestral worship,
religion, music, government administration, ritualistic order and the
behavioral appearance and ethics of the classes (under five levels: Son of
Heaven 天子 [the King]; feudal lords 諸侯; high officials 卿, 大夫;
officials “shi” 士; and commoners 平民 or 布衣). The book “Classic of
Rituals ” 禮記 (Li-ji) is one of the oldest classics in Chinese literature.

Confucius born in the Eastern Zhou era (C.500 BC) was an ardent believer
in Zhou Gong’s 周公 rituals and commented once on the number of dancers
in the court of one of the lords and high officials, saying, “八脩舞于庭, 是
可忍也, 熟不可忍也?” “脩” was one row of eight dancers. It was Zhou
ritual 周禮 that only the King can entertain with 8 rows of dancers, making
a troupe of 64. What Confucius was criticizing was that if 8 rows of
dancers were allowed to dance in one’s court and that was tolerated, what
could not be tolerated?

The rights and obligations of these classes were hereditary in favour of the
oldest male descendants. Since the making of the two feudal decrees by Wu-
wang and Zhou Gong, no more feudal lords were created. However, as
succession of the lordships was hereditary in practice, it became a matter
of formality for the King to confirm the appointments of heirs in succession.
As the economic and military powers of some of the feudal lords grew in
the centuries that followed, the King of Zhou had no way to stop them from
their ambitions and the “ritual” guidelines were unable to contain them,
leading to the loss of power and influence of the central Zhou government
on the feudal states.

In terms of literature, very few of the texts written in early Zhou survived,
mainly due to the reason that works written on silk and wood or bamboo
pieces with brush and ink were not durable in term of centuries and few of
them were in existence except notably the Five Classics 五經 left by
popular copying. They are: Classic of Yi (Yi-jing) 易經, Classic of
Writings (Shu-jing) 書經, Classic of Odes 詩經, The Spring and Autumn
Annuals 春秋 and the Classic of Rituals 禮記. Together with the Four
Books 四書 compiled by the disciples of Confucius, these have been the
orthodox classics of the Chinese literature for many generations, revered as
“Four Books and Five Classics” 四書五經.

When the Zhou Dynasty passed 254 years, onto the 13th king, its history
came to a watershed. It marked its decline from which Zhou never
recovered. It began with You Wang 幽王 striping the Queen, Shen 申后
and the crown prince of their royal titles because he was madly fond of a
consort called Baosi 褒姒 and wanted to name her son Bofu as crwon
prince. Ministers advised against it but they were ignored by You Wang.

Baosi 褒姒 was said to be enchantingly beautiful but she rarely smiled. In
order to make her smile, You Wang 幽王 had tried every means but in vain.
The legend was that one day the King and his consort were drinking in a
pavilion in the capital and You Wang had an idea. In those days there were
beacon towers in strategic places, which would be lit if there was an alert
of any danger to the capital and help was required from the feudal lords.
You Wang ordered that the beacons be lit. Within a matter of hours, the
neighboring feudal lords, gravely concerned, arrived post-haste with their
cavalry and chariots. They would not believe their eyes to find the King and
Baosi 褒姒 were having drinks leisurely on top of a pavilion. The royal
consort was however, greatly amused, seeing thousands of exhausted men
hurrying to the capital in full armour for nothing more than a sham alarm.
She smiled and laughed in an uncontrollable manner. You Wang was
greatly pleased that he finally found something that would make Baosi 褒姒
laugh. This was historically known as 烽火戲諸侯 and because of its
dramatic nature, this scene continues to be enacted in Chinese operas

In the 11th year of You Wang’s 幽王 rule, Marquis Shen 申侯, brother of
the disgraced Queen, conspired with a foreign tribe Quanrong 犬戎 and set
upon the capital Haojing 鎬京 with little warning. The beacons towers
were lit once again but as could be expected, no feudal lords were
prepared to mobilize their army to the king’s whim. You Wang was killed
when the capital fell and it was sacked and largely destroyed. That was 771
BC, which marked the demise of the “Western” Zhou era. Because when the
revived crown prince took the throne (later known as Ping Wang 平王), in
order to avoid the threat of Quanrong 犬戎, he moved the capital to Luoyi
洛邑 (later known as Luoyang 洛陽), to the east of Haojing 鎬京.
Therefore, historians referred to this period as Eastern Zhou 東周 and the
previous one Western Zhou 西周.

Eastern Zhou is historically divided into two periods, Spring and Autumn
Era 春秋 (770-477BC) and Warring States Era 戰國 (476-221BC) which
is the subject matter of the next Chapter.

Events in other parts of the World during comparative period
(2070 BC – 770 BC)
BC     2150  Aryans invaded Indus Valley
1830  First dynasty of Bablylon
1570  New Kingdom in Egypt
1400  Knosses destroyed
1361  Accession of Tutankhamun in Egypt
1304  Accession of Remeses in Egypt
1232  Israelites in Canaan
1193  Troy destroyed by Greeks
1020  Saul, King of Israel
994  King David conquered Jerusalem
814  Carthage founded by Phoenicians
776  First Olympic Games in Greece

Chapter Three
Eastern Zhōu

Eastern Zhōu 東 周 — Spring and Autumn Era 春 秋 時 代 (770–477 BC)
— Warring States Era 戰 國 時 代 (476 – 221 BC)

Eastern Zhou 東周 — Spring and Autumn Era 春秋時代 (770–477 BC)

Since Zhou Ping Wang 周平王 moved the capital to Luoyi 洛邑 (later
known as Luoyang 洛陽), to the east of Haojing 鎬京, that period of history
of Zhou dynasty is known as Eastern Zhou 東周 and the beginning of the
Spring and Autumn Era 春秋時代. The name of this era was borrowed
from the title of a book complied by Kong Zi 孔子 (Latin version,
Confucius). It was the historical record of the State of Lu 魯國史書 under
the title 春秋 (Spring and Autumn Annuals), which covered the state’s
history from 722 BC to 481 BC, a total of 242 years.

Since Ping Wang 平王 established in the new capital, there was a marked
decline in the power of the central government, both nominal and in
practice. There were quite a number of reasons for it. First, before Ping
Wang sat on the throne, there was another prince Yu-chen 余臣 who was
supported by some lords and contested for the same kingship. It was a time
when there were two kings for Zhou Dynasty, 二王并立. Supported by
more powerful feudal lords of Zheng 鄭, Qin 秦, Jin 晉 etc., Ping Wang
was successful in the end and prince Yu-chen was killed in the civil war. It
was evident that Ping Wang had the crown put on him by the feudal lords 諸
侯 and was therefore not in a position to command them.

On the other hand, the more powerful feudal lords had been expanding their
territories and they grew much stronger economically and militarily. They
were exploiting the weaker states and annexing and merging were
happening all the time. It was a situation of feudal lords having a hot contest
in a power struggle for leadership, known by historians as 諸侯爭霸. The
King of Zhou for this period, though calling himself “Son of Heaven”, 天子,
had in fact become a nominal head whose orders and decrees did not
exceed his dwindling domain.

When Ping Wang 平王 died in 720 BC and Huan Wang 桓王 succeeded
him, the situation worsened for the Zhou administration. Huan Wang wanted
to restore his rights as King and relieved Duke of Chuang of his official
title in the state of Zheng 鄭Zhuang Gong 莊公 defied instead by abstaining
from paying annual homage 朝覲 to Huan Wang 桓王. Aided by feudal
lords of Chen 陳, Cai 蔡 and Wei 衛, the King led an army onto the state of
Zheng 鄭 to demand subordination. Zheng 鄭國 resisted with force and the
King lost both the battle and his image as King of the lords.

Therefore the leadership of the feudal lords did no longer rest with the King
of Zhou but with whoever competent. Qi Huan Gong 齊桓公 was the first
of the five who were able to achieve that status. He defeated a northern
foreign threat from a tribe called Shanrong 山戎 and saved Wei 衛 and
Xing 邢 from being overrun by other lords, thus achieving a reputation. He
was assisted by a well-known minister named Guan Zhong 菅仲 who
turned Qi 齊, a remote backward country in Shandong away from the
central plain, into a superpower. In 651BC, Qi Huan Gong 齊桓公 held an
interstate convention in Kuiqiu 葵丘, which was represented by Lu 魯,
Song 宋, Wei 衛, Zheng 鄭, and even the King of Zhou “Son of Heaven” 周

The rest of the historical “Five Super-lords” 春秋五霸 were Jin Wen Gong
晉文公, Song Xiang Gong 宋襄公, Qin Mu Gong 秦穆公 and Chu Zhuang
Wang 楚莊王.

The need for constant survival for the smaller states and the ambition to
achieve leadership for the more powerful ones had produced one result
regarding the customary qualification for a person to become an official of
a state. This was true for this period as well as for the Warring States era.
The requirement that someone must be a descendant of the feudal nobility or
aristocracy gave way to the pragmatic need to manage a state with strategic
objectives such as reforming from its weakness, allying with a more
powerful state or to incorporate a weaker one to expand ones strength. To
this end, state or local administration was open to all, including the
common people, to the competent, wise, one with a wider vision, shrewd
or harsh possibly but with results. This was why during this period, we had
such a multitude of able administrators and strategists such as Guan Zhong
菅仲, Su Qin 蘇秦, Zhang Yi 張儀, Mao Sui 毛遂, Shang Yang 商鞅, Fan
Li 范蠡, Wu Qi 吴起, Wu Yuan 伍員, Lu Bu-hui 呂不韋, to name just a
few notable examples.

This was also a time that state identity did not matter. People with
substance could work for any state where their ability was recognized and
appreciated and there was no shortage of precedents. There was a term 客
卿, which meant “guest ministers”, namely ministers or high officials who
came from a foreign state and it was a common occurrence in those days.
Shang Yang 商鞅 and Su Qin 蘇秦 were good examples. They found their
fortunes in a foreign state, the former elevated to chief minister, and
rejuvenated a backward country, Qin 秦, into a superpower; and the latter,
becoming a joint minister of all the other six countries against the powerful
Qin in his unsurpassed diplomatic feat known as “vertical axis” 合縱.

Lords and princes had also a prevailing practice in those days to keep
“guests” 食客 under their care, providing for food and lodging. Lords Xin-
ling 信陵君, Chun-shen 春申君, and Meng-chang 孟嘗君, were the best-
known princes who each had 3000 such guests. Related to this “guests”
system, there arose a group called “shi” 士 or 俠士, which was different
from the old meaning of 士 which was “officials”. These 俠士 were
“guests” who had achieved a name and they were “free-lance” people
loosely resembling to “knights” in the legend of King Arthur. Because their
integrity and courage were recognized unreservedly by their masters, they
were prepared to perform any difficult assignment given them, even to the
death. Some of them, for the cause of their masters, became assassins and
they were given a place even in the history book of Shi-ji 史記 by Sima
Qian 司馬遷 under the chapter “Biography of Assassins” 剌客列傳. The
four best known were Zun Zhu 尊諸, Yu Rang 豫讓, Jing Ke 荊軻, and Nie
Zheng 聶政, each with a stunning story. Jing Ke 荊軻 of course was the
best known as the one who attempted on Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇, gaining
access as an envoy and died in the failed assassination. His story would be
told at the end of the Warring States era.

Learning in those eras was no longer a privilege of the nobility and ruling
families who organized state institutions called 官學. There flourished
civilian, independent private tutors 私學 (of which Kong Zi 孔子 of course
was the most renowned in later dynasties and had long-lasting influence)
who each had some specialty to their teachings and attracted students to
them by word of mouth. As a result of this uninhibited learning, there were
numerous schools of thought historically described as 百家爭鳴. Notable
schools of thought were: Confucianism 儒家, Taoism 道家, Legalism 法家
Mo Zi 墨子, Zhong Zi 莊子, Sun Zi 孫子 etc.

Kong Zi 孔子 (named Kong Qiu 孔丘) was son of a minister 大夫 in the
State Lu 魯國 and his ancestorial bloodline was a king of the State of Song
宋. Because he was not the eldest son, he had no hereditary title but was
able to make his way up the hierarchy through knowledge acquired from his
father’s ex-colleagues and self-learning from archives accessible to him.
He was never a high minister in Lu and being disillusioned, took to teaching
students.  He was a great admirer of Zhou Gong 周公 who lived about 500
years before him and was an advocate and conformist of Zhou rituals.

He did not impose any discrimination on class in learning. His only
differentiation was the desire and willingness to learn. His teaching on self-
discipline and virtue cumulated in the ideological concept of “man of
perfection”, Jun-zi, 君子. He said, “ A Jun-zi will not command respect if
he is not firmly composed; nor will his learning consolidate. He will
devote himself to his principles and be sincere.” When his students asked
whether there was anything that could be held on for life, he replied,
“Integrity 忠 and reciprocity恕.” By integrity he meant integrity to one’s
principles but later rulers and scholars believed that he meant integrity to
the king 忠君. On reciprocity, he said, “Do not do unto others, what you do
not want them do unto you.”

His teachings were collected by his disciples and followers into short,
unrelated chapters under titles of four books, the “Great Learning”大學,
“The Mean” 中庸, the “Analects” 論語 and “Meng Zi” 孟子, which
became known as the “Four Books”四書, second only, in Chinese classics,
to the Five Classics 五經 written in early Zhou.

Lao Zi was contemporary to Kong Zi but about 10 years to his senior. He
was only known as an ordinary official in charge of the archives of the
State Temple. Before he disappeared in retirement he passed Hangu Pass 函
谷關 and left his work to the gate-keeper known as Guan Yin-zi 關尹子.
This was the famous Daodejing 道德經, the main source of Taoism which,
apart from being a philosophy, later turned into an indigenous Chinese
religion 道教.

The first known legalist 法家 should be Li Kui 李悝, the chief minister of
Marquis Wen of Wei 魏文侯. His book, Classic of Law 法經 was the
earliest known work on codified law. Shang Yang 商鞅 in the next era was
one of its ardent readers. He was a minister of Qin Xiao Kong 秦孝公 who
was king of Qin about 85 years before Qin Shi Huang’s 秦始皇 time. His
reformation and codification of the law laid down the future success of Qin
as a superpower state over the others.

Towards the 6th centuries BC, two states Jin 晉 in the north of Huang He黄
河 and Chu 楚, in the Chang Jiang 長江 region had been fighting for
leadership for over 100 years. Both countries felt the drain of resources and
the people were tired and sick of war. There was then a truce leading to an
agreement in “curtailing the army” 弭兵 (mi-bing), which happened in 546
BC, the first of its kind in that period. Fourteen states, except Qi 齊 in the
east and Qin 秦 in the west, joined the convention and they regarded both
Jin 晉 and Chu 楚 as the joint leaders, 晉楚共霸.

At the same time, two countries south of Chang Jiang 長江 rose in strength.
They were Wu 吳 and Yue 越. The rise of Wu 吳 lent a lot on the ability
and tenacity of Wu Yuan 伍員 or Wu Zi-xu 伍子胥, an escapee from the
state of Chu 楚. Yuan’s 員 father was a Chu 楚 minister and because of a
factional struggle was killed by the king of Chu 楚王. Before he was
executed the king made him write a letter to recall his sons to the capital
under the pretence that he would then be released. Both sons knew their
father’s letter was written under instruction but the elder son obliged,
insisting that it was his duty to go. He was subsequently executed together
with his father. Wu Yuan 伍員 thought escaping for vengeance at a later day
was a better way.

Wu Yuan 伍員 arrived at the capital of Wu吳through unspeakable hardship,
begging for alms on the way. Through the introduction of an old friend he
was noticed by the king of Wu吳王, Helu 闔閭 who appointed him his
chief of staff 軍師. Because of Yuan’s 伍員 strategy, the Wu 吳 army
scored numerous successes against Chu 楚 and sacked its capital at Qingdu
郢都 and Wu Yuan 伍員 exhumed the remains of the king of Chu 楚王 to
fulfill his vengeance regarding his father’s death. Thereafter, Chu 楚 lost its
status as a leader of the states.

After his success in Chu, king of Wu吳, He-lu 闔閭 attacked Gou-jian 勾踐
, the king of the state of Yue 越王, and died in battle. His son Fu-chai 夫差
succeeded the throne and swore vengeance. He wore on the front of his
chest a piece of leather on a string hanging from his neck, to remind him that
he should be as tough and to persevere. He put a servant on guard at the
entrance of his palace chamber and whenever he passed through, the
servant would ask, “Fu-chai 夫差, have you forgotten about the vengeance
of the late-king, your father? ”, to which he would reply, “No, I dare not!”

After years of preparation, he defeated Yue 越 and brought back its king
Gou-jian 勾踐 as his stable attendant. Gou-jian 勾踐 was released after
three years of captivity during which he purposely lay on logs as bed and
tasted a gall hanging above him before he slept, which was known as 臥薪
嘗膽. On returning to his country, he sought out a girl, Xi-shi 西施, of
supreme beauty and sent her to Fu-chai 夫差 and with other valuable
presents to his chief minister who subsequently never failed to put in good
words for him. Fu-chai was greatly pleased and was head over heels in
love with this newfound beauty.  For twenty years Gou-jian 勾踐
reorganized and rearmed his country and finally, in 473 BC, defeated the
state of Wu 吳國 and its king Fu-chai 夫差 was ordered to commit suicide.
Thereafter Gou-jian’s 勾踐 influence expanded northwards into the central
plain of China and was effectively the leader of the lords, 霸主. A few
years later he died and that was also towards the end of the Spring and
Autumn Era, 春秋時代結束.

Eastern Zhou 東 周 — Warring States Era 戰 國 時 代 (476 – 221 BC)

Throughout the middle and later parts of the Warring States period, except
towards the end when Qin was conquering the rest of the countries, only
seven states remained out of the hundreds of feudal lords established in the
early Zhou 周 era and dominated the scene. Qin 秦 in the west, Han 韓,
Zhou 趙 and Wei 魏 (which broke up the state of Jin 晉) in the north and
central Huang He黄河 region, Yan 燕 in present day Dongbei 東北, Qi 齊
in Shandong 山東 and Chu 楚 in the Chang Jiang 長江 basin.

In 438 BC, the king of Jin 晉died and was succeeded by Jin You Gong 晉幽
公who was weak and entirely unable to control the three chief ministers,
Han 韓 Zhou 趙 and Wei 魏. The three families conspired together, split
the country and divided it among themselves. Jin 晉 was only left with only
two cities which were taken away in the end after about thirty years. This
was historically described as 三家分晉. It was blatant usurping of the land
and title of a feudal lord but the King of Zhou 周天子was unable to alter
the circumstances. In the end he had to acknowledge the fact accompli and
ratify the appointment of the three families as feudal lords.

In this period, Wei 魏 was the first state which progressed substantially in
its economy, politics and militia through reformation of its laws by legalist
法家 Li Kui 李悝. Both Marquis Wen 文侯 and Marquis Wu 武侯 of Wei
魏 were able to expand the boundaries of the country, overrunning the state
of Zhong Sha中山國in the process. It continued west and encroached into
the eastern border of Qin 秦 in Hexi 河西. With the famous strategist and
general Wu Qi  吴起, it was able to stop the aggression of Qin in the west,
defeated Qi 齊 in the east and Chu 楚 in the south. It became the leader 霸
主 of the warring states in the early period.

Chu 楚 followed the example of Wei 魏 and was committed to reformation.
The heredity rights of the nobles would not go beyond the third generation.
Incompetent and unnecessary officials were dismissed and sinecure posts
cancelled. Expenses were curtailed and military success greatly rewarded.
In this fashion Chu was once revived from its insignificance. However,
since the reformation was in direct conflict with the interests of the nobility,
once Chu Dao Wang 楚悼王 was dead, the nobles rose in objection openly
and killed Wu Qi  吳起. All the previous reforms were nullified.

Seeing the results in Wei 魏 and Chu 楚, Qin 秦 was determined to push
through its reformation as well. Qin Xiao Gong’s 秦孝公 vision was able
to be realized when he found Shang Yang 商鞅. Shang Yang was a distant
descendant of the nobility of Wei 魏 and when he was young, he was an
inauspicious private accounting clerk in the house of the chief minister of
Wei 魏, Gongsun Cuo 公孫痤. When Gongsun was seriously ill, his king
visited him and asked for his advice as to who could possibly replace his
position. Gongsun 公孫 suggested his house clerk Shang Yang 商鞅 but
added that if the king could not use him, he should have him killed. The king
of Wei, thinking that illness had got the better of Gongsun, dismissed the
first idea as extraordinary and the second as even more absurd. After
Gongsun Cuo 公孫痤 died, Shang Yang 商鞅 was unnoticed in Wei and he
left for Qin where he was greatly appreciated by the king of Qin 秦, Xiao-
gong 孝公 who appointed him chief minister. There he reformed the
measuring standards 度量衡制 and the structure of the Qin government by
centralizing the powers to the king and controlling feudal hereditary
privileges. All reforms were codified by law and thus he laid the
foundations of a superpower country which eventually, through the hands of
Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇, conquered the rest of China within less than 90
years, vindicating the hidden foreboding of Gongsun Cuo 公孫痤.

In 314 BC Qi Xuan Wang 齊宣王 attacked Yan 燕 and within 50 days
broke its capital and this started the hostility between the two countries for
over 3 decades. The King of Yan, Kuai 燕王噲 was killed. The other states
were shaken by this outrageous act and threatened to join together against
Qi 齊 and Qi 齊 retreated to its previous borders. In order to repay Qi 齊
with vengeance, in 284 BC, Yan Zhao Wang 燕昭王 allied with Han 韓,
Zhao 趙, Wei 魏, Chu 楚 and Qin 秦 to attack Qi 齊. The Yan general Le
Yi 樂毅 was an adept in warfare and he broke the capital of Qi 齊, Linzi 臨
淄. The king of Qi 齊 fled but was killed in Chu 楚. Five years later, Yan
Zhao Wang 燕昭王 died and his son Wei Wang 惠王 took over. He
replaced Le Yi 樂毅 with a hotheaded arrogant general. Qi 齊 was left
with only two cities, Ju 莒 and Jimo 即墨, the rest were all lost to Yan 燕.
In the besieged city of Jimo, the head of the family of Tian, Tian Dan 田單
took to himself the defence of the city. Under the pretence of negotiating for
surrender, Tian Dan counter-attacked with five thousand soldiers who
charged the hundred-thousand strong Yan 燕 garrison at night behind a
thousand oxen all painted red and with burning oil tied to their tails and
daggers fixed to their horns, known as “Formation of Fire-oxen ”火牛陣.
The Yan soldiers were taken by surprise and countless died in the
stampede. The entire army disintegrated overnight and Qi 齊 recovered all
the grounds they had lost for the past five years.

In 262 BC, because of the dispute over a territory in Han 韓, Qin 秦 and
Zhao 趙 were at war. The General of Zhao 趙 was Lian Po 廉頗 who was
advanced in age but a military man of great experience. He saw the strength
of the Qin army and adopted a defensive strategy. He avoided direct
confrontation and was waiting for the Qin army supplies to run out. The two
sides ran into a stalemate as time dragged on and the Qin army had no
advantage. The Qin General Bai Qi 白起 saw the situation and realized that
the only way to win the war is by espionage. He caused rumours to be
circulated in Zhao 趙 to the effect that: “ Lian Po 廉頗 is too old and the
Qin army has no fear for him. If the Zhao army had replaced its general with
the young Zhao Kuo 趙括, they would have already won the war.”

The king of Zhao 趙, Xiao Cheng Wang 孝成王 heard the rumour and
believed in it. He recalled Lian Po and sent Zhao Kuo 趙括 to replace him.
As soon as Zhao arrived at the frontline, he countermanded Lian Po’s 廉頗
deployments, as a result, his main army was trapped by the Qin soldiers.
When water and food was running out, the Zhao army attempted a breakout
which failed and Zhou Kou died in the battle of Changping 長平. The Zhao
army of four hundred thousand strong was entirely vanquished. The Qin
army reached as far as the capital of Zhao, Han Dan 邯鄲 which was only
relieved by the joint armies of the states of Chu 楚 and Wei 魏. Zhao Kuo
趙括 died a disgraced general who could only fight a war on paper and that
was the origin of the idiom 紙上談兵.

The story of Jing Ke 荊軻 was fully reported in Shi-ji 史記. Jing Ke 荊軻
was from the state of Wei 衛國. His ancestors were from the state of Qi 齊
國. He later traveled to Yan 燕 and there he was known as Jing Qing 荊卿.
He was always reserved and composed, loved reading and the study of
swordsmanship. He befriended reputable characters whenever he traveled
though this did not stop him mixing with common people. In Yan 燕, he had
a good friend who was a butcher of dogs in the market and a musician
known for playing “zhu” 筑 by the name Gao Jian-li 高漸離. They often
drank and sang in the market, entertaining themselves with no regard to

At the time, Qin 秦 conquered Zhao 趙 and was approaching the border of
Yan 燕. A prince of Yan called Dan 太子丹 was worried about the
situation and he had a scheme to assassin the King of Qin 秦王 and asked
Jing Ke 荊軻 to carry it out. Jing Ke 荊軻 obliged and said he needed three
essential things. The first was something so valuable that the King of Qin 秦
王 would grant him audience, the second is a perfect dagger and the third a
trustworthy assistant.

A General Fan 樊於期 was residing as a guest of Prince Dan 太子丹 in
Yan 燕 and he was an escapee from Qin 秦, being sought after by the King
of Qin with a price of gold on his head.  Jing Ke’s 荊軻 plan was to
borrow the head of General Fan 樊將軍 so that the King of Qin 秦王
would be glad to grant him audience. He visited General Fan 樊將軍 and
explained the scheme to him. Fan 樊將軍 was delighted to learn this plan to
assassin King of Qin and instantly committed suicide. Next, Prince Dan 太
子丹 secured a fine dagger and dipped it in poison. Anyone touched by this
dagger died instantly. Jing Ke 荊軻 now waited for a companion to assist
him in his task in Qin, but this friend was late in arriving. Prince Dan 太子
丹 was worried that Jing Ke 荊軻 might change his mind and offered
another young man to take his place.  Jing Ke 荊軻 could not refuse and
they set off from the border of Yan 燕 by River Yi 易水. It was a gloomy
morning and those who were close to Prince Dan 太子丹 and knew about
the plot came to see them off.  Gao Jian-li 高漸離was one of them and he
played his “zhu” 筑 in a melancholy tune. The people all wore white
(mourning attire) and Jing Ke 荊軻 sang his parting song:
“The wind is whistling…              風 蕭 蕭 兮,
And River Yi is freezing.           易 水 寒 。
A warrior is now leaving…        壯 士 一 去 兮,
Never would he be returning.”   不 復 返 。

And the party wept while Jing Ke 荊軻 and his entourage crossed the river
to go into Qin. When King of Qin 秦王 heard of this envoy arriving his
capital from Yan 燕, he was glad and received Jing Ke 荊軻 in pomp. Jing
Ke 荊軻 was holding a casket containing the head of General Fan 樊將軍
and his attaché Qin Wu-yang 秦舞陽 was holding a map of Yan 燕 when
they approached the King. Following Jing Ke, his attaché Wu-yang
trembled as he advanced and colour drained from his face. Jing Ke 荊軻
looked back at him, smiled and said, “This northern uneducated young man
has never seen the King and he is frightened. Would your Majesty bear with
him and let him finish his task.”  The King asked the map to be shown to
him and Jing Ke 荊軻 presented it to him. When the map was fully unrolled,
the dagger appeared. Jing Ke 荊軻 with one hand holding a sleeve of the
King and with the other snatched the dagger to stab him. The King jumped
up in a start and tore his sleeve. He tried to draw his sword but it was too
long and there was no time, so he dodged around the palace pillar. All the
ministers present were unarmed and the imperial guards were too far away
to help. The ministers shouted, “King, sword to your back! 王負劍!” The
King realized and pushed his sword to his back and he drew it over his
shoulder. He struck Jing Ke 荊軻 and disabled him. Jing Ke 荊軻 threw his
dagger at the King but only hit the pillar. He sat against a pillar and
laughed, saying, “The reason why I failed is that I wanted to hold you
hostage, forcing you to pledge the return of all your ill-gotten land, as a
reward to repay my master.” The guards arrived by this time and they killed
Jing Ke 荊軻.

In 256BC, Qin 秦 overran the small domain of the Zhou 周 and terminated
its existence physically, though the King of Zhou 周天子 was only a
nominal figurehead without power since Zhou Ping Wang 周平王 for the
entire Eastern Zhou history of 514 years. In 247 BC, Ying Zheng 贏政 took
the throne as a young king of Qin (later founded the Qin Dynasty 秦朝 and
known as Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇). In 229 BC he conquered Zhao 趙, Wei
魏, Han 韓, Yan 燕, and Chu 楚. Eight years later, Qi 齊 was the only
country standing against Qin 秦 and it surrendered without any serious
fighting in 221 BC, which marked the unification of China again under one

Events in other parts of the World during comparative period
(770 BC – 221 BC)
BC  753 Rome founded (traditional date)
722        End of Kingdom of Israel
689        Assyrians destroyed Babylon
660        Byzantium founded
563        Prince Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) born
559        Persian Empire founded
521        Darius I ruled Persia
509        Roman Republic founded (traditional date)
490        Athenians defeated Persians at Marathon
480        Battle of Thermopylae, Battle of Salamis
336        Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia
323        Alexander died at Babylon
264        First Roman Punic War

Chapter Four
Qin & Han

Qin 秦 (221 BC — 206 BC ) – Western Han 西 漢 (206 BC— 8 AD) —
Xin 新 (9 AD —23 AD) — Eastern Han 東 漢 (25 AD—220 AD)

Qin 秦  (221 BC — 206 BC)

With the demise of the Zhou Dynasty 周朝 (256 BC) and the fall of the
other Warring States (229-221 BC), Qin’s conquest of China was complete.
It is an irony in history that it took over 20 years for Qin Wang Zheng 秦王
政 to conquer the rest of China from his barren homelands in the east
between the Yellow River (Huang He黄河) and the Chang Jiang 長江 and
build a huge empire in the process, but lesser time for it to fall apart.
Despite its short-lived span as compared with other sustainable dynasties,
its achievements and effects on China’s history were immense.

Having seen the disconcertion of feudal lords in Zhou’s 周 history, Qin Shi
Huang 秦始皇 was not to commit the same error again. The segregation of
China into feudal states was the main reason for Zhou’s decline and that
would not be repeated. He divided China into 36 prefectures 郡 which
would be subdivided into districts 縣; and all local officials were
responsible direct to the central government. Officials, central or local
alike, were appointed and relieved by the Emperor 皇帝. The central
government or Court 朝庭 was administered by the prime minister 丞相,
minister for military affairs 太尉, and minister for archives and supervisory
(御史大夫); and under them were high officials 卿, in charge of matters
such as: palace security 郎中令, palace garrison 衛尉, home and foreign
affairs 典客, ancestry worship rituals 奉常, ancestry records 宗正, horses
and carriages 太僕 etc.

There was no more hereditary tenures or privileges. The law of the
previous states were all abolished and replaced by one law of the empire
and that would be applicable to all people, no more distinction in classes.
Nationwide standardization was promulgated in measures and weights,
coinage, the width of carriage axles, highways and even colour code for
dresses. The national colour was white.

The local government structure of Qin was known as “prefecture/district
system” 郡縣制. Prefecture 郡 was headed by the prefect 郡守, assistant
prefect 尉 and supervisor 監 who was responsible direct to the minister of
supervision in the central government. Under the prefecture was district 縣
— village 鄉 —neighbourhood 里. And the unit for law enforcement at the
village level was called 亭 “pavilion”.

Lu Bu-wei 呂 不 韋

The history of the early Qin Empire cannot be complete without mentioning
the first prime minister Lu Bu-wei 呂不韋 (?290-235BC). In about 265 BC
Lu was a merchant in the state of Zhao 趙. He noticed a young man who
was not particularly well dressed but always had a few bodyguards with
him wherever he went in the capital Han Dan 邯鄲. He made enquiries and
found that he was in fact Zi-chu 子楚, a prince of Qin 秦 sent to Zhao 趙 as
a nominated hostage. Lu 呂 considered him a “rare commodity” 奇貨可居.

He offered to be his friend and mentor and revealed to him his plans. The
crown prince of Qin had a favourite consort, Lady Huayang 華陽夫人, but
she had no son.  If Zi-chu 子楚 could be adopted as her son, Zi-zho could
become the crown prince. Lu 呂 therefore spent his fortune to make Zi-zho
socially well-known in Zhao 趙 and on the other hand through the help of a
courtier, approached Lady Huayang 華陽夫人 and said, “You must think of
your future. When you become old and your beauty fades, without a child,
you will fall into disfavour. If you adopt Zi-chu 子楚 as your own son, and
make him a crown prince, he would become king eventually. This is your
best future protection.”

Lady Huayang 華陽夫人 realizing the advantage in this arrangement,
skillfully presented the idea to the crown prince, Lord Anguo 安國君. Lord
Anguo 安國君 agreed to the arrangement and secretly decided to appoint
Zi-chu 子楚 as his heir. When Qin 秦 invaded Zhao趙 and attacked its
capital Handan, Zi-chu 子楚was in great personal danger. Lu Bu-wei 呂不
韋bribed the defending officers and Zi-chu 子楚was secretly smuggled
across the front line and reached the Qin camp, from where he safely
returned to Qin 秦.

Earlier on, Lu Bu-wei 呂不韋 had a beautiful dancing girl known as Zhao
Ji 趙姬 in his household and one day when Zi-chu 子楚 was guest at his
house, Zi-chu 子楚 took a fond interest of her and asked Lu 呂 if he could
give her to him. Lu was secretly very furious since she was his favourite
and in fact just pregnant by him. However, since he had invested his entire
fortune on Zi-chu 子楚, he might as well forsake Zhao Ji 趙姬 to safeguard
his interest. Both Lu Bu-wei 呂不韋 and Zhao Ji 趙姬 kept the fact of the
pregnancy from Zi-zho. At maternity, a son was born and he was Ying
Zheng 嬴政, (later Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇).

When Zhao Wang 昭王 died, Lord Anguo 安國君 became king and Lady
Huayang 華陽夫人 was appointed queen, with Zi-chu 子楚 as crown
prince. The new king, Xiao-wen Wang 孝文王, ruled only for one year and
he died. Zi-chu 子楚 as crown prince succeeded him and was known as
Zhuang Xiang Wang 莊襄王. Lu Bu-wei 呂不韋 became the prime
minister. Zhuang Xiang Wang 莊襄王 was on the throne for three years and
died, leaving an infant heir Zheng 政 at the age of thirteen. Lu 呂 became
regent and head of government.

It was reported in Sima Qian’s 司馬遷 Shi-ji 史記 that Lu Bu-wei 呂不韋
rekindled an affair with the widowed queen (his former dancing girl and
concubine, Zhao Ji 趙姬) during this time but was fearful of the situation as
time went on. He introduced a man called Lao Ai 嫪毐 to the queen so that
he could distance himself. This Lao Ai 嫪毐had a special feature in that he
had an enormous male organ. Lu 呂and the queen arranged Lao to be poised
as a eunuch so that he could have access to the queen’s palace. The queen
was utterly contented with Lao Ai and this licentious relationship
continued, as a result of which, two sons were born by the queen in secret.

When Ying Zheng 嬴政 was 22, a secret informant revealed that Lao Ai 嫪
毐 was not a eunuch and was having a scanduous affair with the king’s
mother. King Ying Zheng 嬴政 had all persons involved investigated and
was fully aware of the matter. Lao Ai 嫪毐, his sons and clansmen were all
executed and the king’s mother was banished from the capital. Lu Bu-wei 呂
不韋 was implicated in this affair and was forced to resign as prime
minister. Because of his meritorious service performed for the late king, Lu
was only exiled to his fief in Henan 河南. A year later, the king, Ying
Zheng 嬴政, fearful that Lu Bu-wei 呂不韋 might rebel, ordered him to be
further exiled to Su 蜀. Lu understood that he might be executed in the end,
committed suicide.

The Reign of Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇

Once in charge of a new era for a vast empire, Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇
began his building frenzy, first his underground mausoleum which had been
underway for some time but now at a grander scale, then a whole palace
complex covering over a thousand square miles named E Fang Gong 阿房
宮, (which Xiang Yu 項羽 burnt down when he sacked Xianyang 咸陽 and
the fire took 3 months to die down) and the Great Wall together with other
projects such as highways and canals.

In 214 BC, Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇 ordered an expedition against the
northern people, Xiongnu匈奴 who were constantly troubling the northern
border from today’s Mongolia. After recovering a large region in the
Yellow River “loop” 河套 area, Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇 commenced the
project of linking up the old walls of the Qin 秦, Yan 燕 and Zhao 趙 era
into a long wall, now known as the Great Wall of China萬里長城. It took
300,000 labourers, prisoners and workmen of all kinds to complete in
twelve years. It served as a barrier against the Xiongnu匈奴 and as a
military conduit for transportation and beacon relay system between the
west from Lintao 臨洮 to Liaodong 遼東 in the east.

In the 8th year of Shi Huang’s 始 皇 reign, 213 BC, a scholar criticized the
system of central government and the abolition of the feudal states. The
chief minister Li Si 丞相李斯 suggested a series of measures to stifle the
criticisms, including the forbiddance of possessing books of classics in the
population; and Qin Shi-huang approved them. They included the
following: books of historical records, with the exception of “History of
Qin” 秦紀, should all be burnt. Classics such as “Classic of Odes” 詩經
and “Classic of Writings”書經 should be kept by the imperial library and
apart from those, all books should be handed over by the people and burnt
at prefecture level. To privately discuss about classics would be
punishable by death. To criticize present measures by comparing with old
precedents would be punishable by death for the whole family. Books on
medicine, oracles and agriculture were not within the ambit of destruction.
The tuition of law could only be conducted by government officials. The
destruction of books therefore was carried out on a national scale.

In the 9th year of Shi Huang’s 始皇 reign, those people who claimed to
possess occult art 方士, failed to produce an immortal potion 仙藥 as
ordered by Qin Shi-huang; and they fled for fear of punishment, saying that
the failure was due to the unworthiness of the master, not to their
incompetence. This caused widespread discussion among the intellectuals.
Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇 was greatly displeased and asked Li Si 李斯 to
conduct an inquiry into the matter. Li, being always in the bad books of the
intellectuals, took this opportunity to carry out his purge of the scholars
who were outspoken in the criticism of the government. As a result of this
“witch-hunt” inquisition, over 400 scholars were implicated and they were
executed in the capital and buried. This incident, together with the burning
of books was invariably cited as an exemplar of the tyrannical rule of the
Qin regime, and coined by historians as 焚書坑儒.

However, the search for elixia did not stop. One Xu Fu 徐福 claimed that
there were three fairy islands in the sea to the east, where medicine for
immortality (or elixia) 仙丹 could be sought. In 210 BC, he was equipped
by Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇 to set sail with 3000 young boys and girls to
these fairy islands. Xu Fu reached Honshu island 本州 of Japan and stayed
there without returning. The tomb of Xu Fu still remains today in Hege
mountain 和歌山 and a temple dedicated to him called Xufu Gong 徐福宮
is still in Japan.

In order to control the former aristocracy of the warring states, they together
with thousands of rich families were all forced to move to the capital
Xianyang 咸陽. All weapons of the conquered states and of the civilians
were confiscated and melt down. It was said that the metal was used to cast
twelve warrior statutes and put in the capital for display.

During Qin Shi Huang’s 秦始皇 reign of 12 years, he made a total of 5
tours of his empire. It involved tens of thousands of men and soldiers and
the building of roads and numerous temporary palaces 行宮 on the way.
The tours were mainly to old Yan 燕 and Qi 齊 in the east and Chu 楚 in
the south of the country. These places were far off from Xianyang 咸陽 and
the old influences of the warring states were still there, so it had become
necessary to consolidate his rule by a show of force on a grand scale.

In the last tour, he reached Chang Jiang 長江 and during his return, he died
on the way near Shaqiu 沙丘. Before dying he made a will to recall his
eldest son Fu-su 扶蘇 from the north to the capital to succeed him.
However, his chief eunuch Zhao Gao 趙高 conspired with the prime
minister Li Shi 李斯 and they had other plans. They destroyed the will of
Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇 and forged a new one, passing the throne to the
youngest son Hu-hai 胡亥. At the same time they dispatched a forged
decree to Fu-su 扶蘇 asking him to commit suicide. The two conspirators
kept the death of Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇 a secret and the news was not
announced until they reached the capital. The reason for the plot was that Fu
Su was a more capable prince and was never in good terms with Zhao Gao.
The second prince was of questionable intelligence and much easier to
manipulate. On receiving the forged decree, Fu Su was in complete despair
but he had no choice and he killed himself. The second son succeeded to the
throne, known as Qin Ershi 秦二世 (namely, Qin II).

The End of Qin Dynasty

The Second Emperor of Qin 秦二世 had nothing like his father. He left the
entire court to the hands of Zhao Gao 趙高 and devoted himself to
pleasures. At that time, because of the harsh laws and the common practice
to construct public works by forced labour, the entire country was in
turmoil. Thieves and rebels were rife. A rebel army was approaching the
capital and Hu-hai 胡亥 was kept in the dark by Zhao Gao. When he knew
the news could not be contained, Zhao Gao 趙高 and his brother Zhao
Cheng 趙成, commander of the imperial guards, under the pretence of a
security search, entered the residential palace of the emperor and forced
him to commit suicide. That was the third year of Hu-hai’s 胡亥 reign.
Zhao 趙高 appointed Hu-hai’s nephew Zi-ying 子嬰 as king of Qin 秦王.
(note: not Emperor of Qin Dynasty anymore,). Within less than one year,
Liu Bang 劉邦 entered Xianyang 咸陽 and Zi-ying 子嬰 surrendered,
ending officially the rule of the Qin Empire 秦朝 for only 15 years in 206

Western Han  西  漢   (206 BC— 8 AD)

Three years before the end of Qin, in 209 BC, the country was already on
the verge of a crisis. A group of 900 odd forced workers were on the way
to Yuyang 漁陽 on a certain schedule under the charge of two foremen
Chen Sheng 陳勝 and Wu Guang 吴廣. At a village called Daze大澤鄉,
they were held up by a storm and the roads were washed away. There were
some deserters in the confusion as well. The Qin law 秦法 was that if a
date for reporting was missed, the penalty was death 失期當斬. And for the
foreman in charge, he must deliver the exact number of men. Therefore, if
one had deserters on the way, either one were to capture somebody else in
their place or the penalty again was death for short delivery. Chen and Wu
knew they could never make up the lost days even if they made up the lost
men. In this hopeless situation, they decided to make a break for it. They
overran a nearby local garrison and grabbed the weapons and a rebellion
was afoot. Within a short time the rebellious people gathered to become a
hundred thousand strong. Chen Sheng proclaimed himself king 陳勝王.
They wreaked havoc to the nearby regions for two years with initial
success and though they lost in the end, an example was set and Qin’s rule
was on a downward slippery slope.

In response to Chen Sheng 陳勝, Xiang Liang 項梁 and Xiang Yu 項羽
killed their city mayor at Huiji 會稽, took over the garrison and rose to
rebellion. It attracted immediately several thousand followers. The Xiang
family 項家 were descendants of a general of the state of Chu 楚 and were
respected by the people in the area. It was recorded in Shi-ji 史記 that
when Xiang Yu 項羽 was young, he saw the royal procession of Qin Shi
Huang 秦始皇 and said, “He can be taken and replaced 彼可取而代之”.
Xiang Liang 項梁, his uncle, standing by his side, silenced him saying,
“That, if overheard can cost the life of your whole family.”

Liu Bang 劉邦, originally a petty “pavilion officer” 亭長, with a group of
prisoners under his charge, joined the Xiang family 項家 uprising. Xiang
項 and Liu 劉 thereafter became the two main forces toppling the Qin
empire.  Other descendants of the warring states nobility also separately
rose in rebellion and there was a whole country in widespread upheaval.

Xinag Yu made a rendezvous with the armies of the other states at Julu 鉅
鹿 near Handan 邯鄲 in present day Hebei. Xiang Yu 項羽 crossed Zhang
River 漳水 and ordered his soldiers to sink their boats and break all
cooking utensils, 破釜沉舟 showing the determination not to return. They
advanced with only three days ration. There they faced the Qin army of two
hundred thousand strong. The army of all the other nobles was in two minds
and they stayed behind their fortifications 壁 and vantage points to watch
the situation 從壁上觀. Xiang Yu 項羽 had no reservation. He attacked the
Qin 秦 army with his Chu 楚 soldiers and fought ferociously in nine
encounters, in the end routing them. The nobles were terrified by the way
the battle was fought and afterwards, when there was a celebration inside
the tent of Xiang Yu 項羽, they could only kneel past and could not bring
themselves to look up at the head table.

Liu Bang 劉邦 on the other hand attacked Hangu Pass 函谷關,
overwhelmed it and proceeded north-east to Xianyang 咸陽 via Wu Pass 武
關.  Liu Bang 劉邦 stationed near the capital at Bashang 霸上 and the
teenaged “Emperor” Zi Ying 子嬰 surrendered Xianyang 咸陽 without a
fight. Xiang Yu 項羽 had more difficult battles on the way and came late to
Xian Yang after Liu Bang 劉邦. They had a deal before that whoever came
to Xianyang 咸陽 first should be the king of Hanzhong 漢中王. Xiang Yu 項
羽 was disappointed, he set the palaces on fire and withdrew his army. It
was recorded that the fire took three months to burn out. Xiang Yu
appointed those nobles in power to feudal lords and called himself “Super-
king of Chu” 楚霸王 and Liu Bong was appointed king of Han, 漢王.

The Chu 楚 and Han 漢 camps were in intermittent wars and truces. At the
time Liu Bang 劉邦 had a superb staff of counselors such as Zhang Liang 張
良, Xiao He 簫何, and marshal general such as Han Xin 韓信. In 202 BC,
the Han army beleaguered the Chu army at Gaixia 垓下 and though Xiang
Yu 項羽 broke out with scores of horsemen, he killed himself by the Wu
Jiang 烏江 with the Han soldiers hot at his heels.

After the death of Xiang Yu, Chu 楚 was pacified and Liu Bang 劉邦
proclaimed himself Emperor “Huang Di” 皇帝, known as Han Gao Zhu 漢
高祖. The first capital was at Luoyang 洛陽 and it was later changed to
Chang’an 長安. At first there were seven kings or feudal lords appointed,
who were either generals or former nobles in power, but eventually they
were all removed. The Qin system of prefectures and districts was
followed but at the same time the feudal system was restored with more
appointments of the royal clansmen to lords. It was reasoned by Liu Bang 劉
邦 that the swift disintegration of Qin was due to the lack of support by
feudal lords.

While abolishing the complicated and harsh Qin laws, a country could not
be governed without any legal system. The Han laws were too simple at the
beginning, historically known as the “Covenant of the Three Chapters” 約法
三章. It was later expanded to six and then to nine chapters.

After Liu Bang 劉邦 died, his Queen, Lu Hou 呂后 exposed her sway. Her
son Hui Di 惠帝 became Emperor but only ruled passively for 7 years and
died. His son Shao Di 少帝 was only a child who never ruled, and Lu Hou
呂后 was fully in charge of court affairs since then. She appointed her Lu
呂 clans to feudal lords and to key positions in court. The Liu 劉 clansmen
and whoever not in her favour were mercilessly persecuted. However,
when Lu Hou 呂后 died, her network of power crumpled instantly and the
Lus 呂氏 were wiped out by the Lius 劉氏. Liu Heng 劉恆 succeeded to
the throne and he was known as Wen Di 文帝. Together with his successor
Jing Di 景帝, their reigns were praised as an era of peace and order,
known as “文景之治”.

In 141 BC, Jing Di 景帝 died and was succeeded by Wu Di 武帝, Liu Che
劉徹. The Wen-Jing 文景 era was one of peace and sufficiency and in Wu
Di’s reign, Han became prosperous and powerful and reached the high
watermark of the Dynasty. Militarily, Han 漢 was able to expel the Xiong-
nu 匈奴 in the north (general Wei Qing 衛青 was the best known),
incorporated Korea 朝鮮 in the east as its protectorate, expanded into
Tuqueh 突厥 territory in the west and Wu Di’s envoy Zhang Qian 張騫
reached the “western territories” 西域, which is today’s Afghanistan and
Turkestan called 大月氏 and 烏孫國 and established diplomatic
relationship with them (115 BC). China’s “Silk Road” was established at
that time, starting from Dunhuang 敦隍 in “Xinjiang” “新彊”, passing
through “Tarim Basin” 塔里木盆地, “Afghanistan” 大月氏, into
Mesopotamia 息安, “Turkey” 支條 and Macedonia 羅馬. [author’s note:
all names of places in quotation marks “…..” are today’s names for ease of

Learning from the history of early Han, it was recognized that the numerous
internal strives were caused by feudal warlords and militia in the
government structure. In Wu Di’s time therefore, only scholars were
allowed in the government 士人政府, from high officials 公卿 of the
central government in court to local district magistrates 縣令. An
examination and nomination system 貢舉制 was used to recruit the right
persons into the government system. This set the precedent that common
people were recruited for the administration instead of nobles and military

Wu Di 武帝 adopted the policies of minister Dong Zhong-shu 董仲舒,
namely, “solely promote Confucianism and suppress all other schools of
thought”, 獨尊儒術, 罷黜百家.  Officials who had special knowledge on
literature and history were employed and known as “doctorate officials” 博
士官. They specialized in the Five Classics of : Classic of Odes 詩經,
Classic of Writings 書經, Yi-jing 易經, Li-ji 禮記 and Spring and Autumn
Annals春秋 and also known as “Doctors of the Five Classics” 五經博士.
Shi-ji 史記  was written by Sima Qian 司馬遷 in about 104 BC in the reign
of Wu Di 武帝and it became the best historical record available in Han and
at all times in China. Its format was followed by all later works of official
history. Wu Di 武帝 was on the throne for 54 years and it was the longest
reign (141-87 BC) in Han dynasty and one of the best in ancient China.

Xin Dynasty 新 朝  (9 –23)

The 12th Emperor of Han, Ping Di 平帝 was a child-king at the age of nine.
He was under the regency of Wang Mang 王莽, a chief minister of the
imperial in-laws 外戚 who rose from the junior ranks. Five years later
Wang poisoned Ping Di 平帝 and nominated a two-year old Liu Ying 劉嬰
as crown prince. Wang Mang 王莽 called himself “ Emperor in Regency”
攝皇帝 and then “Acting Emperor” 假皇帝. Three years later in 9 AD, he
made himself Emperor 皇帝 and changed the dynasty to Xin 新. The throne
was usurped and Han Dynasty lasted 214 years. Historians called that
Western Han 西漢, to distinguish a later revival called Eastern Han 東漢.

Eight years into the reign of Wang Mang, there was flooding and famine in
the Chang Jiang 長江 region. From the mountain of Lulin 綠林, an uprising
arose against the government and they called themselves the “Army of Lu-
lin”, 綠林軍. A year later, in Shandong 山東 in the east, famine prompted
an uprising called “Army of Red-eyebrows” 赤眉軍 because all the
soldiers painted their eyebrows red. These two uprisings and together with
Xiongnu 匈奴 in the north caused the downfall of this new dynasty. Liu Xiu
劉秀 was a descendant of the Han royal family and his army took Chang’an
長安, killed Wang Mang 王莽 and ended this short-lived Dynasty of Xin 新
朝 in its 15th year.

Eastern Han 東  漢   (25 —220 )

Liu Xiu 劉秀 recovered Luoyang 洛陽 and re-established it as the new
capital of the revived Han Empire. Because it was east of the old capital of
Chang’an 長安, therefore this dynasty was historically known as Eastern
Han 東漢 and Liu Xiu was known as Guang Wu Di 光武帝.


Via the Silk Road, Buddhism and its literature already found its way into
China towards the end of the Western Han era. In Eastern Han, the second
Emperor, Ming Di 明帝 (64 AD) officially sent a delegation to India 天竺
for Buddhism scripture and classics. As a result, Buddhist monks were
received by Ming Di and given a temple 鴻臚寺 and part of a palace
complex to settle down and translate Buddhist classics. The finished work
of “42-Chapter Classic” 四十二章經 is the earliest translation of Buddhist
classics in China.

Invention of Paper

Cai Lun 蔡倫 was an eunuch working in the secretarial office in court. He
used tree barks, hemp, waste clothe and old fish nets to manufacture paper
and presented the final product to the Emperor He Di 和帝 in 105AD.
Thereafter, it was widely used and people called it “Marquis Cai’s paper”
蔡侯紙. Nowadays we call the best quality writing paper for ink “xuan” 宣
紙 paper, which was a historical name given to paper produced in
Xuanzhou 宣州.  The use of paper had greatly promoted the widespread use
of books, thus improving the storage of information and the spreading of

For over 6 centuries after Cai’s invention, paper was only produced in
China despite its continuous export to other Asian and Arabian countries.
The process of paper-making was kept an industrial secret, though the
intricate nature of the different procedures was a real barrier to a foreign
manufacturer. It was only until 750 AD, in the Tang dynasty 唐朝, when
some of the Chinese paper workers were captured by the Arabians in war
that the secret was revealed to the outside world. Baghdad adopted the
secretive processes and a paper industry sprang up. From there the
technique of paper-making was further transferred to the rest of Europe but
it was almost one millennium after Cai Lun’s 蔡倫 invention in China.

In the reign of Shun Di 順帝, (132 AD), scientist Zhang Heng 張衡
invented an instrument to detect earthquakes in China called 地動儀. It
could detect the force of the quake and its direction, first of its kind in the
world. The next similar instrument was installed in the 13th century in
Persia, 1000 years after this Chinese invention.

In-laws and Eunuchs

He-Di 和帝 came to the throne as a child and her mother, Queen Mother
Dou 竇太后 was in fact ruling. Her brother Dou Xian 竇憲 was promoted
to marshall general after expelling the northern Xiong-nu and became most
influencial in court. He was found scheming for a coup to oust the Emperor.
He Di 和帝 (who was only fourteen at the time) together with his confidant,
eunuch Zheng Zhong 鄭眾, stopped the plot by arresting all the key
accomplices covertly at the same time.  Dou Xian 竇憲 was given the grace
to commit suicide. With Dou Xian 竇憲 and his clansmen removed, the
eunuchs’ power accerlerated in Court. This opened the struggle between the
imperial in-laws and the eunuchs 戚宦相爭 and later factional purges 黨錮
之禍, which caused the Eastern Han government rotten to the heart.
National university students gathered at the palace to support their
“factional” leaders who were openly criticizing the eunuchs and court
politics often resulted in mass arrests, imprisonment and executions. Honest
ministers were either dead or imprisoned and when the crisis of the
Yellow-scarf Bandits 黄巾賊 arose, the government was not in a position
to control. That was the beginning of the end of the Eastern Han Empire.

Events in other parts of World in comparative period (221 BC—220 AD)
BC  206  Scipio defeated the Carthaginians
200        Second Macedonian War
184        Sunga Dynasty founded in India
183        Hannibal died by suicide
149        Romans destroyed Carthage
82          Sulla became dictator of Rome
54          Second invasion of Britain by Romans
51          Caesar conquered Gaul, Cleopatra ruled Egypt
45          Caesar became dictator of Rome
42          Caesar assassinated
23          Augustus, Emperor of Rome
5            Probable birth of Jesus of Nazareth
AD  30   Death of Jesus
43          Romans invaded Britain, London founded
64          Fire destroyed Rom, attributed to Nero
77          Roman conquest of Britains to
122        Construction of Hadrian wall in Britain
166        M. Aurelius, Roman Emperor sent gifts to China

Chapter Five
Three Kingdoms Era, Wei, Jin and
The South & North Dynasties

Three Kingdoms Era 三 國 ( 220 – 280) —Wei 魏  (220 – 265) — Western
Jin 西 晉 (265 – 316) — Eastern Jin 東 晉 (316 – 420) —South Dynasty
南 朝 (420 – 589) —North Dynasty 北 朝 (439 – 581)

Three Kingdoms Era 三 國  ( 220 – 280)

Towards the end of the Eastern Han 東漢 era, the central government was
falling apart. Eunuchs were exercising powers in the court and the Emperor
Ling Di 靈帝 even consented that official posts including junior ministers
and governors of prefectures could be awarded to the highest bidder. Local
officials were entirely corrupt and only working for their private interests.
When the Yellow-scarf 黄巾 uprising broke out in different prefectures, the
central government had no measures to deal with it and the matter was left
entirely to the hands of the local governors. As a result, warlords
developed with apparent autonomy and that hastened the demise of the Han

Zhang Jiao 張角 was a person who taught people witchcraft and had
followers in Hebei 河北, Shanxi 山西, Hubei 湖北 and Sichuan 四川. In
184 he declared an uprising against the Empire at Julu 鉅鹿 in Hebei 河北.
This was echoed by his followers and the central plain was again in turmoil
for more than two decades. They all wore a yellow headband to identify
themselves and so they were named as “Yellow-scarf Bandits” 黄巾賊 by
the government. Some recent historians regard them us a peasantry uprising
against suppression and tyranny and they were called “Yellow
-scarf Army” 黄巾軍.

Cao Cao曹操 was a junior officer at the start (in charge of a small district
of the capital) but in the crisis, he gathered a group of people with different
ambitions to fight the Yellow-scarves 黄巾 and accumulated in the course
of time a powerful army. Dong Zhuo 董卓, in answering to the Emperor’s
request to clear out the dominating eunuchs in Court, who were planning a
coup, led an army into Luoyang 洛陽, slaughtered all eunuchs in Court and
remained there with the Emperor under his control. Most of the governors
of other prefectures were against this arrogant Dong Zhuo, they formed an
allied army and defeated him. After that Cao Cao 曹操 became the most
influential warlord in the capital. He coerced the Emperor Xian Di 獻帝 to
move from the capital Luoyang 洛陽 to Xuchang 許昌, about 150 Km to the
southeast, which became his base.

At the time, Yuan Shao 袁紹, a descendant of Han high officials for three
generations 三代公卿, was the most powerful warlord in Hebei 河北 and
he moved south attempting to unseat Cao Cao 曹操 from his position of
usurping the power of the Emperor and hijacking the Han administration.
Yuan’s large army crossed Huang He 黄河 from Hebei 河北 but left his
main supplies on the north bank at Wuchao 烏巢. His army encamped at
Guandu 官渡 which was about 150 Km east of Luoyang 洛陽. In 200, Cao
Cao defeated the much larger army of Yuan Shao 袁紹 at Guandu 官渡之
戰, by attacking and burning his supplies in the rear on the opposite bank.
After that decisive battle, Cao 曹 became the only dominating force in
northern China.

Liu Bei 劉備 was a distant descendant of the Han royal family. During the
Yellow-scarf 黄巾 uprising, he gathered a small private force and at one
time joined Cao Cao 曹操 in suppressing this peasantry rebellion. Later he
gained part of Jingzhou 荊州 Prefecture, south of Chang Jiang 長江 as a
foothold and expanded into Sichuan 四川. Sun Qian, 孫權 another warlord
in the south was based in the lower Chang Jiang 長江 basin. In 208, Cao
Cao 曹操 moved his army of two hundred thousand south in an attempt to
conquer the rest of China with only two major contestants remaining.

Liu Bei, 劉備 being the one with the least resources, reckoned that his best
chance was to ally with Sun Qian 孫乾 to oppose Cao Cao 曹操. His
counselor and confidant Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 successfully convinced Sun
Qian that their survival depended on joining forces. Together they met the
Cao 曹 army and navy, which were encamped on the north bank of Chang
Jiang 長江 near Wuhan 武漢 in present day Hubei 湖北. Red Cliff  赤壁
was on the south bank. Another version was that Red Cliff should be near
Puji 蒲圻 which was further upstream about 120 Km to the south-west of
Wuhan 武漢 (in those days known as Xiakou 夏口).

In order to make the warships steadier for the soldiers and horses on board
during mooring, Cao 曹 was given the idea to link up the ships by iron
chains, which he did. One night, under the false impression that he was
receiving a large fleet commanded by a deflecting general, Huang Gai黄蓋,
of the enemy across the river, Cao opened the water-gate to let them in. In
no time when the “would-be” deflectors were inside, fire broke out from
those ships in front and all ships moored inside the fortified enclosure
caught fire under an out-of-season east wind. Being linked up by chains,
none of the ships were able to save themselves from the blaze. The smoke
and flames were so great that even tents erected on shore were caught up
and destroyed. The northern army was in complete confusion and in full
retreat. Cao barely escaped capture and returned to his capital Xuchang 許
昌, licking his wounds.

Cao’s forces were soundly beaten in this Battle of Red Cliff  赤壁之戰 in
208 and Cao Cao 曹操 stayed north of Chang Jiang 長江 throughout the
following twelve years before his death in 220. He was succeeded by his
son Cao Pi 曹丕, who forced the Han puppet Emperor Xian Di 獻帝 to
abdicate by going through an involuntary process of “Chan-rang” 禪讓,
which had not been practised for 2000 years since Yu Di 禹帝. and
declared himself Wei Wen Di 魏文帝. His country was called Wei 魏.

Wei 魏  (220 – 265)

Therefore the year 220 became the official historical date as the end of the
Easter Han 東漢 period, which lasted 195 years, and the beginning of the
Three Kingdoms Era 三國. The reason why Cao Cao 曹操 did not usurp
the crown and declare himself king was due to the reason that he had been a
Han 漢 official from his younger days; acted later throughout as the prime
minister 承相 when he was in power and he would not wish history to
label him as an usurper 纂位者, which was dishonorable by ancient
Chinese tradition. His son Cao Pi 曹丕 however had no such taboo to
burden him.

A year earlier, in 219, an incident sowed the seeds of disaccord between
the friendly ally of Liu Bei 劉備 and Sun Qian 孫權. A general of the latter,
Lu Meng 呂蒙 launched a surprised attack on Jingzhou 荊州 and succeeded
in taking it and killing the commanding general Guan Yu 關羽 (alias Yun-
chang 雲長) who was a sworn-brother of Liu Bei 劉備 according to a
famous novel, the “Romances of the Three Kingdoms” 三國誌演義 written
by Lo Guan-zhong 羅貫中 thirteen centuries later in Ming Dynasty 明朝.
Because of the popularity of the novel, Guan Yu 關羽 became an icon for
martial strength, a patron-god standing for righteousness, justice and
loyalty, overcoming all evils, more reverently known as Guan Gong 關公.
A year after the installation of Wei Wen Di 魏文帝, in 221, Liu Bei 劉備
declared himself king of Han 漢昭烈帝 as a notional continuation of the
Han Empire because of his royal bloodline. Historians called it Shu Han 蜀
漢 (meaning Han of Sichuan, 蜀 Shu = 四川 Sichuan). Sun Qian 孫權 at the
same year declared himself king of Wu 吴大帝. Thereupon, China was
split between three countries, Wei 魏 in the north, Shu蜀 in the south-west
and Wu 吴, south of Chang Jiang 長江.

In vengeance for Guan Yu’s 關羽 death, Liu 劉 attacked Wu 吴 in the east
but without any success. Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 maneuvered northeastwards
into Wei 魏 and was successful in acquiring the strategic position of Han
Zhong 漢中 amongst the mountainous area, thus safeguarding an attack from
Wei 魏 in the central China plain. A stability of the situation of the Three
Kingdoms was reached without any one of them being able to unseat the
others. Wei 魏, though the strongest of the three, was unable to conquer Han
漢 in Sichuan 四川 basin through the mountains, or Wu 吴 across the
impassable Chang Jiang 長江 which was their natural defence.

Two years after Liu Bei 劉備 declared himself king of Han 漢, in 223 he
died, leaving a 16 years old son Liu Chan 劉禪. Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 being
prime minister and mentor of the young king, was in charge of the country.
Cao Pi 曹丕, (Wei Wen Di 魏文帝) died in 226, leaving the throne to Cao
Rui 曹叡, known as Wei Ming Di, 魏明帝. Taking advantage of a new king
in Wei, Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 personally led the Han army in an attempt to
break into central China via Qi Mountain 祁山 in 227. Before leaving he
sent a petition to the king who was barely an adult, giving him advice and
counseling as to the administration of the country. This petition was well
known in Chinese literature as 出師表 and was quoted in its entirety eight
and half centuries later in Sima Guang’s 司馬光  Zi Zhi Tong Jian 資治通
鑑 (Comprehensive Chronicle for Aid in Governance), a historical record
of China, commissioned by Shen Zong 神宗 in Song Dynasty 宋朝 and only
completed in 1084 after 20 years of compilation.

The rise of Sima

In 239, Wei Ming Di, 魏明帝 died in his mid-thirties, leaving the throne to
an infant prince Cao Fang 曹芳 at the age of eight. The government was left
in the hands of Cao Shuang 曹爽 and Sima Yi 司馬懿. Both of these two
senior ministers were ambitious for absolute power and jockeying for
position for nine years until 248.

At first Cao Shuang 曹爽 gained the upper hand and Sima Yi 司馬懿
retired into apparent inactivity. Sima feinted serious illness when receiving
guests, particularly people from the opposite camp. He was seen as not
able to hear clearly, talk with sense and could not even put his dress on or
eat congee properly. Cao Shuang 曹爽 took no notice of him anymore and
was cursory in the capital’s security. One day in spring, when the king of
Wei 魏王 and Cao 曹 were performing ritual worshipping outside the
capital Luo-yang 洛陽, Sima Yi 司馬懿 sprang a coup and Cao 曹爽 was
caught totally unaware.  Sima made Cao a prisoner and was in full power
until he died three years later in 251. He was succeeded by his son Sima
Shi 司馬師 who put another teenaged king Cao Mao 曹髦 on the throne in
254. The next year Sima Shi 司馬師 died and his brother Sima Zhao 司馬
昭 took over the government. King of Wei 魏王, Cao Mao 曹髦, despite
his young age of fifteen, tried to orchestrate the elimination of the all-
powerful Sima family 司馬氏. He told his confidants, “The ulterior motive
of Sima Zhao 司馬昭 can be known by men in the street” (司馬昭之心, 路
人皆知). But Cao Mao’s 曹髦 secretive plan was not well kept, which
resulted in a premature skirmish in the capital and his death. Another
teenaged king Cao Huan 曹奐 was nominated but it was clear that he too
was a subservient puppet.

In 263, Sima Zhao 司馬昭 planned a surprise attack on Han through the
mountain ranges surrounding Sichuan, which was thought to be impassable
and his general Deng Ai 鄧艾reached the doorsteps of the capital at
Chengdu 成都 out of the blues. Liu Chan 劉禪, the king of Su Han蜀漢,
surrendered without a fight and that ended the reign of Han for 42 years. At
that time Shu had a population of almost one million with over 100,000
armed soldiers and abundance of resousrces. Thereafter, Sima had the
advantage of controlling the upstream of Chang Jiang, posing a real threat to
the kingdom of Wu吴occupying the lower Chang Jiang basin.

The following year, Sima Zhao 司馬昭 died and was succeeded by his son
Sima Yan 司馬炎. In 265, Sima Yan 司馬炎 forced another “Chan-rang” 禪
讓 like Cao Pi 曹丕 and usurped the throne of Wei 魏. He was known as
Jin Wu Di 晉武帝 the founder of the Jin Empire 晉朝. The kingdom of Wei
魏 was therefore the second to disappear after 45 years. The last of the
three kingdoms, Wu 吴 succumbed in 280 to the attack of Jin 晉 and thus the
last remnant of the Three Kingdoms ended after 60 years.

Jin 晉—Western Jin 西 晉 (265 – 316) — Eastern Jin 東 晉 (316 – 420)

Western Jin 西 晉 (265 – 316)

The history of China seemed to work as a pendulum from Zhou Dynasty 周
朝 onwards, swinging between decentralized feudalism and strong central
government. Sima Yan 司馬炎 (Jin Wu Di 晉武帝) observed that the state
of Wei 魏 owned by Cao 曹 had a strong central government without feudal
lords and it finally fell into the hands of a powerful minister, his
grandfather Sima Yi 司馬懿.  In order to redress this risk, after he
ascended to the throne, he started awarding fiefs (feudal estates 封邑) to
over twenty of his clansmen as feudal lords who had civil administrative
freedom as well as military autonomy over their fiefs. This again sowed the
seeds of a later rebellion known as the “Upheaval of Eight Lords” 八王之
亂.  Jin Wu Di 晉武帝 also allowed the migration of the foreign tribes into
China proper in places such as Hebei 河北, Liaoning 遼寧, Shanxi 山西,
Shaanxi 陝西, Gansu 甘肅 and Qinghai 青海, using them as slaves and
laborers with the aim to neutralize their military power but the effect was
the opposite, causing northern China to be overrun by foreign tribes for
over two centuries after the capital Chang’an 長安 fell to Xiongnu 匈奴 in

Sima Yan 司馬炎 died after 25 years on the throne in 290. His son
succeeded him as Wei Di 惠帝 who was mentally retarded and queen Jia 賈
氏 played court politics to suit her ambitions. This caused a series of
persecution of ministers and feudal lords who were in the way. As a result,
in 300, Sima Lun 司馬倫, a feudal lord, killed queen Jia 賈后, dethroned
Wei Di 惠帝 and declared himself Emperor. Other eight feudal lords
refused Sima Lun 司馬倫 recognition and started an entangled civil war
lasting six years. In the end Wei Di 惠帝 was killed and the throne passed
to Sima Chi 司馬熾 (Huai Di 懷帝) in 306. This was historically known as
the “Upheaval of the Eight Lords” 八王之亂.

While China was suffering from the turmoil of its widespread civil wars,
the Xiongnus were gathering strength. Their Chanyu 單于 (chieftain) Liu
Yuan 劉淵 was able to command the majority of the northern tribes
including Xiongnu 匈奴, Jie 羯, Di 氐, and Xianbei 鮮卑 and in 308 he
declared himself king in Shanxi 山西 Pingyang 平陽 (now Linfen 臨汾,
180 Km northwest of Luoyang 洛陽). Liu Yuan died two years later and his
son Liu Cong 劉聰 succeeded him. The next year Liu Cong broke into the
capital of Jin 晉 at Luoyang 洛陽 in 311 and captured Huai Di 懷帝. Sima
Ye 司馬鄴 (Min Di 愍帝) succeeded the Jin throne in Chang’an 長安 but
that too fell to Xiongnu after five years in 316 and Min Di 愍 帝
surrendered, thus ending the Jin (Western) Dynasty 西晉 after 51 years. For
the first time in its history (though by no means the last), China was
subjected to the rule of foreign tribes. It was to be a setback in its
civilization, a rule which would last 265 years.

Eastern Jin 東 晉  (316 – 420)

Whilst Jin Dynasty 晉朝 north of Chang Jiang 長江 was lost to the
Xiongnus 匈奴, territories to the south of the River survived. Sima Rui 司馬
睿, being the most popular in the royal bloodline was nominated to the
throne, known as Jin Yuan Di 晉元帝. The capital was at Jiangye 建業
(now Nanjing 南京). To distinguish this reign from the last one, it was
called Eastern Jin 東晉, while the last one was called Western Jin 西晉.

In the north, China proper was overrun by the five dominating tribes:
Xiongnu 匈奴, Jie 羯, Di 氐, Xianbei 鮮卑 and Qiang 羌. They split into
16 different countries over China, historically known as “Five Hus and 16
Countries” (五胡十六國 ) or more graphically as 五胡亂華. It took
another fifteen years for one ruler of the foreign tribes strong enough to
unite the north under one rule in 329, historically called Later Zhao 後趙.

In 351, a nobility of the Di tribe 氐 Fu Jian 符堅 declared himself Shan-yu
單于 and established his capital in Chang’an 長安. The country was called
Qin 秦 and historians called it “Early Qin” 前秦. In 376 it conquered the
tribe Xianbei 鮮卑 and was in control of almost the whole of China’s north.
Confident of the mass of his military strength, Fu Jian 符堅 led an army
claimed to be over a million to attack Eastern Jin 東晉 in the direction of
its capital Jianye 建業. They approached Huai He 淮河 and its tributary
Fei Shui 淝水. Fu Jian 符堅 was quoted as boasting that he could stop the
river flow by throwing whips of his cavalry into it 投鞭斷流. He was
opposed by the Jin 晉 army of eighty thousand across the river. The Jin
commanders Xie Shi 謝石 and Xie Xuan 謝玄 asked Fu Jian 符堅 to move
his troops back by a few miles so that the Jin army could cross the river and
do a decisive battle there. Fu Jian 符堅 agreed, thinking he could attack the
Jin army while they were halfway across. However, unknown to him, a
“fifth-column” was working at the rear of his troops, spreading rumour that
the battle was lost. As soon as the order to fall back was given, the troops
thought the battle was really lost and that triggered a full-scale retreat. This
Battle of Fei Shui 淝水之戰 caused the Early Qin 前秦 kingdom to
disintegrate and the north of China was fragmented and in constant wars
again amongst the different foreign states.

A leading Jin army general Liu Yu 劉裕 was successful in his northern
campaigns against the foreign tribes after the Battle of Fei Shui 淝水 and
recovered Jiangling 江陵, Chengdu 成都, Xiangyang 襄陽, and even
Luoyang 洛陽 and Chang’an 長安 for a temporary period. He usurped the
crown of Jin in 420 and established a Song Dynasty 宋朝, historically the
end of Eastern Jin 東晉 which lasted 104 years, and the beginning of the
era of the South-North Dynasties 南北朝.

Eastern Jin was not without its chances in reinstalling its country north of
Chang Jiang 長江. Various attempts were made, notable ones were the
northern campaigns by Ju Di 祖逖 and Huan Wen 桓溫. Ju Di 祖逖 reached
as far as Huang He 黃 河 with an army raised by himself as prefect of
Yuzhou 豫州. However, his king Yuan Di 元帝 had no such inspiration to
regain lost territories and the campaign ended with internal strife and the
death of Ju Di 祖逖. Huan Wen 桓溫 similarly made several attempts.
Once he defeated Fu Jian 符堅 and approached Chang’an 長安. A second
time he recovered Luoyang 洛陽 but both the king Mu Di 穆帝 and his
courtiers refused to move their capital north to central China. Liu Yu 劉裕
of course recovered both Luoyang and Chang’an but because he was more
keen to usurp Jin 纂晉 than to restore the Empire, central China was
abandoned. The Han people 漢族 of central China, as a result, was ruled
by foreign Hus 胡 族 for a period of over two and a half centuries. These
were the dark ages of China and also of Europe. At the same period the
Xiongnus a Mongolian tribe (known as Huns or Barbarians in Europe)
overran north Europe, covering from the Caspian Sea to the Baltic and
posing threats to the Eastern Roman Empire, Gaul (now Belgium and
France), and Italy (440-452).

South & North Dynasties   南  北  朝
South Dynasty 南 朝 (420 – 589) —North Dynasty 北 朝 (439 – 581)

South Dynasty 南 朝

The South Dynasties Song 宋, Qi 齊, Liang 梁, and Chen 陳 succeeded one
another and all ended in usurpation except the last one. The Song Dynasty 宋
朝 starting from Liu Yu 劉裕, had eight kings lasting for 60 years and was
usurped by Xiao Dao-cheng 蕭道成 in 479. The Qi Dynasty 齊朝 had
seven kings, lasted for 24 years and was usurped by Xiao Yan 蕭衍 in 502.
The Liang Dynasty 粱朝 had four kings lasting for 56 years and was
usurped by Chen Ba-xian 陳霸先 in 557. The Chen Dynasty 陳朝 had five
kings and the last king Chen Shu-bao 陳叔寶 (陳後主) was defeated and
captured by Sui Wen Di 隋文帝 in 589, ending the South Dynasties era.

North Dynasty 北 朝

The North Dynasties started with Wei 魏 (historically called Bei Wei 北魏
, Northern Wei) uniting north of China in 439. Wei already established a
proto-type kingdom a century ago in 338 by the tribe Xianbei 鮮卑. It was
lost in a coup in 534. Wei of northern China was then split in two in 534,
one with its capital in Chang’an 長安 called Western Wei 西魏 and one in
Ye 鄴 called Eastern Wei 東魏.

Western Wei 西魏 had three kings, lasted for 22 years and was usurped by
Yuwen 宇文 to form Bei Zhou 北周 in 557. Eastern Wei 東魏 only had one
king and was lost to Bei Qi 北齊 in 550. Bei Qi 北齊 had six kings, lasted
for 27 years and was defeated by Bei Zhou 北周 in 576. By now, northern
China was united under one kingdom. Bei Zhou 北周 however, was short-
lived, it had five kings lasting 24 years and was usurped by Yang Jian 楊堅
in 581 to establish Sui Dynasty 隋朝 which went on to conquer Chen 陳 in
the south and China was reunited again in 589, after a period of 273 years
of continuous wars and turmoil since the Xiongnus 匈奴 sacked Chang’an
長安 in 316.

Events in other parts of the World in comparative period (220 — 589)
230        First Emperor of Japan
268        Goths sacked Athens
303        Persecution of Christians in Roman Empire
306        Constantine, Emperor in Eastern Roman Empire
330        Constantine founded new city Constantinople
370        Huns (Mongols) invaded Europe
410        Goths sacked Rome
433        Huns Empire in Europe, from Caspian Sea to the Baltic,
extracting annual tribute from Eastern Roma Empire
452        Huns invaded Gaul (France) and Italy
453        White Huns dominated northern India
476        Goths ended Western Roman Empire
552        Buddhism introduced into Japan
570        Mohammad born at Mecca

Chapter Six
Sui & Tang
Sui Dynasty 隋 朝 (581—618) — Tang Dynasty 唐 朝 (618—907)

Sui Dynasty 隋 朝

Yang Jian’s 楊堅 father Yang Zhong 楊忠 was related to the ruling Xianbei
鮮卑 nobility and one of the founding ministers of Bei Zhou 北周. Yang
Jian’s 楊堅 daughter was a queen to Xuan Di 宣帝 who died leaving a
young prince of eight years old. Yang Jian 楊堅, as a nobility of the in-laws
外戚 to the ruling family was in complete power. The bloodline of the Bei
Zhou nobility, Yuwen 宇文氏 and all ministers in opposition were
persecuted. In 581, the young king Jing Di 靜帝 was dethroned and Yang
Jian 楊堅 declared himself king; and the kingdom was called Sui 隋 with
its capital at Daxing 大興 (Chang’an 長安).

In the south, there remained two independent countries, Later Liang 後梁
and Chen 陳. After Liang Hou Zhu 梁後主 surrendered Jiangling 江陵 (in
Hubei 湖北) in 587, the following year prince Yang Guang 楊廣 attacked
Jiankang 建康 (today’s Nanjing 南京) and captured Chen Hou Zhu 陳後主,
which brought Chen Dynasty 陳朝 to an end; and China was again united
under one rule.

Chen Hou Zhu 陳後主, king of Chen Dynasty 陳朝 which held half of China
requires some description, not because of his merits but to the contrary,
because of his ignorance and indulgence in pleasure. When his capital was
lost, he did not even surrender but was found hiding in a well in the palace
gardens with his consort Zhang Lihua 張麗華. Two years before, an upright
minister Zhang Hua 章華 made a petition to the king to remind him of the
state of the government and the contents are worth repeating for the sake of
learning from history. The petition reads: “Your Majesty have ascended to
the throne for five years now, but paid no thought on the endeavours of our
late king and has no respect for destiny of Heaven. You obsess yourself in
your consorts, perplex yourself in wine and women, Old ministers and
generals were discarded; glib-tongued flatterers and crooks are elevated in
Court. Now the Sui army is just over the border and if your Majesty do not
make drastic changes, I shall see reindeers loitering in Gusu!” (陛下即任,
至今五年, 不思先帝之艱難, 不知天命之可畏; 溺於嬖寵, 惑於酒色; 老
臣宿將, 棄之草莽; 諂佞讒邪, 升之朝廷. 今隋軍壓境, 陛下如不改絃易
張, 臣見麋鹿遊於姑蘇矣!) Chen Hou Zhu 陳後主 was infuriated on
reading this and Zhang Hua 章華 was beheaded the very day.

The Construction of Canals

The most long-lasting and notable merit of Sui Dynasty 隋朝 viewed from
posterity was the construction of its system of canals. The geography of
China was such that most rivers flowed from west to east and there was no
easy way to travel in a north south direction. The finished canals improved
by far the means of transportation in China and the efficient distribution of
food and at the same time solved many irrigation and flooding problems,
though it was said that at least one of those was purely for the Emperor’s
pleasure in accessing the cities in the south.

The first of these canals was Guangtong Qu 廣通渠 which started from
Daxing 大興 (Chang’an) to Tonguan (Tong Pass) 潼關, which served as a
by-pass of Wei Shui 渭水, joining Huang He 黄河. It was over 300 Km.
The second one was Tongji Qu 通濟渠. It started from east of Luoyang 洛
陽, drawing water from Luo Shui 洛水 to reach Huang He 黄河, and then
drawing from Huang He 黄河 to Bian Shui 汴水 and then to Huai Shui 淮
水, thereupon Huang He 黄河 was connected to Huai He 淮河 through this
system of canals of over 900 Km, a colossal feat by any measure even
today, not to say fourteen centuries ago.

The longest engineering work was yet the Yungji Qu 永濟渠 which was
built as a transportation route for Yang Di煬帝to support his campaign to
conquer Korea 高麗. It started from about 100 Km east of Luoyang 洛陽,
drawing water from Qin Shui 沁水 (which was a tributary of Huang He 黄
河), going northeastward to reach today’s Tianjin 天津, crossing Yongding
River 永定河, bent northward and then west to reach Zhuojun 涿郡, which
was southwest to today’s Beijing 北京. From beginning to end its direct
flight line was about 700 Km but its whole course was over 1000 Km.

The last one built was Jiangnan River 江南河 presumably for Yang Di’s 煬
帝 own pleasure traveling in his floating palace. It started from Jingkou 京
口 (today’s Zhenjiang 鎮江) on the south bank of Chang Jiang 長江 to go
southeastward through Wuxi 無錫, round the east side of Lake Tai 太湖
and southward to Jiaxing 嘉興 and then continued to Yuhang 餘杭 (today’s
Hangzhou 杭州). It was another 800 Km. In today’s terms, one could
therefore travel along this canal system from Beijing 北京, via Tianjin 天
津 to Huang He黄河and then to Huai He 淮河 and continue across Chang
Jiang 長江 to Hangzhou 杭州, a direct flight distance of 1200 Km.

Sui Wen Di 隋 文 帝,Yang Jian

Yang Jian 楊堅 (Sui Wen Di 隋文帝) was a practical and effective ruler
and he himself a disciplined and parsimonious man. There was not much
pomp in his palace. Despite his consorts and concubines, he only attended
Court with his Queen, Dugu 獨孤皇后 who came from an eminent family
and well versed in literature. He had five sons all borne by the same Queen
and he boasted that succession problems which plagued previous dynasties
could not apply to him since the princes were of the same mother. Little did
he know that in the matter of succession to the throne, two were too many.

His administration, Kaihuang 開皇之治, however, was the best since Han
Guang Wu Di’s 漢光武帝 time five and a half centuries ago. His two prime
ministers Su Wei 蘇威 and Gao Jiong 高 熲 (烔) were the best ministers
seen in Sui Dynasty. Cruel penalties prevailing in past dynasties were
abolished. There only remained five punishments 五刑, death 死,
banishment 流, exile 徒, canning 杖 and flogging 笞. The death penalty
however, could not be passed without being re-examined by the ministry of
justice 大理寺 and the sanction of the state secretariat 尚書省 jointly with
the Emperor. Wen Di 文帝 personally participated in the appointment and
assessment of prefects 州牧 and local district chiefs 縣令.

One day Wen-Di 文帝 inspected records of the justice department and
found that ten thousand cases were outstanding. He considered this was
caused by the complexity of the law and immediately ordered prime
minister Su Wei 蘇威 to simplify it to five hundred paragraphs. He
provided for local self-governing 鄉里自治. 500 families were called a
village 鄉 with a village head 鄉正 and 100 families were called a
neighborhood 里. Taxes were reduced and national service per citizen was
reduced from 36 days to 20 days. By 590, there was surplus in the Empire’s
revenue and land tax was reduced by one third. It was the best China had
since the Han era 漢代 for over half a millennium ago. The problems of
Sui, however, came later and from other quarters.

The swift downfall of Sui from its early success lay in the succession of the
throne to Wei Di 文帝 and in the revival of the foreign tribes to the north of
China. Unlike his father, the crown prince Yang Yong 楊勇 was
extravagant and arrogant. His residence was regularly full of pompous
entertainment and guests. Eminent court officials visiting him were treated
with insolence. The second prince Yang Guang 楊廣 was more reserved,
thrifty, introvert and sly. The musical instruments in his home were
purposely displayed, covered with dust and the Emperor was impressed by
it. High ministers who made official visits on Yang Guang 楊廣 were
always humbly received and attended to. Good words continued to pour
into the ears of the Emperor and the Queen.

In the end, Yang Yong’s 楊勇 royal title was struck off in 600 and Yang
Guang 楊廣 was appointed heir to the throne. Guang took to his fancy a
concubine 陳夫人 of his father’s and was secretly coercing an affair with
her behind his father’s back. In 605, when Wen Di 文帝 was seriously ill,
he learnt about this scandalous impropriety. Yang Guang 楊廣, fearing
reprisal if his father should get better, schemed with a commander of the
imperial guards for a coup and had his father murdered by poisoning him
and battering him on his bed. History labeled him as a parent-murderer,
usurper 弒父篡位 and a tyrant. He was known as Sui Yang Di 隋煬帝.

Sui Yang Di 隋 煬 帝, Yang Guang

In order to be nearer to the canals, Yang Di 煬帝 moved the capital to
Luoyang 洛湯. During his reign of 12 years, he made three attempts to
subdue Korea in costly and futile expeditions. The canal to Zhuojun 涿郡
(now Beijing) was specially built for this purpose. The canal to Yuhang 餘
杭 (now Hangzhou) was only for his touring the south for pleasure, which
he did for three times. Each time his entourage consisted of over 1000
ships, over a hundred thousand men and the fleet tailed back to a length of
200 Km.

In 613, minister of protocol 禮部尚書 Yang Xuan Huo 楊玄惑 started a
rebellion with a hundred thousand men. Though it was suppressed, the
Empire was shattered and more uprisings mushroomed in the north. Seeing
the instability in China, foreign tribes made incursion into China from the
north and the northwest and the central government was not in a position to
deal with them. It was left to individual prefectures to defend for
themselves and Li Yuan 李淵 in Shanxi 山西 was one of them. In 616,
Yang Di 煬帝 made his third and last tour to the south by his canals and
moved the capital to Danyang 丹陽, making no plans to return to the
tumultuous north.

In 617, the governor of Taiyuan 太原 Li Yuan 李淵 installed the grandson
of Yang Di 煬帝 as Emperor Kong Di 恭帝, and took Chang’an 長安. One
year later, seeing that Yang Di 煬帝 had no intention of returning to
northern China which was their homeland, the imperial guards carried out a
coup. Their general Yuwen Hua-ji 宇文化及 led his guards into the palace
and strangled Yang Di 煬帝, a repeat of what he did to his father. In the
same year, Li Yuan 李淵 dethroned Kong Di 恭帝 and proclaimed himself
Emperor of Tang 唐 in 618, known as Tang Gao Zhu 唐高祖. The Sui
Empire only survived 37 years.

Tang Dynasty 唐 朝  (618—907)

Before Bei Zhou 北周 was usurped by Yang Jian 楊堅, there was a
minister by the name of Dou Yi 竇毅. He married his daughter to Li Yuan
李淵 and she gave birth to four sons and a daughter. The sons were Jian-
cheng 建成, Shi-min 世民, Xuan-ba 玄霸 and Yuan-ji 元吉. Shi-min 世民
was later to become the second Emperor of Tang, Tang Tai Zong 唐太宗.
Li Yuan 李淵 came from half Han and half foreign descent. His grandfather
served Bei Zhou 北周 and was entitled Duke of Tang 唐國公. His father
was a marshal general 大將軍 in Sui 隋 and Li Yuan 李淵 himself was
prefect of Taiyuan 太原留守 during Yang Di’s 煬帝 reign.

Shi-min 世民 had a friend Liu Wen-jing 劉文靜 who was district governor
縣令 of Taiyuan 太原. It was recorded in Tang history that the two first
planned rebellion in Taiyuan instead of taking orders from Li Yuan.
However, it might be possible that this “detail” was put in to justify Shi-
min’s coup-d’etat at Xuanwu Men 玄武門之變 and snatching of the

At the time there were numerous military uprisings in the north and Li Mi 李
密 was a popular leader who led an armed uprising, besieging Luoyang 洛
陽. In 617, Li Yuan 李淵 thought the time was ripe, declaring himself
marshal general 大將軍, attacked Chang’an 長安 with an army of three
hundred thousand strong and took it. Yang Di 煬帝 at the time was busying
himself touring in his canals south of Chang Jiang in 江南 and an Acting
Emperor of thirteen years old Yang Yao 楊侑 (Gong Di 恭帝) was left in
the capital as captive. The next spring, with a government installed in
Chang’an, Li Yuan 李淵, in the name of king of Tang 唐王, attacked Li Mi
李密 in Luoyang 洛陽 and was successful in subduing him. Then news from
the south came that there was a coup by the imperial military and Yang Di
煬帝 was killed. Kong Di 恭帝 was forced to abdicate and Li Yuan 李淵
took the crown by “Chanran” 禪讓, posthumously known as Tang Gao Zhu
唐高祖. 618 was the official beginning of the Tang Dynasty 唐朝 though
many of the local military forces were not pacified and it took another ten
years, in 628, before the kingdom was in peace again. The year of the reign
was called Wude 武 德. Jian-cheng 建成 was installed as crown prince 皇
太子, Shi-min 世民 as king of Qin 秦王, and Yuan-ji 元吉 as king of Qi 齊

Coup-de-tat at Xuanwu Men 玄 武 門 之 變

The “incident” or coup-de-tat at Xuanwu Men 玄武門之變 was the turning
point of early Tang history. Shi-min 世民, only at the age of twenty-six,
earned the highest esteem and merits among the princes because of his
military conquests in winning all the campaigns against the armed
resistance of the empire. Jian-cheng 建成, the crown prince, had no such
credentials. The staffs of these two camps, out of loyalty and self-interest,
were therefore endeavouring to overcome the power of the other and
securing their lord as the next emperor. In 624, Western Tuque 西突厥
started to encroach into the western territory of the Tang Empire in
Yuanzhou 原州 about 400 Km northwest of the capital Chang’an 長安.
Emperor Li Yuan, Jian-cheng 建成 and Yuan-ji 元吉 were in favour of
moving the capital to Luoyang 洛陽 to avoid the threat. Shi-min 世民 was
against it and there was a heated argument in court.

In 626, it was decided to repel the Tuque 突厥 incursion. The Emperor did
not want Shi-min 世民 to win more popularity and contest the crown; and
gave the command to Yuan-ji 元吉 who was by far less experienced. To
make the situation worse, Yuan-ji 元吉 specifically named Weichi Jing-de
尉遲敬德 and Qin Shu-bao 秦叔寶 as commanding generals, both of whom
were senior and experienced generals of Shi-min 世民. Shi-min and his
staff viewed this as a plot to dismantle and incapacitate their military
strength. The chief counselors and staff of king of Qin 秦王府 estimated
that if Shi-min did not take immediate measures to cope with the imminent
threat, disaster would befall and some of them threatened to resign.
Historians argued that Shi-min would rather wait for the crown prince to
make the first move but his staff advised strongly against it, being
convinced that a response might be too late.

On the 4th day of the 6th month in 626, the Emperor called the princes for
an urgent conference in the palace and Xuanwu Men 玄武門 was the
customary entrance. Shi-min 世民 and the commander of the palace
garrison Zhangsun Wu-ji 長孫無忌 laid ambush there with crack troops.
Both Jian-cheng 建成 and Yuan-ji 元吉 and their followers were
assassinated under arrows and swords. The imperial city gates were sealed
off to contain news of the coup-de-tat while the residence of Jian-cheng 建
成 and Yuan-ji 元吉 were under siege by troops of king of Qin. General
Weichi Jing-de 尉遲敬德 led troops into the palace and broke the news to
the Emperor. Li Yuan 李淵 was taken aback but there was nothing he could
do. Within a month he abdicated and left the throne to his second son Shi-
min 世民 who began the famous Reign of Zhenguan 貞觀之治. Had it not
been for the exemplary excellence of this reign, Li Shi-min 李世民 (or
Tang Tai Zong 唐太宗) would go down in history as a usurper no better
than Sui Yang Di 隋煬帝.

Reign of Zhenguan 貞 觀 之 治

The credits of the Reign of Zhen’guan 貞觀之治 went properly to Tang Tai
Zong 唐太宗 and his chief ministers such as Fang Xuan-ling 房玄齡, Du
Ru-hui 杜如晦, Wei Zheng 魏徵 and Li Jing 李靖 etc. Feng 房 was
meticulous in his strategic planning; Du 杜 famous for his decision in
timing. That explains the origin of the cliché: “房謀杜斷”. Wei Zheng, 魏
徵 a counseling minister 諫官, was particularly notable, since his shrewd
and determined counseling often caused great annoyance even to the wise
Emperor.  On the death of Wei Zheng, Tang Tai Zong 唐太宗 lamented, “
With bronze as mirror, one can align one’s attire; with history as mirror,
one can observe vicissitudes; with people as mirror, one can foretell
success and failure. Wei Jing died. Alas, so I have lost one mirror!” (“以銅
為鏡, 可以正衣冠; 以古為鏡, 可以見興替; 以人為鏡, 可以知得失。魏
徵亡, 吾失 一鏡矣!”)

Having fought over ten years to achieve unity and built a new empire, Tang
Tai Zong 唐太宗 was wise enough to realize that to maintain such a vast
domain, it took not only sheer military power but a lot more. He placed
particular stress on education. A national library with more than two
hundred thousand books was established and also a national academy of
literature 弘文館 with over forty thousand students, many of whom were
young men from the ruling nobilities of foreign tribes, including Korea and

Tang Tai Zong 唐太宗 was quoted saying, “An empire won on horseback
cannot be governed on horseback.” (從馬上得天下, 不能從馬上治天下).
He introduced a first system of public examination 科舉制 to recruit civil
officials, which was a measure to correct the Sui 隋 practice to select
people for public posts only from families of nobility and celebrity 門弟.
Law of the previous dynasties were revamped and simplified into a Tang
Code of Law 唐律 which was more accurate and well defined. Taxes were
reduced and people of all walks of life were able to make a decent living in
a prolonged period of peace, which was a great blessing for China after the
invasion of Western Jin 西晉 by the Xiongnus 匈奴 and the disintegration
of China into endless foreign wars and civil wars for three centuries.

In contrast to the extravagance of Sui Yang Di 隋煬帝, Tang Tai Zong 唐太
宗 was in comparison a very thrifty Emperor in his own court. There was
rarely a grand tour and the entourage was minimal as compared with Yang
Di’s a hundred thousand strong. The dismissal of three thousand maids-in-
waiting from the imperial palaces was expenditure-saving but already
considered a benevolent act 仁政 by historians.

In order to secure peace on the borders, Tang Tai Zong 唐太宗
successfully pushed foreign tribes to the north and the west. Eastern Tuque
東突厥 was uprooted from today’s Mongolia and part of Siberia to regions
beyond Lake Baikal (Beierjia) 貝爾加湖. Western Tuque 西突厥 was
driven away from Tian Shan 天山 and Tarim Basin (Talimu) 塔里木盆地
(today’s Xinjiang 新 疆 and Gansu 甘肅). The Tufans (also as Tubo) 吐蕃
however were still in control of today’s Tibet 西藏 and the capital Chang’
an 長安 was not farther than 500 Km from the western border. Tang
Dynasty also expanded south into today’s Vietnam called Jiaozi. 交趾. The
southern most border was 400 Km south of Jiaozhou 交州 (Huzhiming City
胡志明市). In the far East, Tang Tai Zong 唐太宗 was less than successful
in Korea. At its best, Tang only ruled the western half of today’s Korea, the
eastern half was under the kingdom of Xinlo 新羅. Towards the end of
Tang Tai Zong’s 唐太宗 reign, he made a last but fruitless attempt to
conquer Chaoxian 朝鮮. It is considered one of his demerits since
Chaoxian (Korea) had never been a threat to Tang and the war expedition
was costly and contributed nothing to the welfare of the Empire.

Succession Contests

Out of Queen Changsun 長孫皇后, Tang Tai Zong 唐太宗 had three sons,
Li Cheng-qian 李承乾, Li Tai 李泰 and Li Zhi 李治. Cheng-qian 承乾 was
installed as crown prince 太子 but Tai 泰 was the most favorite son.
Sixteen years after, in 643, the crown prince was found secretly keeping
assassins 刺客 and over a hundred trained men 壯士. The crown prince
was fearful of Tai’s 泰 threat to him as heir and planning to have him
assassinated but his counselors however might want to force the Emperor’s
hand as well. The plot failed because of an informant tipping off before the
event and the crown prince was stripped off of all his royal titles. Tang Tai
Zong 唐太宗 was thinking of choosing Li Tai 李泰 as crown prince but
thought if that was the case then other princes might come to harm. He
therefore decided to appoint Li Zhi 李治 who was of a milder temperament
and less scheming.

Ever since the coup at Xuanwu Men 玄武門之變, the question of
succession never failed to haunt the Tang Dynasty time and again. The
eldest grandson of Tang Tai Zong 唐太宗, Li Hong 李弘 died in suspicious
circumstances and the second grandson Li Xian 李賢 was dethroned and
killed by his mother Wu Jetian 武則天. Another grandson Zhong Zong 中宗
died of Queen Wei’s 韋后 coup. Xuan Zong 玄宗 (Li Long-ji 李隆基) was
overthrown by his son Su Zong 肅宗 in a bloodless coup.

Empress Wu 武 則 天 and Zhou Dynasty 周 朝 (690 – 705)
Tang Tai Zong 唐太宗 ruled for 23 years. When he died, he left the throne
to Li Zhi 李治 in 649 (Tang Kao Zong 唐高宗). Kao Zong divorced Queen
Wang 廢王皇后 and took Wu Zetian 武則天 as Queen in 655. It all
evolved around the accusation (alledgedly) that Queen Wang 王皇后
murdered the newborn girl of Wu 武氏 (consort at the time) out of jealousy
after visiting her. It seemed established that Wu killed her own child to
frame the Queen as a plot.

Five years later, Kao Zong 高宗 suffered an illness which caused him lost
of sight and he appointed Wu 武則天 as his “Co-Emperor” 二聖 in 660.
Wu was born the daughter of minister in 624 and by that time she was 36.
She almost took over the administration of the whole government for twenty-
three years until Kao Zong died, during which period she put a lot of her
clansmen in key positions in court. All ministers who were against her
were either persecuted to death or exiled. She appointed her son Zhong
Zong 中宗 as Emperor and she took the title of Queen Mother 太后. One
year later she dethroned Zhong Zong and appointed another son Rui Zong 睿
宗 as Emperor.

The son of a lord, Xu Jing-ye 徐敬業 started an uprising against Wu and the
proclamation was a literally famous piece known as 討武氏檄 with the
following quotes: “人非溫順, 穢亂春宮, 包藏禍心, 竊窺神器.” (Not
being of docile character, she brings licentiousness into palace. With a
hidden heart of evil, she gloats over the holy instruments of the Empire.)
When this rebellion was suppressed, prime minister Bei Yan 裴炎 who
forced her hand to abdicate was being executed and a lot of ministers and
militia were implicated.

Six years later in 690, at the age of 67, she dethroned Rui Zong 睿宗 and
made herself the “Holy Emperor” 神聖皇帝, the first and only female
Emperor in the history of China. The Dynasty was changed to Zhou 周朝
and the capital moved to Luoyang 洛陽. She ruled for sixteen years and
was an able administrator. She set the precedent by presiding personally
over the imperial examination 殿試 and interviewing official-designates.

In 705, Empress Wu was seriously ill and prime minister Zhang Jian-zhi 張
諫之 started a coup, forcing Wu to abdicate. Her son Zhong Zong 中宗 was
reinstalled as Emperor and the Dynasty returned to Tang 唐 with the capital
back to Chang’an 長安. Wu died the same year at the age of 82.

Queen Wei 韋 后 之 亂
Queen Wei 韋后 was the wife of Zhong Zong 中宗 and because she went
through all thicks and thins with her husband when he was dethroned by
Empress Wu  武則天, she was utterly trusted by him. When Zhong Zong 中
宗 was restored, Queen Wei 韋后 assisted in court politics. She was full of
the ambition of Empress Wu 武后 but lacked the wisdom of caution. She
took drastic action by poisoning Zhng Zong 中宗 in 710, installed her son
Li Chong Mao 李重茂 as Shao Di 少帝 and took over the government as
Queen Mother 太后.

Because Queen Wei’s 韋后 action was so crude and blatant, there was
plenty of opposition in court. The daughter of Empress Wu 武后, Princess
Taiping 太平公主, (sister-in-law to Queen Wei) conspired with the son of
Rui Zong 睿宗, Li Long-ji 李隆基. They secretly controlled the imperial
guards in charge of Xuanwu Men 玄武門 and from there they fought their
way into the palace. The entire family of Queen Wei 韋后 was killed in this
coup in 711. Rui Zong 睿宗 was restored as Emperor but he ruled for three
years and resigned, leaving the throne to his son Li Long-ji 李隆基 who
had full credit in the coup to oust Queen Wei 平韋后之亂. Long-ji 隆基
was well known as Tang Xuan Zong 唐玄宗 who started the Reign of
Kaiyuan 開元之治 in 714.

Reign of Kaiyuan 開 元 之 治
The beginning of the reign was marked by the service of excellent prime
ministers such as Yao Chong 姚崇, Song Jing 宋璟, and later in Zhang Jiu-
ling 張九齡 and Han Xiu 韓休. All were men of perfect integrity. Once
prime minister 宰相 Yao Chong 姚崇 took leave for ten days and
government documents were accumulating, all pending for decisions. Yao’s
colleague, Lo Huai-shen 盧懷慎 was unable to deal with it. He sought
audience with the Emperor to apologize. Xuan Zong 玄宗 comforted him by
saying, “ I entrusted the Empire to Yao Chong 姚崇. Your eminence can
just deal with the ordinary peripherals.” (朕把天下委託姚崇, 以卿座鎮雅
俗.) Xuan Zong 玄宗 knew that Lo was not quite as capable but put him
there because he was self-restrained, cautious, honest and contented. He
was dubbed “Shadow Prime Minister” (伴食宰相).

During the times of Empress Wu and Queen Wei, extravagance and
lavishness were the norm in court. Xuan Zong 玄宗 changed that by
practising thrifty himself. Ministers below the third grade 三品以下 and
non-commissioned concubines were not allowed to wear ornaments of gold
and jade. Because during the Wu, Wei Empresses’ reign the pubic
examination system was being exploited and official posts could be
obtained by bribery, Xuan Zong 玄宗 made the necessary corrections and
dismissed all sinecure posts; only ministers with proven skills in the central
government were sent out as governors in the prefectures 剌史. An
inspectorate consisting of 15 high officials was set up to tour the whole
Empire to examine the performance of local governments. These were
envoys responsible direct to the Emperor.

A general census was carried out throughout the country to stop tax evasion.
To direct the right course for the economy, gold and jade mining were
forbidden, the same with products of silk embroidery, since they were
considered non-essential luxury items.  Early Tang’s conscription system 徵
兵制 was replaced by a system of paid professional soldiers 募兵制. As
from 710, in order to enhance the security of the borders, ten military
regions were devised along the border, their commanders or governors
were named as 節度使. However, as time developed, these military
governors were often promoted to prime ministers or being deputized by
minister of defence and because of their seniority, they became officers of
great importance and power, a latent seed for the An-shi Rebellion 安史之
亂 forty years later.

An-Shi Rebellion 安 史 之 亂
After thirty years on the throne, in 741, Xuan Zong 玄宗 changed the
definitive year of his reign from Kaiyuan 開元 to Tianbo天寶. Zhang Jiu-
ling 張九齡 was relieved and Li Lin-fu 李林甫 became prime minister. Li
was a sly fox, who managed to fool the ageing Emperor. He was described
by historians as “a mouth of honey with a dagger at his back” (口蜜腹劍).
He was succeeded by Yang Guo-zhong 楊國忠, the brother of Yang Yu-
huan 楊玉環 or 楊貴妃, the Emperor’s first consort in supreme favour. He
held the sway of the central government, almost to cause its demise, but
certainly to his own death.

An Lu-shan 安祿山 was a mixed Hu 雜胡 but gained the trust of Xuan Zong
玄宗. He was given governorship of three military regions in the north,
commanding an army of two hundred thousand men. When Yang Guo-zhong
楊國忠 was prime minister, he was at odds with An Lu-shan 安祿山 and
repeatedly accused the latter of preparing for a rebellion. Xuan Zong 玄宗
privately dispatched an envoy to verify the situation but this person took
huge bribes from Lu-shan 祿山 and testified to his unmistakable loyalty. At
any rate, Lu-shan was weary of Yang’s accusation; with the excuse of
expelling Yang from the government to clear his name, in 755, he raised his
army from Fanyang 范陽 (now Beijing 北京) to take Luoyang 洛陽. He
called himself king of Yan 燕. An 安祿山 overran Tong Pass 潼關 which
was lost by General Geshu Han 哥舒翰 because of court intrigues. Lu-shan
安祿山 proceeded west and was unstoppable. He took the capital Chang’an
長安 in the same year. Xuan Zong 玄宗 fled to Chengdu 成都 in Sichuan 四
川. On the way, the imperial regiments rebelled. They refused to take
further orders from their commanders, ambushed and killed prime minister
Yang Guo-zhong 楊國忠 as he was the primary culprit of the Lu-shan
upheaval. They further demanded, for fear of later reprisal, that his sister,
Yang Yu-huan 楊玉環 be put to death and Xuan Zong 玄宗 was helpless to
oppose. Two years later, An Lu-shan 安祿山 was killed by his son Xing-xu
安慶緒. General Guo Zi-yi 郭子儀, with the help of foreign soldiers,
Huihe 回紇, recovered both Chang’an 長安 and Luoyang 洛陽.

In 758, Shi Si-ming 史思明 was governor of Fanyang 范陽 and the Tang
government was planning to trim his power. He got the news first and
revolted. He once defeated the Tang government army led by Kuo Zi-yi 郭
子儀 and killed An Xing-xu 安慶緒, declaring himself king of Yan 燕王. In
761, Shi 史 思 明 was killed by his son Chao-yi 朝義 who was defeated by
government troops in 763. Thus ended the An-Shi Rebellion after eight
years of upheaval.

Eight years of internal  turmoil  and  fighting within the Empire, with
foreign mercenary forces from Huihe 回紇 who were as effective in
plundering and destroying as in fighting, the country was shattered. Military
command and local resources were given to regional governors in order to
suppress the revolt, and could not be retracted by the weakened central
government. It developed into a situation of regional military autonomy 藩
鎮割據. Later, when a governor died, his office was taken up by his heir.
The system took the shape of feudalism except in name. In Mu Zong’s 穆宗
reign, the governor of Hebei 河北 openly refused to take orders from the
central government but the latter was unable to suppress him and was
forced to recognize him still as governor 節度使. Hebei no longer regarded
Tang as a central government. Other regions quickly followed this example,
which lasted over forty years to the end of Tang Dynasty.

Another after-effect of An-Shi was eunuchs gained control of the imperial
garrison, for in times of revolt, they were the only people whom the
Emperor could trust. Once they took sides between groups of court
officials, it became a source of factional struggle 朋黨之爭 which shook
the dynasty to the roots. Su Zong 肅宗 gained his throne through the aid of a
eunuch Li Fu-guo 李輔國. From then onwards, with few exceptions,
emperors must first win the full support of the eunuchs before he could
contest for the throne.

In a war-torn country, peasants which constituted the majority of the
population easily become disillusioned and desperate when they were
driven to the verge of famine whether by nature or by government folly.
Wang Xian-Zhi 王仙芝 was the first to lead such an uprising in Shandong
山東, Henan 河南 and Hubei 湖北. After he died his followers merged
with Huang Cao 黄巢. The area of disturbance spread further to Jejiang 浙
江, Guangdong 廣東, Guangxi 廣西, Shaanxi 陝西 and other provinces.
Luoyang 洛陽 and Chang’an 長安 once fell to rebel Huang Cao 黄巢 who
declared himself king of Da Qi 大齊. The capital was only recovered and
the rebels defeated by a turncoat rebel Zhu Wun 朱温 with the help of
foreign mercenaries from Shato 沙陀.

In the reign of Zhao Zong 昭宗, the eunuchs became so threatening powerful
that the prime minister secretly requested Zhu Wun 朱溫 to lead an army
into the palace and killed off all eunuchs. This was almost the history of the
end of Eastern Han 東漢 repeated. Zhu 朱温 was awarded the title, king of
Liang 梁王. In 904, he killed Zhao Zong昭宗and appointed Ai Di 哀帝.
Three years later, the last Emperor of Tang was forced to “Chanran” 禪讓
(abdicate in favour of a named sucessor) and Zhu Wun 朱温 usurped the
throne. The year 907 was the end of a once glorious Tang Dynasty after 290

Events in other parts of the World in comparative period (581-907)
584        Kingdom of Mercia founded in England
597        Augustine landed in England
620        Vikings invaded Ireland
625        Muhammad began dictating the Koran
626        Byzantium expelled Persians from Egypt
632        Death of Muhammad, succeeded by his
Father-in-law, Abu Bekr, first Caliph
638        Muslims captured Jerusalem
Muslims conquest of Syria, Persia and Egypt
646        Arabs recaptured Alexandria
674        Arab conquest reached Indus River
771        Charlemagne, King of Franks
Danish invaded Britain
886        Alfred captured London from the Danes

Chapter Seven
Five Dynasties & Ten Countries

Five Dynasties—Later Liang 後 梁 (907- 923)—Later Tang 後 唐 (923-
936)—Later Jin 後 晉 (936-946)—Later Han 後 漢 (947-950)—Later
Zhou 後 周 (951-960)

Later Liang 後 梁 (907- 923)

Zhu Wen 朱温, as mentioned in the last Chapter, was one of the rebel
leaders of the Huang Chao 黄巢 peasants’ uprising. Towards the end of the
uprising, he changed sides and deflected to the Tang government, becoming
a Tang general and given a new name Quan-zhong 全忠 by the Emperor. He
defeated the most powerful warlord in Henan 河南and was in complete
control of Henan and Hebei 河北 and the entire Huang He 黄河 basin. In
904 he forced Zhao Zong 昭宗 to move the capital to Luoyang 洛陽 and
uprooted the entire population of Chang’an 長安, dismantling the palaces
and houses of the people. Chang’an was utterly devastated by this human
destruction; and after being the capital of China for over a millennium,
never recovered its status in later dynasties.

Zhao Zong 昭宗was believed to be poisoned by Zhu Wen 朱温a few
months in the same year after the forced removal and Li Zhu 李祝 (Ai Di 哀
帝) was nominated as a puppet infant emperor who was forced to abdicate
in 907 and Zhu Wen 朱温 founded Liang (historically known as Later Liang
後 梁), the beginning of the Five Dynasties and Ten Countries era which
was a period of fragmentation in China, generally marked by reigns of short
durations and quick successions.

Most of the other warlords 藩鎮 never regarded Da Liang大梁 as a
government in succession of the Tang Empire. They only regarded Zhu Wen
朱温 as a usurper and followed his example. Within the next seventy-odd
years, no less than 16 individual countries existed in China, and ten of them
were co-existing at the same time.

In 912, Zhu Wen, after being king for 6 years, was killed in a palace coup
by his own son You-gui 友珪 who took the throne. At the same time, his
brother You-zhen 友貞 raised an army to attack Luoyang 洛陽. The
imperial garrison deflected and You Gui 友珪 committed suicide. You-
zhen 友貞 took the crown and ruled for eleven years until defeated by Da
Tang 大唐 (historically known as Later Tang 後唐).

Li Ke-yong 李克用 was king of Jin 晉王, appointed during the reign of the
Tang Empire and his official appointmnet was the Military Governor of
Hedong 河東節度使. As soon as Zhu Wen 朱温 usurped the Tang Empire,
he raised his army against Da Liang 大梁. He died in 908 and his son Li
Cun-xu 李存勗 carried on the mission. In 923, Li successfully broke
Daliang 大 梁 (later known as Kaifeng 開封 in Henan 河南) and Zhu You-
zhen 朱友貞 committed suicide. That was the end of Later Liang 後梁
which lasted 17 years.

Later Tang 後 唐 (923-936)

Li Cun-xu 李存勗 regarded himself as the legal successor of the Tang
Empire. He cancelled his official title as king of Jin 晉王 and called
himself Emperor of Tang. His empire was called Da Tang 大唐
(historically named Later Tang 後唐) and his capital was at Luoyang 洛陽.
Two years later, his army defeated Shu 蜀 in Sichuan 四川 and was at the
time the largest country in China. However, this did not last because of
natural disasters on top of human follies. In 926, the central China plain had
a draught for two years in a row and there was widespread famine. Wives
and children of soldiers serving the empire were dying in their home
villages and their loyalty and obedience were tested to breaking point. A
general rebelled in Ye City 鄴城 and the Emperor, being a veteran
commander himself, led his army to suppress the rebellion, promising
handsome rewards to his soldiers. This did not work and in a military coup,
Li Cun-xu 李存勗 was killed, so were his wife and his entire clansmen.

The general who led the uprising, Li Si-yuan 李嗣源 took over the empire
and after he died, he was succeeded by his son Li Cong-hou 李從厚.
Cong- hou wanted to neutralize the threat of his brother Li Cong-ke 李從珂
by removing him from his governorship in Fengxiang 鳳翔. Cong-ke
refused to comply and attacked Luoyang 洛陽. Cong-hou 從厚 was unable
to defend the capital and he was killed during his escape.  In 923, Li Cong-
ke 李從珂 took over the throne. Thirteen years later, in 936, Li Cong-ke 李
從珂 committed the same mistake his brother did. He ordered the removal
of his brother-in-law Shi Jing-tang 石敬瑭 from his military governorship
in Hedong 河東. Shi 石 invited Liao 遼, to the north of China’s frontier, to
help and defeated the Tang army. Li Cong-ke 李從珂 committed suicide
and thus ended the fourteen year’s reign of Later Tang 後唐.

Later Jin 後 晉 (936-946)

Before we look into the dynasty of Later Jin 後晉 and the deeds of Shi Jing-
tang 石敬瑭 who was of Shato 沙陀 origin, it is necessary for us to know
something about China’s neighbour to the north-east called Liao 遼. The
State of Liao was formerly known as Qi-dan 契丹 which was a branch of
the tribe of Eastern Hu 東胡 occupying the area to the north of the Great
Wall previously possessed by the Xiongnus 匈奴. In the 7th century during
the early Tang Dynasty, Eastern Tujue 東突厥 was repelled and so far as
China was concerned, peace was maintained for two centuries. In 916, the
Qidan Empire 契丹帝國 was formed. In 926, it was known as Liao 遼. To
the east, it expanded into Songhua Jiang basin 松花江, to the west, it
reached Tian Shan 天山, to the north it reached Heilong Jiang 黑龍江, and
to the south it bordered on the Great Wall 長城.

Because of the turmoil of civil wars within China during the late Tang
period and the early 10th century, a continuous flow of Chinese Han people
crossed the border and migrated into Liao territory. They brought along
new skills of agricultural and industrial production, and a more civilized
culture. To cope with this change, the Liao government even devised a two-
tier system in their administration. The north government was for he ruling
of Qidans 契丹人 and the south government specialized in the
administration of Han people 漢人.

To secure the military assistance of Liao from its leader Yelu Deguang 耶律
德光, Shi Jing-tang 石敬瑭 promised to hand over to Liao 遼 16 counties
south of the Great Wall. They were known as “Sixteen counties of Yan
Yun” 燕雲十六州. Yan 燕 meant Youzhou 幽州; Yun 雲 meant Yunzhou 雲
州. The area was about a hundred and twenty thousand square kilometers.
The mountain ranges along the Great Wall lost their defensive value. Liao
was within China and from this territory to the capital Kaifeng 開封, it was
entirely open to the flat Northern China plain. This paved the way of Liao’s
regular incursion into China, cumulating to the sacking of the Song capital
and kidnapping the emperors and the entire court.

Shi Jing-tang 石敬瑭 addressed Yelu Deguang 耶律德光 as “King Father”
and described himself as “son”. Yet Yelu 耶律 at that time was only 36
years old and Shi Jing-tang 石敬瑭 ten years older. Shi 石 was only king to
Jin 晉 (historically known as Later Jin 後 晉) for 7 years and he died,
leaving the kingship to his nephew (adopted son) Shi Chong-gui 石重貴.
Within 3 years Chong-gui 重貴 ordered a severance of trade between Jin
and Liao and killed all Qidan 契丹 merchants within China. This prompted
the massive invasion of the Liao army in 946 and the demise of Later Jin 後
晉 lasting for 11 years. The entire Shi 石 royal family was exiled to Huang’
long 黄龍 (now Jilin 吉林) and was never heard of again.

Later Han 後 漢 (947-950)

As the Liao army entered Kaifeng 開封, the He’dong military governor 河
東節度使 of Later Jin 後晉, Liu Zhi-yuan 劉知遠 declared himself king at
Taiyuan 太原 in 947 and called his kingdom Han 漢 (historically known as
Later Han 後 漢).  When the Liao army met with massive resistance by the
Han people, it retreated to the north. Liu entered into Luo Yang and Kai
Feng as a new king. Liu however, died within one year, leaving a teenage
successor, his nephew Liu Cheng-you 劉承祐. The military commanders
behaved as if there was no king at all. Cheng-you 劉承祐 found that he
could not take it any more and in a plot supported by his confidants, had the
commanders killed in court in an ambush. He then schemed to kill a military
governor Guo Wei 郭威 in Ye City 鄴城. Guo Wei 郭威 rose in rebellion
and attacked the capital. Cheng-you 承祐 was unable to withstand it and
was killed when he tried to escape from the siege. In 951, Guo Wei 郭威
usurped the crown and declared himself king. His kingdom was called Zhou
周 (historically known as Later Zhou 後周). Later Han 後漢 therefore only
lasted for less than four years and was the most short-lived dynasty in this

Later Zhou 後 周 (951-960)

Guo Wei 郭威 came from a poor family and was a professional soldier. He
knew the hardship of the common people and was able to conduct his court
in a non-extravagant fashion. He died however within four years of his
reign leaving the kingdom to his nephew and adopted son Chai Rong 柴榮
(all his sons having been killed when he rebelled against Later Tang). Chai
Rong 柴榮 took the throne when he was 34 and he was known as Zhou Shi
Zong 周世宗. He was both a sound military strategist and an able
administrator. The first crisis he faced after he took over was the joint
invasion of Northern Han 北漢 together with Qidan 契丹 (Liao). He was to
defeat the invaders in a campaign led by himself after several hard fought
battles with severe losses. After that, he reformed his army from top to
bottom. Taxes of the common people were reduced and they were able to
return to normal life after decades of civil tumult and unrest.

A year later, in 955, he expanded into the territories of Later Shu 後蜀 and
had peace with Shu after consolidating his western frontier. Then he
defeated Southern Tang 南唐 and extended his southern boundaries to the
northern banks of Chang Jiang 長江. His south was thus secure. In 959,
Chai Rong was successful in driving Qidan 契丹out of their southern
territories and heading for Youzhou 幽州. He fell victim to a sudden illness
and died in the capital at the age of 39. He was succeeded by his infant son
Zong-xun 宗訓. The commander of the imperial regiment Zhao Kuang-yin 趙
匡胤 feinted a foreign incursion and in the course of mobilizing his army
declared himself king at Chen Bridge 陳橋兵變. The staged incident was
known as 黄袍加身, implying that the yellow (imperial) robe was forced
upon him by his subordinate officers. Hence ended the ten year rule of Later
Zhou 後周in 960. Most historians regard this incident of “donning a yellow
robe” 黄袍加身as novel but in this period, there were sufficient
precedents. It started with Li Si-yuan 李嗣源, and Li Cong-ke 李從珂 of
Later Tang 後唐, and Guo Wei 郭威 of Later Zhou 後周.

While the central of China was dominated by the Five Dynasties mainly by
one taking over the former, the fringe areas of China was split into smaller
countries co-existing at the same time. The maximum count at one time was
ten, hence the name of the period, Ten Countries. The countries that existed
were: Qi 岐 (capital at Fengxiang 鳳翔), Southern Chu 南楚 (at Changsha
長沙), Wu Yue 吴越 (at Hangzhou 杭州), Early Shu 前蜀 (at Chengdu 成
都), Southern Wu 南吴 (at Jiangdu 江都), Jieyan 桀燕 (at Beiping 北平),
Southern Han 南漢 (at Guangzhou 廣州), Nan Ping 南平 (at Jiangling 江
陵), Min 閩 (at Fuzhou 福州), Later Shu 後蜀 (at Chengdu 成都), Southern
Tang 南唐 (at Nanjing 南京).

Four of them started at the beginning of this period in 907 and other
countries were formed later on and some were replaced by others in the
process. By the end of the period, 960, only five remained, Wu Yue 吴越,
Southern Han 南漢, Nanping 南平, Later Shu 後蜀and Southern Tang 南唐
and they were one after another being defeated and erased by the new
dynasty, Song 宋 with once again a united China in 978 when Wu Yue 吴越
was conquered last.

Events in other parts of the World in comparative period (907 – 960)
907        Mongols began capture of Inner Mongolia
911        Viking ruled Normandy, France
913        Danes expelled from Essex
924        Athelstan, king of Wessex
936        Otto I, King of Germany
937        Athelstan, King of Britain
950        The discovery of New Zealand
960        Mieszko, first ruler of Poland

Chapter Eight
Song, Liao & Jin

北 宋  (960-1127) — 南 宋 (1127-1279)

Northern Song 北 宋  (960-1127)

On the New Year day of 960, Zhao Kuang-yin 趙匡胤 started a coup at the
Post of Chen Bridge 陳橋驛 about 10 kilometers from Daliang, 大梁 the
capital of Later Zhou 後周. The seven year old son of Chai Rong 柴榮,
Zong-xun 宗訓, abdicated as advised by his ministers, in favour of Zhao
Kuang-yin 趙匡胤 who became the founding Emperor of the Song Dynasty.

A common event which plagued the previous dynasties was military
uprising and coup. Zhao Kuang-yin’s 趙 匡 胤 first concern was to stop this
from happening again to his rule. His chief minister Zhao Pu 趙普 shared
the same view and advised him not to delay the matter. His observation
was: 方鎮太重, 君弱臣強  (provinces are too important; the monarch
weak and ministers strong); and his policy was summarized as: 稍奪其權;
制其錢糧; 收其精兵。(trim their power, control their revenue and
provisions, retrieve their crack troops).

Zhao Kuang-yin 趙匡胤 gathered his top military commanders for a late
night’s drink. He said, “我非尓曹力, 不及此. 然天子亦大艱難, 吾终夕未
嘗高枕臥也。(Without you people, I wont be here. Yet Son of Heaven is
also a difficult position, I have never had a good night’s sleep”. His
comrades-at-arms were curious and enquired as to the cause of his concern.
Zhao continued, “是不難知, 居此位者, 誰不欲為之. (‘Tis not difficult to
understand. Who doesn’t want to be in the same position?)” Shi Shou Xin 石
守信 who was the commander of the capital garrison and an ardent
supporter of Zhao Kuang Yin 趙匡胤, replied, “Why are you saying this
your Majesty? The Empire is now secure. Who would dare to have a
second thought?” (誰敢復有異心?).  Zhao Kuang Yin 趙匡胤 went straight
to the point, “卿等固然, 設麾下有欲富貴者, 一旦以黄袍加汝身, 汝雖欲
不為, 其可得乎?” (It is true for you. What if your subordinates want an
advancement in wealth and eminence and cover you with a yellow robe,
even if you don’t want it, can it be stopped?).

When the commanders asked for the Emperor’s advice, Zhao said, “Why
don’t you relinquish your commands, shop for some good estates at your
home province, retire and enjoy your lives.” The next day in court, all the
leading military commanders offered their resignation for health reasons.
This was historically known as “杯酒釋兵權 ” (relief of military command
over a cup of wine).

Song was not a dynasty known for its military strength. Jiaozhou 交州 with
its capital at Jiaozhi 交趾城 (known later as Henei 河內 and now
Huzhiming City 胡志明市) was founded by the Qin Empire 秦朝 in 300
BC and was known as Xiang 象郡, later changed to Jiaozhou 交州 in
Western Han 西漢. In Tang Dynasty 唐朝, it was called An-nan Fu 安南府,
under the military jurisdiction of Jinghai 静海軍區.   Prior to Song, it was
governed by Nan Han 南漢. In 964, Governor Wu 吴節度使 of Jinghai
died and succession to the governorship was contested by his subordinates.
Ding Lian 丁璉 finally won over the other parties and became its governor.
In 971, the Song government conquered Nan Han 南漢, put Guangzhou 廣
州 under its rule but did not recover Jiaozhou 交州. Two years later, Ding
made tribute to Song and asked for his domain to be appointed a
protectorate 藩屬. Song accented to the appointment and thus the province
of Jiaozhi 交趾 (now Vietnam 越南) became a separate entity. Through
lack of political foresight and military incompetence, China lost Vietnam.

With the army hierarchy restructured, Song started its conquest to erase the
fringe countries left from the last period. In 963, it conquered Nanping 南
平,  Nan Tang 南唐 succumbed when Jinling 金陵 surrendered. The last
country Wu Yue 吴越 surrendered without a fight in 978. Northern Han 北
漢 at Shanxi 山西 saw that they were no match of the Song Dynasty 宋朝,
sought protection from Liao 遼 in the north. The Song army defeated the
forces of Liao in 979 and overran Taiyuan 太原, which was the end of
Later Han 後 漢 after 33 years. This was 19 years into reign of the Song
Empire and under the rule of Song Tai Zong 宋太宗 (Zhao Guang-yi 趙光
義, brother of Zhao Kuang-yin 趙匡胤). Song 宋 made three attempts to
invade Liao 遼 to recover the 16 prefectures of Yan and Yun 燕雲十六州
but all of them ended in defeats, The first two in 979 and 980, the last one
in 986.  Zhao Guang-yi 趙光義 died as a result of a wound from one of
these campaigns.

The passing of the throne from Zhao Kuang-yin 趙 匡 胤 to his brother Zhao
Guang-yi 趙光義, (Song Tai Zong 宋太宗) was under suspicious
circumstances. Zhao Kuang-yin 趙匡胤 died a sudden death at the age of 50
without any known illness. The official historical record showed that he
died in the palace after having a night’s private drink with his brother
Guang-yi 光義. The story of “The pledge of the golden casket” (金匱之盟)
was only revealed six years into the reign of Guang-yi by Zhao Pu 趙普. It
was reported that in 962 when Queen Mother Du 杜太后 was at her death
bed, she asked Zhao Pu to be present with her son Kuang-yin 趙匡胤. She
pointed out that the last dynasty failed to survive because the heir to the
throne was an infant. She asked Kuang Yin to pass the throne to his brother
Guang-yi after he died. The Emperor agreed and Du’s will was recorded
and signed by Zhao Pu 趙普. This story was taken as the official record.
However, the whole incident was cast in doubt first by a Qing scholar
Yunjing 惲敬.  When Queen Du died, the crown prince was eleven years
old. How would she be able to tell that when Kuang-yin 趙匡胤 died, his
son would still be an infant. In fact when Kuang-yin 匡胤 died fifteen years
later, his eldest surviving son was already 26 and no longer an infant.
Moreover, this story was only revealed 6 years into the reign of Guang-yi
光義 with Zhao Pu 趙普 being reinstalled as the prime minister from his
relegated position. If this pledge was true, it should have been made public
on the succession of Gunag-yi 光義 to the throne as an authentic document.
In the same month of his succession to the throne, Guang-yi had all the
leading astronomers and people of occult art assembled at the capital,
numbered over 300. After a process of “screening”, 60 were employed in
the department of the National Astronomer 司天監 and the rest were exiled
and detained in custody. It was clearly a scheme to silence gossips and
rumors circulating among people who claimed to be able to read the omen
of stars and the way of Heaven.

Treaty of Chanyuan  澶 淵 之 盟

Liao 遼, had always been a serious threat to Song. In 1004, the Liao army
invaded into China in strength, led by its king Yelu 耶律 and his mother
Empress Xiao 簫太后. It came to near Chanzhou 澶州 in Hebei 河北 to
within 150 Km of the capital Kaifeng 開封. The Song Empire was shocked
and Emperor Zhao Heng 趙恒 (Zhen Zong 真宗), son of Guang-yi, called
an urgent meeting. Some suggested moving the capital to Jinling 金陵, and
some to Chengdu 成都. Prime Minister Kou Zhun 寇準 opposed to any of
these. He suggested meeting the enemy head on and asked the Emperor to be
personally leading the army. He argued that once the capital was moved,
the country’s moral would be lost and the Empire disintegrated. The
Emperor took his advice and advanced north to Chanzhou 澶州. The Liao
army saw that they had met their match. A Song general Wang who earlier
surrendered to Liao advised that it would be better to negotiate, winning
financially without a fight. First, Liao asked for the northern territories of
Hebei be ceded to Liao to which Zhao Heng 趙恒 refused. Wang advised
Empress Xiao 簫太后: in the plundering after winning a war, the properties
went to the soldiers; whereas in securing tributes 進貢 after a successful
negotiation, the wealth would go directly to the king. Empress Xiao took the
hint and a deal was struck. Song Empire would pay Liao annually a hundred
thousand teals of silver 銀十萬両 and two hundred thousand pieces of silk
綢缎二十萬匹. A peace treaty was signed by the delegates of the two
countries and it was known as the Treaty of Chanyuan 澶淵之盟. In the
hundred years that followed, the two countries lived in relative peace.

Song Dynasty 宋朝 had never been strong in its military prowess, but its
academic achievements had a place in the history of China. Printing was
applied since the Tang period 唐代 and it flourished in Song. Books were
widely printed in Song dynasty, both by the government offices and
privately. After wood-blocks were adopted in printing in about 932, books
printed by the official agencies were called “supervised copies” (監本)
and books printed by civilian entrepreneurs were called “local copies” (坊
本). Copper printing blocks 銅版印刷 were cast and used to print paper
money and books in bulk, such as the classics. Clay type-setting 活字版
was invented during this time and it improved the speed of setting up a
printing block.

The recruitment by examination system 科舉制 established in Tang 唐 was
strengthened in Song 宋. The government was filled with scholar-officials
at all levels of the civil service, who were even entrusted with top
commands of the military circuits. Fan Zhong-yan 范仲淹 was a notable
example. The distrust of army generals to lead the army was basically the
main cause of the weakness of the dynasty in its defence against the foreign
invaders from the north.

In Han Dynasty 漢朝, Confucianism was the official mainstream in
political, literal and philosophical thoughts. In Wei 魏, Jin 晉 and South-
North Dynasties 南北朝 metaphysics 玄學 and Buddhism 佛學 became
popular. Both advocated the release of the mind and went into detailed
analysis of human nature. In Song 宋, Confucians 儒家 began to incorporate
Buddhist 佛家 and Taoist 道家 theories and embarked on a more analytical
way of thinking, known as the Theorists’ teachings 理學. Well-known
scholars included Zhu Xi 朱熹, Zhou Dun-yi 周敦頤, Cheng Yi 程頤,
Cheng Hao 程顥, Zhang Zai 張載 etc. A painting college 畫院 was set up
within the Hanlin Academy 翰林院 pooling a group of the best painters
known in that period. This was the first in the history of China. Its set up
was purely to serve the needs of the imperial palace of the Emperor,
including the decorating of the palace, painting wall murals 壁畫 and
screen murals 屏風畫. In 1001, the imperial library was formed, known as
Long Tu Library 龍圖閣, incorporating all the books for the Emperor’s
reading 御書, archives of all court documents 典藉, paintings, royal
pedigree 宗族譜牒 and artifacts.

The oldest poems of China were edited by Confucius 孔夫子 into the
Classic of Odes 詩經, and its authors could not be identified or dated.
Poetry flourished in Tang 唐 and its poets were best of all the ages in
China, such as Li Bai 李白 and Du Fu 杜甫. Poems still continued in Song
宋 but they lacked the luster in Tang 唐. Then another form of poetry,
circulated in Tang, but became popular in Song known as Ci 詞. As
compared with the rigid format of poems of all previous dynasties with
fixed number of words in each line such as five-word lines 五绝 or seven-
word lines 七律, “Ci” 詞 was more flexible. It contained long and short
lines and they did not have to rhyme with a strict predetermined meter 韻 or
stanza. It was introduced as lyrics for songs and they were written to be
sung. Each “ci” 詞 had a title of the tune, called 詞牌, and it was set for a
specialy composed tune. Of course, different contents could be written
under that tune and given a subtitle. The way how each “ci” 詞牌 should be
sung however, was unfortunately lost, and any modern reconstruction could
only be an educated guess. But the fact that it was sung is indisputable. The
best Ci 詞 were written by renowned scholars such as Su Shi 蘇軾, Liu
Yong 柳永 and Xin Qi-ji 辛棄疾 etc.

The history of Song in the 11th century cannot be told without mentioning
Wang An-shi’s 王安石 Xining Reformation 熙寧變法. When he was a
junior official, he made a detailed petition to the Emperor Ren Zong 仁宗
in 1058 on the issue of reforming a wide spectrum of administrative and
social systems pertaining to tax, revenue, trading, militia, defence and
examination system etc. It contained over ten thousand words and was
known as 萬言書. Eleven years later, when Shen Zong 神宗 took office in
1069, he was appointed as the government’s advisor 参知政事 (equivalent
to deputy prime minister) and entrusted to carrying out the New Laws 新法
he proposed. One innovative system on trading was known as “market
exchange system” 市易法. The market exchange department 市易務 would
fix a fair market price and could sell to or buy goods from merchants.
Traders could also apply to the department for loans at a fixed interest rate.
The system was designed to defeat any monopoly set up by merchants to
enhance their profits. It was first introduced in the capital Kaifeng 開封 and
then adopted in the rest of the country. (A similar system is being used
nowadays, a thousand years later, by the EC countries in their agricultural
policy to stabilize price fluctuation in agricultural products.)

Sixteen years later when Zhe Zong 哲宗 succeeded the throne in 1085,
another prime minister Sima Guang 司馬光 was appointed and all the New
Laws carried out were being reversed. Wang An-shi’s radical reformation
王安石變法  was no doubt aimed to cope with the prevailing weaknesses
of the systems and intended to benefit the empire as a whole. However, it
affected the vested interests of a host of officials and wealthy influential
landowners and became controversial. Officials appointed by Wang to
carry out the new systems were considered a separate faction who worked
against the interests of the old established officialdom. Disregarding the
debate of the merits or demerits of the systems, the two camps struggled
against each other and it became personal, marking the beginning of never-
ending factional struggles between court officials in Song Dynasty. In 1102,
prime minister Cai Jing 蔡京 managed to ask the emperor Hui Zong 徽宗 to
erect a stone tablet in the palace to denounce 120 high officials who
opposed the reformation decades ago in the years Yuanyou 元祐 with ex-
prime minister Sima Guang 司馬光 at the top of the list. They were
described as belonging to an “evil faction” 奸黨 and the tablet was known
as 元祐黨籍碑.

When Wang’s supporters were back in power in court, Sima Guang 司馬光
was forced into retirement. Assisted by his colleagues, he put his time into
compiling a narrative chronicle of the history of China from 404 BC to the
beginning of Song Dynasty, 960 AD. After 19 years, the book was finished,
two assistant editors having died on the job. The work was shown to the
Emperor when Sima Guang managed to return to court and it was greatly
appreciated by the Emperor who gave it the title Zi Zhi Tong Jian 資治通
鑑 (Comprehensive Chronicle for Aid in Governance). It was another
landmark in Chinese history writing after Shi-ji 史記 by Sima Qian 司馬遷
in the Han 漢 era a thousand years before.

After the Treaty of Chanyuan 澶淵之盟 in 1004, Song 宋 and Liao 遼
maintained relative peace though Liao succeeded in getting double the
tribute and more territory from Song. These happened at the time of Ren
Zong 仁宗 and Shen Zong 神宗. During Ren Zong’s 仁宗 time (1024-
1065), Song was troubled by Western Xia 西夏 and therefore was too
weak to reply Liao’s blackmail with force. During Shen Zong’s 神宗 time,
Song 宋 was undergoing social reformation 變法 (1069-1086) throughout
the country, rolled out by Wang An-shi 王安石 and badly needed peace at
the border. Liao’s 遼 request for more land was fully complied with. In Hui
Zong’s 徽 宗 times, the Jin 金人 people rose from Manchuria and the
strength of Liao 遼 was going downhill. Song 宋 wanted to settle old
scores once and for all, and made a secret deal with Jin 金 in 1120. The
deal was: Jin 金 and Song 宋 would together attack Liao 遼 and after the
latter was vanquished, Song 宋 would make the same tribute to Jin 金
instead of to Liao; and Jin 金 would return the sixteen prefectures of Yan
and Yun 燕雲十六州 recovered from Liao 遼 to Song 宋.

When Jin 金 began the assault on Liao 遼, Song 宋 was busily engaged in
suppressing an uprising at home. When this was done Song 宋 turned to
Liao 遼, but its efforts were mainly fruitless, losing every battle. Jin 金 on
the other hand, overran Liao, took Yanjing 燕京 (now Beijing) in 1123 and
ransacked the capital. Because Song did not perform its part of the deal, Jin
was only prepared to return a portion of northern China. Yan Jin 燕京 was
given to Song 宋 as an empty city in return for a huge sum of military
expenses and additional annual taxes 代稅銀. In 1125 Jin 金 attacked Yin
Jing 燕京 and commander of the region Tong Guang 童貫 deserted, leaving
the city to surrender. Such was the situation befitting of a decaying Empire.

In 1126 the Jin 金 army made further advances into the Song Empire.  Hui
Zong 徽宗 was at a loss as to how to deal with the situation and abdicated
in favour of the crown prince who became Qin Zong 欽宗. The capital was
under siege. The mentality of the emperors was to seek for peace with the
invaders. Provincial leaders were however more positive. Their armies
came to the aid of the capital; and seeing that they were out-numbered, the
Jin invaders withdrew to the north. However, the next year, they renewed
their attack and breached the walls of the capital. Qin Zong 欽宗 sued for
peace. Hui Zong 徽宗, Qin Zong 欽宗 and the entire court with their
servants and artisans, totaled over a hundred thousand, were taken north in
captivity. That was the end of the Northern Song Dynasty 北宋 and known
as the Disaster of Jingkang 靖康之難. The two emperors were sent to the
homeland of the Jin people 金人 in today’s Manchuria and their endings
were unknown in history, though some who escaped from the trail of
captivity told their plight and the fate of the captives was deplorable to say
the least.

Song 宋, before its capitulation, was the largest nation in the world. Its
capital Kaifeng 開封 had a population of over one million and the nation
had the strongest economy for centuries. Yet, it often perplexed historians
how a newly risen Jin 金 could ever overwhelm such a nation in a matter of
a year. It happened that Hui Zong 徽宗 was an emperor of many talents but
none of them was related to his competence in administration. He was an
artist in many aspects: in music, in paintings, in calligraphy (he invented a
novel style known for its slender but rigid strokes called 瘦金體) and in
poetry. He was keen in womanizing in his palace and it was said he would
promote a virgin lady-in-waiting to rank after spending a night with her,
which happened throughout the week. When he abdicated, such ladies were
sent home numbered over six thousand. His councilors were known for
their wantonness and corruption, persons such as prime minister Cai Jing 蔡
京, Gao Qiu 高俅 and others were known as “six bandits” 六賊. But in fact
the most corrupt person was the Emperor himself, being bent on exploiting
the whole country and population for his own enjoyment.

Southern Song  南 宋 (1127-1279)

The Jin 金兵 invaders ransacked the capital, took the emperors captive and
withdrew to the north, leaving a puppet government which soon dissolved.
Queen Yuanyou 元佑皇后 was nominated to act as regent and she
appointed King Kang 康王 of Jizhou 濟州 as Emperor Gao Zong 高宗.
Yingtianfu 應天府 (Henan 河南, Shangqiu 商丘) was the new capital.

In 1130, Jin Wushu 金兀术 attacked Southern Song 南宋, sacked Lin’an 臨
安 (now Hangzhou 杭州) and withdrew north. Because of the bulk of the
looting, its army had to take the canals by barges on its way north. They
were stuck at Zhen Jiang 鎮江 and encircled by the navy of the Song
general Han Shi-zhong 韓世忠. The Jin army lost its battles on the river
and was besieged at the port of Huangtiandang 黄天蕩. Finally the Jin 金
army cleared the blockade on land and made their way to Qinhuai River 秦
淮河 from where they escaped north. Because of the success, General Han
Shi-zhong 韓世忠 and his wife Liang Hong-yu 梁红玉 who positioned
herself at the battle frontline, became famous as household names.

In the spring of 1134, Yue Fei 岳飛, another patriotic general led his army
across Chang Jiang 長江, attacked the Jin 金 army concentrated at
Dengzhou 鄧 州 and recovered the whole area of Xiangyang prefecture 襄
陽郡. In 1140, the Jin army attacked on a broad front. Yue Fei 岳飛 moved
from È-zhou 鄂州 into the central plain, recovering Yingchang 潁昌,
Zhengzhou 鄭州, Luoyang 洛陽 and threatened Kaifeng 開封. At Yan City
郾城 (in Henan 河南), Yue Fei 岳飛 met the heavy cavalry of the Jin 金
army. He won the battle with an odd in numbers and destroyed the myth that
the Jin 金 cavalry phalanx 拐子馬 was invincible.

In the same year Kaifeng 開封 was lost again and Yue Fei 岳飛
counterattacked, reaching the town of Zhuxian 朱仙鎮 to the west of
Kaifeng. The Jin army lost heart and were on the verge of a massive retreat
to the north. However, Yue Fei 岳飛 was ordered to withdraw by the
Emperor Gao Zong 高宗 and his confidant, prime minister Qin Hui 秦檜.
Both were bent to negotiating a peace with Jin 金. Historians nowadays are
nearly agreed that Gao Zong 高宗 had his hidden motives. If Yue Fei 岳飛
continued to succeed against Jin, the latter might negotiate and release the
captured emperors, his father Hui Zong 徽宗 and his brother, Qin Zong 欽
宗. Gao Zong’s 高宗 throne would then be threatened. Qin Hui 秦檜 was
even more suspicious. He was captured in 1127 by Jin as a court official
but managed to return with his entire family together with his servants and
properties. He explained that he escaped while he was taken hostage on a
campaign with the Jin 金 army but it was highly improbable. At best, he
was released by the Jin 金 authorities to undermine the counter-attacks of
the Song 宋 dynasty and to facilitate future negotiations. At worst, he was
working as a spy for Jin and a traitor of the Song Empire.

In 1141, the generalship of the leading commanders Han Shi-zhong 韓世忠,
Yue Fei 岳飛, and Zhang Jun 張俊 were being withdrawn. A peace treaty
was signed with the Jin State towards the end of the year and Song 宋
would relegate itself as a subordinate country to Jin 向金稱臣. Yue Fei 岳
飛, and his son Yue Yun 岳雲 were arrested on a fabricated charge and
murdered in custody. Han 韓世忠 objected to the peace treaty to the end
and seeing no hope in the government, retreated to seclusion in the West
Lake 西湖 in retirement. Twenty years later, in 1162 when Xiao Zong 孝宗
ascended to the throne, he reinstated the honour of Yue Fei 岳飛 and asked
to have his remains located and reburied as a first rank officer.

In the 2nd year of Lungxing 隆興, after intermittent wars and protracted
diplomacy, a new treaty was signed. The Song Emperor was regarded as
Emperor and no longer subordinate to the Jin Empire 金國. Song 宋 should
pay tribute to Jin 金 for the sum of two hundred thousand teals of silver 白
銀二十萬両 and two hundred thousand pieces of fabricated silk 絹二十萬
匹. Song 宋 would relinquish claim for Shang 商, Qin 秦 and other
prefectures. This was known as the Peace Treaty of Longxing 隆興和議 in

The Song 宋 era was a period of highly developed economy. A system of
guild societies 行會 was first established in Tang dynasty 唐 and it further
developed in Song dynasty 宋. The number of guilds expanded from 100 to
240 and then to 414, ranging from gold and silver exchanges 金銀交引, silk
manufacturing to retailing in paper and feathers. Trading in exports also
flourished but was subject to government regulatory controls such as: all
overseas trading must be pre-approved by government; smuggling was
strictly forbidden; the captain and first mate of each seafaring vessel would
be appointed by the government; taxes must be paid before a ship was
allowed to sail; all ships calling on port (whether Chinese or foreign) must
report to the local port authorities 船舶司.  Paper money was printed in
Song known as Jiaozi 交子 and the government department in charge during
Ren Zong’s 仁宗 times was called Jiaozi Wu 交子務. The rule was that
such paper money could be exchanged with copper coins and were
equivalent. However, when the economy was at a downward slope and the
government was running short of revenue, it printed money excessively
causing a substantial inflation in Southern Song and hardship in the daily
life of the people. Since Ning Zong 寧宗 took over the throne in the year
Qingyuan 慶元, 1195, the Song government was in confusion, engulfed in
factional struggle. Some sixty officials were denounced and expelled from
office, as members of an anti-government party and historically the incident
was known as Qingyuan factional purge慶元黨禁.

During the reign of Li Zong 理宗, (1225-1265) the State of Jin 金 followed
the steps and pattern of Liao 遼 and swiftly declined as it had risen. The
Mongol race (Meng) 蒙 rising from Mongolia 蒙古 suddenly became a
powerful people, conquered northern China and displaced the Jin 金人
race completely. Its first leader was Temujin 鐵木真, (1155-1227) (later
Genghis Khan 成吉思汗) a tribal chief who unified different Mongolian
tribes in 1206. From 1210, the Mongols, under Genghis Khan, harassed the
northern frontier of Jin 金 and in fives years’ time took their capital at Yan-
jing 燕京 (now Beijing 北京). It pushed west and after twenty years of
campaigning wiped out Western Xia 西夏 in 1226. Seeing that its enemies
on the northern frontier, Xia 西夏 and Jin 金 were crumbling under the
Mongols, Song 宋 allied with the latter to make an easy revenge. By 1234
Jin 金 completely disintegrated as a power under the Mongols, but its
remnants revived in Manchuria again after four centuries in the 17th century
to haunt China again and conquered her in the end. Southern Song 南宋 was
too early to admire their windfall of fortune in recovering their ancestors’
capital Kaifeng 開封 and Luoyang 洛陽 because in a year’s time they faced
the onslaught of the Mongols in hopeless defences. Firepower was
seriously put into use on the battlefield. Song used prototypes of rocket
tubes, flame- throwers and proper artillery, but they were in vain against
troops who disregarded hardship, bloodshed and even death.

In 1271, Kublai Khan 忽必烈, grandson of Genghis 成吉思汗, founded the
Yuan Dynasty 大元 and declared Yanjing 燕京 its capital. In 1273, The
Mongols captured Xiangyang 襄陽, and Fan City 樊城 and in the following
year, overran the northern provinces of Chang Jiang 長江, only the natural
barrier of which stopped them briefly. In 1276, they crossed the river and
breached the capital Lin’an 臨安 (now Hangzhou 杭州). Song Emperor
Gong Di 恭帝 was made captive. An exile government with Guang Wang 廣
王 escaped on sea and attempted to establish resistance in Fuzhou 福州,
Wenzhou 溫州, Leizhou 雷州 and Yashan 崖山 which were lost in
succession. Southern Song ended in 1279 with Guang Wang 廣王 and his
prime minister Lu Xiu-fu 陸秀夫 both committing suicide by drowning at
sea rather than to suffer capture.

Events in other parts of the world in comparative period (960- 1279)
960          The first ruler of Poland, Mieszko
962          Pope John XII crowned Otto as Emperor of Rome
981          Viking explorer Eric settled in Greenland
1002        Vikings sailed down coast of North America
1012        The Danes sacked Canterbury of England
1031        Henry I, King of France
1060        Philip I, King of France
1066        The Battle of Hastings
1099        First Crusaders captured Jerusalem
1171        Henry II annexed Ireland
1190        Temujin created Mongolian Empire
1204        Crusaders captured Constantinople
1209        Cambridge University founded in England
1215        King John signed Magna Carta
1218        Genghis Khan conquered Persia
1240        Mongols captured Moscow, burnt down Kiev
1271        Marco Polo visited China
1275        Marco Polo worked for Kublai Khan

Chapter Nine
Yuan Dynasty

Yuan Dynasty 元 朝  (1271 – 1368)

Temujin 鐵木真, (1155-1227) a tribal chief who unified different Mongol
tribes in 1206 and was proclaimed Genghis Khan 成吉思汗. From 1210,
the Mongols, under Genghis Khan, harassed the northern frontier of Jin 金
and in fives years’ time took their capital at Yanjing 燕京 in 1215 (now
Beijing 北京). In the course of its western expansion into Russia and
Europe the Mongols wiped out Western Xia 西夏 (1032-1227) on the
border of China.

From 1219-1260, Genghis Kahn 成吉思汗 and his sons and grandsons
launched three massive conquests into the west. The territory conquered
was unprecedented in history. It covered Middle Asia, a greater part of
Russia (including Moscow), Poland, Hungary, Romania, Austria, Persia,
Baghdad, and Damascus. European countries described these Mongol
conquests and their ruthless burning and killing as “yellow peril” 黄禍.

The Mongolian Empire in the 13th century was divided in administration
under four different Khanates (kingdom) 汗國. The Grand Khanate 大汗帝
國 covering China, including 窩闊台汗國 covering Mongolia 蒙古,
Manchuria 滿州, Korea 高麗 with its capital at Dadu 大都; The Chagatai
Khanate 察合台汗國 covering north of India and north-west of Tibet 西藏;
The Kipchak Khanate 欽察汗國 in Russia 俄羅斯 reaching the Black Sea
黑海 and the south coast of Caspian Sea 裏海; The Ilkhanate 伊兒汗國
covering Persia 波斯, bordering on the Arabian Peninsula 阿拉伯半島 and
reaching the Mediterranean Sea 地中海 in its extreme west. China became
only a part of the Grand Khanate 大汗帝國 as a conquered nation.

In the summer or 1259, the Khan of Mongol, 蒙古大汗 Meng Ge, 蒙哥 was
attacking Diaoyu City 釣魚城 in Sichuan 四川 in Southern Song 南宋. The
city was well fortified by the prefect Wang Jian 王堅 and Meng Ge
received a fatal wound from which he died. The Mongol army withdrew
north, giving Song 宋 a short breathing space. Kublai Khan 忽必烈, a
grandson of Genghis Khan 成吉思汗 was attacking E-zhou 鄂州 at the time
and he too returned to Mongolia to contest for the leadership. He seized it
by power without a popular election and civil war ensued for four years
between him and his brother.  When that was settled in 1264, he moved his
capital to Yanjing 燕京 in China and called it Zhongdu 中都 (now Beijing
北京) and seven years later, towards the end of 1271, he changed the name
of his empire to a Chinese style, Yuan 元 and that was well before the
collapse of the Southern Song Empire 南 宋 in 1279.

Next to Zhongdu 中都, the Mongols started building a new city called Dadu
大都 (The Great Capital). It was a rectangular city planning with streets
running on north-south, east-west axes, the basis of Beijing today. It had a
perimeter of over 28 Km and eleven city gates which can be identified even
today, such as Xizhimen 西直門, Dongzhimen 東直門, Zhaoyangmen 朝陽
門 and Anzhenmen 安貞門 etc. Small streets and lanes were called
“hutong” 胡同, a term which is still used today.

The general administration of the Yuan government was basically a replica
of the Tang 唐 structure: a central government Secretariat 中書省 with six
ministries 六部 for civil administration. A Privy Council 樞密院 was in
charge of the militia, a Supervisory Council 御史台 for supervision, an
Administration Propagation Council 宣政院 for religion etc.

The ruling of the Yuan Empire in China was distinctly by racial classes.
There were four classes: The first being the Mongols 蒙古人; the second,
Semu 色目人 (included all races to the west of China called 西域); the
third, Han race 漢人 (included all northern Chinese, Qidan 契丹, Nüzhen 女
真 and Koreans 高麗; and the fourth, Southern Chinese 南人 (all the
Chinese under the previous rule of Southern Song 南宋). All captives of
Han people 漢人 during war became slaves.

The entire Han population was under military and civil surveillance. Every
twenty families of Han was called a “Jia” 甲 to be under the rule of a “Jia
master” 甲主 who must be a Mongol. All weaponry of the Han people
were confiscated and cooking knives were communal between the families.
There were no hunting or practice of martial arts and general curfew after
dark. Since the Mongols in China had no more enemies on their frontiers,
their army was decentralized and stationed all over the country to guard
against their only largest enemy, the Han people 漢人. The army was
structured in three tiers, “ten thousand household” 萬戶, “thousand
household” 千戶 and “hundred household” 百戶 according to the
population of the area under guard. It first consisted of Mongols and Semu
色目 only and later expanded to include Han people who served the army
under Jin 金 or soldiers who surrendered under Southern Song. The
population was in fact under both civil and military rule.

The Mongols made two attempts to conquer Japan, the first being in 1274,
before the capitulation of Southern Song, which ended in failure. Kublai
Khan made a second attempt in 1281. Over a thousand ships were gathered
in China and sailed east towards the Japan Sea. It consisted of over a
thousand ships and was so far the largest armada in Asia. There off the
coast of Japan near an island, they met a strong gale with increment weather
and most of the fleet suffered severe damages and sank. Only a fraction of
the invaders managed to escape alive, leaving over a hundred thousand men
shipwrecked on a deserted island. Later they all either died of lack of
supplies or massacred by the Japanese. The typhoon that destroyed the
Mongol fleet in the sea and saved Japan from onslaught of the Mongols,
was called “kamikaze” (divine wind) 神風 by the Japanese, which was the
same name given to their suicidal squad of air pilots towards the end of
World War Two.

The Mongols also ventured into South East Asia in 1292. With a fleet
gathered from various parts of China it attacked Java 爪哇. After the
warfare was conducted for three months, the Mongols returned with some
booty of gold and spices, but because the casualties were too high, the
expedition was not to be repeated.

To control a huge empire spanning China to Middle Asia, the Mongols
needed a good communication and transportation system. A network of
highways 驛道 and post-stations 驛站 was built throughout China leading
to Dadu 大都 (Beijing 北京). It started from the times of Genghis Khan 成
吉思汗 and carried on by Kublai Khan 忽必列. The system reached
Heilongjiang 黑龍江 in the east, Mongolia in the north, Kipchak Khanate 欽
察汗國 (Russia) and Ilkhanate 伊兒汗國  (Persia) in the west and Yunan 雲
南 and Tibet 西藏 in the southwest. It was said that urgent messages sent
from any such remote places within China could reach the capital within a
matter of a few days on horseback, a feat which was unsurpassed in the
history of China until modern times. Water transportation was another
feature of the Yuan era. Between 1280-1291, three canals were built, two
connecting Jining 濟寧, Dongping 東平 and Linqing 臨清; the last one
connecting Tongzhou 通州 and Dadu 大都 (Beijing 北京). With the last
canal, Dadu 大都 was able to reach the sea via Tongzhou 通州 and Zhigu
直沽. Sea transport was also regular and reliable. There was service
between Liujia Port 劉家港 (Jiangsu 江蘇) and Zhigu 直沽 (Tianjin 天津)
in less than 10 days.

The Yuan administration was tolerant to religion. The Mongols were
generally Muslims 回教 but Christianity 基督教, Judaism 猶太教,
Buddhism 佛教, Taoism 道教 and Lamaism 喇嘛教 were allowed to
practise and the latter was adopted as the official religion of the country by
Kublai Khan 忽必列.

Not much could be said of the advancement of civilization in Yuan except a
few headings, one of which is Yuan opera singing 元曲. It included opera
performances 雜劇 and solo singing 散曲. Opera in Yuan combined singing
歌曲, soliloquy 賓白 and dancing 舞蹈 together, which started in Song 宋
but perfected in Yuan 元. Composers 散曲家 such as Guan Han-qing 關漢
卿and Liu Zhi-yuan 劉致遠 were household names. Another field in which
Yuan scholars achieved some distinction was painting and calligraphy.
Zhao Meng-fu 趙孟頫 was a leading figure. He excelled in landscapes 山
水, stills 花鳥 and portraits 人物 in his paintings. In calligraphy, his
cursive style 草書 and regular style 楷書 were both exemplary.

Kublai Khan 忽必列 did not produce any distinguished successors. For the
span of 98 years of the Yuan 元 Dynasty, which was the shortest in Chinese
history, there were twelve emperors in all and three of whom were
murdered in coups. Four of them ruled only for a year or less, (the youngest
one being 7 years old); and another four less than five years. Succession
was filled with court intrigues between princes, nobles, empresses and
eunuchs resulting in violence, coups, murders and armed struggles. Within
the ten years between 1323 and 1332, there were five emperors.

Yuan marked the first foreign race ruling over the whole of China and it
was entirely oppressive to the Han 漢 race without any disguise.
Economically, the people were subject to unjust taxes, and a range of daily
items were monopolized by the government and charged with unreasonable
prices, such as farming tools, salt, tea, wine, vinegar etc. Paper money
generally replaced all copper coins and they were in excessive supply,
causing huge inflation in prices and a distressed economy.

From 1351 China was visited by earthquakes, floods, droughts and
subsequent famines. Areas affected covered Hebei 河北, Henan 河南,
Shandong 山東, Jiangsu 江蘇 and Zhejiang 浙江. Serfs and peasants were
driven to destitute and rose in rebellion, called Red-scarf Army 紅巾軍
because of the red scarf they wore on their heads. This peasants’ uprising
was spread nationwide, lasted for 17 years and directly attributed to the
collapse of the Yuan Empire. It was commonly believed legend that coded
messages were hidden by the insurgents in “moon cakes” 月餅 which were
handed around between Han families during the Mid-autumn Festival 中秋
節 (the 15th day of the Eighth month 八月十五) calling a general uprising
by killing their Mongol taskmasters on the same night.

Zhang Shi-cheng 張士誠 was a salt merchant. He gathered his workers and
other followers and rose in rebellion in 1353. The next year, he captured
Taizhou 泰州 and called his regime Da Zhou 大周. Three years later he
surrendered to Yuan but was still in charge of his domain as the head
administrator, 太尉. He expanded his territory north to Jining 濟寧, and
east to the coast, controlling an army of half a million. He was only
defeated in 1367 by Zhu Yuan-zhang 朱元璋 at Pingjiang 平江.

Chen You-liang 陳友諒 was another rebel leader who took to arms in
1359. He gained his territory in Jiangzhou 江州 next to Lake Poyang 鄱陽
湖 and had an army and navy of over six hundred thousand men. He called
himself king of Han 漢. He died joining battle with Zhu Yuan-zhang 朱元璋
in 1363 while commanding from his flagship in Lake Poyang 鄱陽湖, killed
by a strayed arrow. His fleet was vanquished by fire and his regime
succeeded by his son who surrendered to Zhu the following year.

Red-scarf Army 紅巾軍 used to be a sect of Buddhism called White Lotus
白蓮教 as its front to gather followers. Because they burnt incense in their
worships, they were also known as Incense Army 香軍. Its leader Liu Shan-
tong 劉山童 was killed and leadership was taken over by Liu Fu-tong劉福
通. They captured Bianjing 汴京 and established as Song 宋, a name
symbolic of last dynasty before the Mongols.  Another rebel leader Guo Zi-
xing 郭子興 died in 1356 and Zhu Yuan-zhang 朱元璋 took over his
followers. He was active over Anhui 安徽, Jiang-zhe 江浙 area and the
Chang Jiang basin 長江流域. After Liu Fu-tong 劉福通 of the Red-scarf
Army died in battle in 1363, Zhu took over his army and in the same year
defeated Chen You-liang 陳友諒. In 1367, Zhu Yuan-zhang 朱元璋
defeated the only remaining contestant Zhang Shi-cheng 張士誠. In 1368, he
established the Ming Dynasty with its capital at Yangtian 應天 (Nanjing 南
京). In the same year, his army pushed north to attack Dadu 大都. Yuan
Emperor Shun Di 元順帝, the longest ruling emperor for 36 years, fled to
Mongolia and that was the end of the Yuan Empire in China in 1368.

Events in other parts of the World in comparative period (1271 – 1368)
1275        Marco Polo worked for Kublai Khan
1276        Popes Innocent V, Adrian V died in office
1277        Pope John XXI died in office
1294        Death of Kublai Khan
1297        Scot William Wallace defeated English army
1312        Order of Knights Templars outlawed
1313        Scotland independent under Robert Bruce
1327        Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV invaded Italy,
Pope John XXII deposed
1337        Beginning of Hundred Years’ War
1348        Black Death in Europe, England and Russia

Chapter Ten
Ming Dynasty

Ming Dynasty 明  朝  ( 1368- 1644 )

Zhu Yuan-zhang 朱元璋 was the second commoner who founded an empire
in China after Liu Bong 劉邦 of Han 漢 almost 14 centuries before him.
Zhu was born into a peasant’s family and as a child suffered all the
hardships that went with all peasants in China under a foreign rule. In the
early 1350’s nature’s disasters struck again. China suffered from floods,
draughts, widespread famines and on top of that earthquakes and plague.
Zhu lost almost his entire family, orphaned in the epidemic and he was
reduced to destitute when he was barely sixteen. He earned a living by
wandering to and working in places where there was a prospect of food
and lived from hand to mouth. He ended up by following the vocation of a
Buddhist monk in a monastery, 皇覺寺 (Huangjue Si) which became well
known because of him.

The prospect of being a passive monk in a war-torn country devastated by
natural disasters with widespread sufferings did not inspired him for long
and he soon deserted his calling and joined the ranks of the revolutionary
Red-scarf Army 紅巾軍 under Guo Zi-xing 郭子興 in 1352. He soon
distinguished himself as a leader and in battles. When Kuo died in 1355,
Zhu Yuan-zhang 朱元璋 took over the leadership. He became the head of
the largest rebel army which dominated the south and in the next year
captured Jiqing 集慶 (Nanjing) which he renamed Yingtian 應天. In the
next twelve years he went on to defeat the other contesting rebels, Chen
You-liang 陳友諒, Zhang Shi-cheng 張士誠, Fang Guo-zhen 方國珍 etc. In
1368, he established the Ming Dynasty and made Yingtian 應天 the capital.
The year of his reign was named Hong Wu 洪武 and he was known as Ming
Tai Zu 明太祖.

Being an Emperor risen from a commoner, Zhu Yuan-zhang 朱元璋 was
fully aware of the plight of the grass-root peasants. However, he gained his
status through decades of civil wars and jockeying for leadership through
power struggles and was not at any stage a peacetime civil administrator.
There was not established a trust for civil officialdom. This was manifest
after twelve years into the new empire that one of the prime ministers 左丞
相 Hu Wei-yong 胡惟庸 was found plotting a coup. He was duly punished
and his entire family erased. Politically, the incident resulted in the total
removal of the powers of the prime ministers and dismantling the imperial
Secretariat 中書省. Six Bureaus 六部 were set up to take up the
administration of the Empire, all under the direct supervision of the
Emperor. This paved the way to dictatorship and resulted in all sorts of
mal-government since the hierarchy was too wide to ask for any one man to
manage despite his competence. The “Officials Bureau 吏部” was in
charge of all appointments of both civil and military officers. The “Home
Bureau 戶部” was in charge of all land taxes and government revenue. The
“Protocol Bureau 禮部” was in charge of all matters concerning education,
official examination, worships and rituals. The “Military Bureau 兵部”
was in charge of the training and deployment of the militia. The “Criminal
Bureau 刑部” was in charge of all penal matters and imprisonment. The
“Works Bureau 工部” was in charge of all construction works and
waterways. Each Bureau was under a head administrator called “Shang Shu
尚書”, directly responsible to the emperor himself.

To learn from the failures of the last empire of the Han race 漢族, Song
Dynasty 宋朝, Ming, Zhu Yuan-zhang 朱元璋, decided to govern by
decentralization. He revived feudalism 封建制度 and appointed his sons
and clans to become kings 王. Each feudal king or lord could appoint their
own local officials and train their own local territorial guards. This was
intended to be able to guard against foreign disturbances and civil rebellion
with swift response.  But before these eventualities happened, it sowed the
seeds of a civil war to the succession of the throne within two years after
the death of Zhu Yuan-zhang. To supervise district governance, Zhu
installed a “Supervisory House 都察院” to keep a close watch over the
officials. Its head, an Imperial Commissioner 都察御史 could go on
assizes on behalf of the emperor to give direct instructions. On top of that,
Zhu Yuan-zhang established the notorious Imperial Guards 錦衣衛. Its
function was to keep secret surveillance of all officials and arrest and
torture all suspects of traitors. Their action including killing people under
torture was above the penal law of the Empire. This was also the first
dynasty that all officials seeking audience with the Emperor had to kneel all
the time. Anyone meeting the displeasure of the Emperor could be caned or
whipped in Court or suffer capital punishment summarily.

When the crown prince Zhu Biao 朱標 died prematurely (as were the 2nd
and 3rd sons), Zhu Yuan-zhang 朱元璋 had considered passing the throne
to his other sons, and the eldest surviving and the most eligible was Zhu Li
朱棣, the 4th son, the king of Yan 燕王. However, this was opposed by the
ministers in court and finally when Zhu Yuan-zhang 朱元璋 died after
ruling for 31 years, the throne passed onto the eldest grandson, Yun-wen 允
文 (known as Hui Di 惠帝) in 1399.

When Wei Di took over, he felt unsafe among the feudal kings because he
was one generation younger. He felt his uncles and elder clansmen
threatening his position though militarily each of them had only about
15,000 personal guards. Hui Di, 惠帝 advised by his councilors Huang Zi-
cheng 黄子澄Qi Tai 齊泰 and Fang Xiao-yu 方孝儒, embarked on a policy
of dismantling the feudal system 削藩 by purging his uncles. He succeeded
in denouncing five feudal lords and revoking their feudal domains. In 1398,
he deliberated a surprise attack on Kai Feng 開封 and arrested king of Zhou
周 王, striped him of his title and exiled him to Yunan 雲南. Next year,
under the pretence of a report on the illegal activities of king of Min 岷王
in Hunan 湖南, Wei Di striped him of all his royal titles. The same
happened to king of Xiang 湘王 of Jing-zhou 荊州. His whole family
committed suicide.  The purged carried on to reach Shandong 山東, king of
Qi 齊王, and king of Dai 代王 in Shanxi 山西, who suffered the same fate.
All these happened within the first year of Hui Di’s reign.

King of Yan 燕王, Zhu Li 朱棣, was further away from the capital but he
was the most powerful and next on the list. Hui Di 惠帝 sent parties of his
imperial guards 錦衣衛 in a covet operation to Yan Jing 燕京 to spy on
Zhu Ni 朱棣 and if the opportunity presented itself, to kidnap him and bring
him to the capital in custody. Zhu Li received intelligence of what was
happening and went into hiding away from his residential palace, always
guarded by his regiment of personal guards. In 1399, it was reported that
two military officials under Zhu Li were involved in a conspiracy of
treason and a royal warrant was issued for their arrest. When court officials
arrived at the residence of king of Yan 燕王 to carry out the Emperor’s
order, they were ambushed and killed.  The confrontation became open, and
king of Yan 燕王, Zhu Li 朱棣 had no other alternative but raised his army
in open revolt in 1399 under the slogan of (清君側, 靖國難) “clearing the
court and pacifying national disaster”, suggesting that the Emperor was
under the influence of evil ministers in court and the abolishment of the
feudal lords amounted to disaster. The resulting battle for the throne was
known as “靖難之役 ” by historians. The revolting army reached Shandong
山東, Ji Nan 濟南 and was in a stalemate with the government troops for
two years. In 1402, eunuchs and officials not in the emperor’s favour
informed Zhu Li that the capital at Yingtian 應天 (Nanjing 南京) was
poorly defended and Zhu Li 朱棣 lost no time in sending a detachment to
the capital. Zhu Li met with token resistance and the city gate was opened
for him by a turncoat ex-chief Marshall Li Jing-long 李景隆. The imperial
palace was on fire and Emperor Hui Di 惠帝 could not be found.
Conflicting stories were told of the whereabouts of Hui Di. One version
was that he escaped under disguise and became a monk. Zhu Yuan-zhang 朱
元璋, his grandfather, was a monk before he joined the Red-scarf Army 紅
巾軍 and after he became Emperor, he stowed away his robe and pot 衣砵
in a hidden place in the palace. The legend goes that he left secret
instructions to his heir that in case of extreme crisis, whoever on the throne
could retrieve the robe and pot and escape, posing as a monk. Another
version was that Hui Di 惠帝 died in the fire. But his body was never
recovered and this led to later rumours that Zhu Li 朱棣 spared no efforts to
trace Hui Di 惠帝 within his empire to ascertain if he were alive. Such
motive, it was said, also was one of the underlying reasons for
commissioning the expeditions of Zheng He 鄭和, which set world
seafaring records.

Zhu Li 朱棣 ascended to the throne and was known as Ming Cheng Zu 明成
祖. The Year of his Reign was called Yongle 永樂. Despite the name of the
year, the reign started with a series of massacres. They were Huang Zi-
cheng 黄子澄 and his entire clan. Qi Tai 齊泰 and his brothers entire
families, Fang Xiao-yu 方孝懦 and his entire clan with friends and students
(873 head count), and a lot of others who served the last emperor. The total
number of people executed amounted to over fourteen thousand. Their
women-folk whoever escaped the fate of execution, were distributed to be
wives of slaves or became slaves or prostitutes themselves, an ordeal
worse than death.

Hui Di ruled for 22 years before he died and was succeeded by Ren Zong
仁宗 (Gao Ci 高熾). The years Yongle 永樂 left its in history by at least
three events: the building of the existing imperial palace at Beijing 北京,
the completion of the encyclopedia entitled Yongle Dadian 永樂大典; and
the commission of the various expeditions of Zheng He 鄭和.

Yongle Dadian 永樂大典 was a landmark in the history of Chinese
literature. It contained 22195 chapters in 1195 volumes and took four years
to complete, involving thousands of researchers and copiers. It was China’s
first encyclopedia which was about 400 years ahead of France’s
counterpart “Encyclopédie” by Diderot. Apart from its hand-painted
drawings, the total  count was 1.37 billion words. It had two identical
copies but one could never be traced. During the Qing 清 era the other
remaining copy was shelved in the imperial library but whether it was
complete and any time was doubtful. During the Boxers’ Rebellion 義和團
and the siege of the foreign embassies there was intense fighting in the area
of the imperial library and more volumes of the Yongle Dadian 永樂大典
were lost together with other priceless books. After the Republic, the
government was in possession of less than 800 volumes. The owner of the
Shanghai Commercial Press 上海商務印書館 spent almost his entire
fortune in buying back volumes scattered in the private sector, donating
them to the government and he succeeded in bringing the collection to over
900. Many are believed to have found their way into overseas countries.

Zheng He 鄭 和 was well known for his seven expeditions to the South
China Seas, the Indian Ocean and the East African coast from 1405 to 1433.
A book recently published (2005) by Menzies entitled “1421” (the year of
the 5th expedition) detailed the routes of the five fleets set sail together, one
of which was under the command of Zheng He. The book described how the
fleets split into different routes and covered virtually the whole world we
know today including Australia, North and South America, the North Pole
etc. The only seas that they did not sail into was the North Atlantic and the
Mediterranean, otherwise the east and the west cultures would have met
more substantially 100 years earlier. As a veteran captain of the British
Navy, the account of Zheng He’s expedition given by the author is detailed,
accurate and professional. Even though the book is still controversial, the
significance of Zheng He’s exploration cannot be underestimated.

In 1421, the 19th year of Yong Le 永樂, Ming Cheng Zu 明成祖, Zhu Li 朱
棣 moved the capital to Beijing which had been extensively rebuilt. The
outer city wall was 45 li 里 long. It became the capital of China for both the
Ming and the Qing dynasties for 490 years. Materials for the building of
the  Imperial Palace came from all over the country, including timber from
Yunan 雲南 over 1000 miles away. It conscripted over a million workers
and a hundred thousand artisans. Its walls were over 18 Km. long. The
palace that we see today is substantially the same built almost 600 years

Wa Ci 瓦刺 and Tartar 韃靼 were two tribes of the Mongols. After the
demise of the Yuan Empire, Wa Ci 瓦刺 succeeded in ousting the Tartars to
the north of the Mongolian desert and it became more powerful. In 1449,
Ying Zong 英宗 was the Emperor and he put Wang Zhen 王振, a eunuch he
trusted, to the head of his government. Wa Ci 瓦刺 invaded south into the
territories of China, reaching Datong 大同. Wang Zhen 王振 advised the
Emperor to lead the army in a northern expedition to expel the Mongols.
The court and the defense minister Yu Qian 于謙 strongly advised against
it. The Emperor, however, took the army north. Because of poor
generalship and lack of logistics, the Emperor was encircled near Fort
Tumu 土木堡 and eventually captured. This was known as the “Incident of
Tumu” 土木之變.

The news of the defeat came to the capital Beijing and the Queen Mother
appointed another son as the Emperor, known as Jing Di 景帝. With Ying
Zong 英宗 in their hands, the Mongols attacked Beijing 北京 but were
soundly beaten back. Since China had a new Emperor, the Mongols knew
that China could not be blackmailed and released Ying Zong 英宗 as a
gesture of goodwill. On returning to the capital, Ying Zong 英宗 found
himself sidelined and confined to the southern palace without any audience.
In 1457, Jing Di 景帝 was seriously ill and eunuch Cao Ji-xiang 曹吉祥
and some court officials started a coup. Ying Zong 英宗 was restored and a
host of ministers who assisted the ousted emperor, Jing Di 景帝, were
purged. Three years later, Cao 曹 became too powerful and fell from the
Emperor’s pleasure. He was executed together with his followers and

The problems with eunuchs, however, were by no means over with the
Ming dynasty. It started with Ming Tai Zhu 明太祖 abolishing the position
of the prime minister.  All the power and administrative work of the
government went finally to the Emperor and without able assistants, he
could only trust and rely on eunuchs. Cheng Zhu, 成祖 when he rose against
Hui Di 惠帝 succeeded by enlisting the help of eunuchs. After he took the
throne, he set up the Eastern Workshop 東廠 as a secretive agency for
investigation, which could act above the law and even any other
governmental department. Xian Zong 憲宗 (1464-1487) set up the Western
Workshop 西廠 and Wu Zong 武宗 (1505-1521), the Inner Workshop 內
廠, all headed by eunuchs.

In 1505, When Wu Zong 武宗 ascended to the throne, Liu Jin 劉瑾 was the
most powerful eunuch, known together with seven others as “Eight tigers”
八虎. Five years later, because of suspected treason, he was executed.
Upon search, his residence produced 240,000 ingots of gold, 5 million
ingots of silver, countless jade items, mink cloaks, armoury and bows. The
Western and the Inner Workshops were then abolished.

At the time of Xi Zong 熹宗 (1620-1627), eunuch Wei Zhong-xian 魏忠賢
was notorious. He was in control of the Inner Workshop 內廠 and used it
for his own purpose to eliminate opposing factions. He purged and
executed leading officials and commanders belonging to the Donglin
Faction, 東林黨. Private tutorial schools producing scholars were ordered
to be stopped. He encouraged temples be built in his name, ranking him
equivalent to the status of Confucius. By the time Xi Zong 熹宗 died, the
country was rotten to the core and when the last Emperor Si Zong 思宗
succeeded to the throne, he only had 17 years to rule before the final
collapse of the empire.

East Indian Company (the motion was only passed with a very thin majority
of votes—showing that there was not a complete lack of moralists in the
British Parliament).

In 1840, an expedition of 16 British warships arrived and were
provisioned in Macau. Canton was blockaded. British envoy Captain Elliot
took the main force of the fleet up the China coast and took Dinghai 定海 in
Zhoushan Archipelago 舟山群島 (near Shanghai) as a supply link.  Then he
sailed north to Tientsin 天津 (Tianjin) and reached port Dagu 大沽. When
Peking 北京 (Beijing) was threatened, the Emperor was shocked and
agreed to negotiate. After protracted negotiations, war started again in 1842
with the British (less than 3000 men) defeating the Qing army in Ningbo 寧
波 and Shanghai 上海, sailing up the Yangtze 長江 (Chang Jiang) to put
Nanking 南京 (Nanjing) under naval firepower.

Nanking could not but surrendered and agreed to terms, later known as the
Treaty of Nanking of 1841 南京條約. By that, China was to compensate
Britain for the opium destroyed and the cost of the expedition in the amount
of 21 million teals 両 of silver. The sovereignty of Hongkong was ceded to
the British permanently. Five ports were opened for free trade (Canton 廣
州, Fuzhou 福州, Ningbo 寧波, Xiamen 廈門 and Shanghai 上海).
Consulates were to be established and in future diplomatic exchanges,
Britain should be an equal nation and not addressed as “Barbarian British”

China was to suffer the humiliating terms of Nanking. However, the real
inequalities were to follow, in the form of protocols and appendices. Any
disputes arising between British and Chinese citizens were to be tried by
British officials. British “settlement” area in Shanghai (and later other
cities) with its own police and soldiers, was out off China’s jurisdiction
entirely. This was the beginning of the world notorious “Extra-
territoriality” 治外法權. British warships had the right to stay within the
waters of the five ports “to protect her subjects”. Any other benefits to be
granted to other nations were to apply to Britain, known as the notion of
“equal benefits”. The real problem which started the war, opium, was not
mentioned anywhere and it continued to pour into China.

Second Opium War

Fifteen years later, in 1856, under the pretext of “rectifying” the Nanking
Treaty, the British requested for fresh negotiations, to which China refused.
The excuse was that China signed another treaty with the French in 1844,
which provided for rectification after 12 years; and under the term of
“equal benefits”, the British should be able to enjoy the same. Together
with the French, the British repeated the first war in order to force China to
agree to further terms. Their army reached Peking and pilfered the royal
garden palace at Yuanmingyuan 圓明園 for four days before burning it
down to cover their deeds of piracy and as a final insult to the Chinese
Emperor. This was known as the “Second Opium War” though in reality it
had nothing to do with opium at all, (which continued to flow into China)
but was a pure act of aggression. Again the Qing army was no match for the
joint forces and it ended with China signing the Treaty of Tientsin 天津條
約 in 1858 and the Treaty of Peking in 1860 北京條約. The more
significant terms in the Tientsin 天津 treaty were: to open up more ports for
Britain and France, to confirm the right of “extra-territoriality”; to allow the
official import of opium, to pay restitution to Britain and France in 4
million and 2 million teals of silver respectively, to allow the warships of
these countries to sail into all free ports and along the whole length of the
Yangtze River 長江 (Chang Jiang). The Treaty of Peking in 1860 added
more terms: to open the port of Tientsin 天津 for trade; to cede Kowloon
peninsular to Britain; to increase the payment to Britain and France to 8
million teals of silver each, to be deducted from customs revenue in China;
to allow Chinese workers to work overseas.

The Taiping Revolution太平天國

The Taiping Revolution 太平天國 started in 1851 and lasted for 16 years,
spreading to 16 provinces, almost half of China. The “God Worshipping
Society” 拜上帝會 was founded in 1844 by Hong Xiu-quan 洪秀全, a
Guangdong scholar who failed in the provincial exams repeatedly. When
taking the exam in Canton he came across a book on the Christian religion,
“Advice for Life” 勸世良言 which prompted him to found the Society. He
and his followers spread the religious sect covertly in Guangdong 廣東 and
Guangxi 廣西. 1850 was a year of famine in Gunagxi 廣西 and Hong Xiu-
quan 洪秀全 ordered an uprising, calling upon the peasantry to fight against
the Manchurians and to restore the Ming dynasty 反清復明. From Jintian 金
田村 Village, the rebel army went north and took Yungan 永安, Yiyang 益
陽, Yuezhou 岳州, Wuhan 武漢 and then along the Yangtze to Jiujiang 九
江 and finally captured Nanjing 南京 which became its new capital,
renamed Tianjing 天京 in 1852. A branch of the rebel army went north for
Beijing 北京 but only reached near Tianjin 天津 where it was stopped and
defeated by the Qing army. Qing at the same time changed their policy and
encouraged provincial officials to train their Han army, a notable example
being the Xiang army 湘軍 (四川) trained by Zheng Guo-fan 曾國藩. By
1860, the Taiping uprising was under attack by three Han leaders, Zheng
Guo-fan曾國藩, Li Hong-zhang 李鴻章 and Zuo Zong-tang 左宗棠. In
1864, the third year of Tong Zhi 同治, Hong Xiu-quan 洪秀全 died and
Tianjing 天京 fell in July. The Xiang army 湘軍 entered Tianjing 天京
(Nanjing), pilfered and put it to the torch. The city burnt for 7 days without
stopping and the entire ancient capital was reduced to ruins.

The Sino-Japanese War 甲午之戰

In 1894, Korea requested Chinese assistance in putting down a local
rebellion incited by Japan. The Qing government sent troops as requested
and notified Japan of this. Japan also rushed troops to Korea. With the
rebellion crushed, neither side withdrew. The Sino-Japanese War 甲午之
戰 (War of Jiawu) formally started in July 1894 both in Korea and in the
Yellow Sea. Japanese forces proved to be superior on both land and sea,
and, with the loss of its northern fleet, Qing sued for peace. The peace
treaty negotiated at Shimonoseki 馬關 was formally signed on April 17,
1895 馬關條約. China recognized the independence of Korea, which meant
ceding it as a protectorate to Japan; and China also ceded Formosa
(Taiwan) 台灣, the Pescadores Islands 彭湖列島, and the Liaodong
Peninsula 遼東半島 to Japan, granting Japan all rights enjoyed by
European powers, with economic concessions and a large indemnity in
gold. Russia’s interests in Liaodong was seriously affected; and, together
with Germany and France, it forced Japan to concede. China was allowed
to buy back Liaodong Peninsula 遼東半島 with a payment of 20 million
teals of gold. To finance this payment, Qing had to borrow a loan from a
consortium consisting of Britain, France, Russia and Germany. In return,
China had to pledge its revenue in custom duties 關稅 and railway
franchise to these foreign powers.

Spurred on by the enormous advantages secured by the Japanese over
China, the other powers all scrambled for concessions. Russia, by a Sino-
Russia secret pact, had a right to build railways in northeastern China, from
Heilongjiang 黑龍江 region via Jilin 吉林 to Haishenwei 海參威 (now
Vladivostok in Russia). It could freely transport its army and navy within
China. Germany, under false pretence, seized Jiaozhou 膠州 with its navy
and by force, obtained a lease of the port for 99 years. Under the pretence
of helping Qing, Russia seized Lüshun 旅順 and Dalian 大連 and forced a
lease of 25 years. Following these examples, Franc e leased Guangzhou
Bay 廣州灣 for 99 years. In 1898, Britain, in order to balance the power
with Russia, leased Weihaiwei 威海衛 in Shandong 山東 for 25 years; and
to balance the power of France, leased the area beyond Kowloon 九龍 (the
New Territories) for 99 years.
Hundred-days’ Reform 百日维新

After the Sino-Japanese War and the foreign powers intrusion into China,
the Chinese were keen to stem this worsening situation and tried to assist
the government to address the issue. A scholar Kang You-wei 康有為 and
his student Liang Qi-chao 梁啟超 petitioned to Emperor Guang Xu 光緒 in
1888 and 1895 to reform the country. Guang Xu 光緒, impressed by these
new ideas and suggestions, ordered a series of reformation in the policies
of the dynasty in 1898. This was known as the Wuqu Reformation 戊戌變
法. However, these reformations unsettled the vested interests of the
Manchu lords and princes in the ruling class and much opposition gathered
around the Court. Finally the Queen Mother Ci Xi 慈禧太后 put a stop to
the reformation and Kang 康有為 and his followers fled. Emperor Guang
Xu 光緒 was in house custody. Since the reformation lasted only 103 days,
historically it was known as the “100-days Reform” 百日維新.

The Boxers’ Uprising義和團之亂

The Boxers “Yihe Quan” 義和拳 was originally a sect of the White Lotus
Buddhism 白蓮教. It became very popular from the time of Tong Zhi 同治
since China was under foreign oppression and the Chinese had a general
xenophobic sentiment against anything foreign. The commanders of
Shandong were inclined in their favour and made them into a legal quasi-
militia organization, changing its name to “Yihe Tuan (Society)” 義和團.
To the western world, they were known as the Boxers. They began by
burning down churches and killing Christians in Shandong 山東. They
migrated to Henan 河南 and defeated the government troops sent against
them. This immensely boosted their moral and the rebels approached
Tianjin 天津 and Beijing 北京. In Beijing, the rebels carried on burning
churches, dismantling railways and killing priests and Christians. They
were being assisted even by Qing governors because the rebels were being
regarded as heroes since they were able to take on the foreigners. In 1900
they mobbed the Germany ambassador Von Kottler in the streets in Beijing
and killed him. When the government stood by, the rebels attacked the
embassies of the foreign powers, which barricaded the locality and
defended themselves until relief came from Tian Jin. Duke Duan 端親王
forged a notice by the foreign powers, asking Ci Xi 慈禧 to release the
Emperor and relinquish her power.  Ci Xi 慈禧太后 was infuriated and
after calling her Council, she declared war on all the foreign powers which
had embassies in Beijing. An allied army of eight nations (Germany, Japan,
Russia, Britain, France, Italy, Austria and America) reached and entered
Beijing. Ci Xi 慈禧 fled west to Xi’an 西 安. There was much looting and
burning in the capital led by Germans and Russians. The latter two
countries were intending to segregate China into parts as their colony but
this was opposed by Japan, Britain and America. Since the individual
objectives of the powers could not be unified, the invasion resulted in a
settlement known as the Treaty of Shen Chou 申丑條約. By that treaty,
China had to pay a restitution of 450 million teals of silver to the powers by
installments in 39 years. Including interest, that would amount to 982
million. From Beijing to the coast, all batteries would be dismantled;
ammunition import would be embargoed for two years; the embassy area in
Beijing would be fortified and Chinese would be banned to live within;
anti-foreign movements would be illegal, punishable by death; no imperial
exams would take place in five years.

The 1911 Revolution 辛亥革命

The declaration of war on the foreign powers and the fall of Beijing
showed the ignorance and incompetence of the Qing government. The Han
Chinese had no illusions and were convinced that China could only be
saved by a revolution. In 1905, Ci Xi 慈禧, as the head of the Qing
government agreed to change China into a constitutional monarchy,
following the example of western countries and Japan. In 1908 Ci Xi 慈禧
and Emperor Guang Xu 光緒 died, leaving the throne to a three-year old
Puyi 溥儀. In 1911, a Cabinet was formed dominated by Manchurian
royals. It was not believed that such a government would work and before
the year was out, the final episode of a boiling revolution erupted in
Wuchang 武昌. A whole division of the New Army 新軍 consisting of Han
漢 recruits in Wuchang 武昌 rose up in rebellion on 10th October. They
were mainly revolutionists. It was known at the time that a list of the
revolutionists 革命黨 was discovered by the Qing authorities and a mass
arrest was imminent. Therefore, those whose names were on the list would
not wait but charged into the ammunition depot and distributed weapons
and ammunition to the whole army. The governor of Wuchang 武昌 fled
without strong resistance. For the following months, armed rebellions
mushroomed in all the southern and other provinces. The Qing soldiers
were out-numbered and no match against the Han revolutionists filled with
hatred against their rulers and patriotism for a republic China free of
foreign rule.

Leader of the rebelling forces Sun Yat-san 孫中山 declared China a
Republic in Nanjing on the New Year day of 1912. Qing relied on its
northern military commander Yuan Shi-kai 袁世凱 to fight the
revolutionists and when Yuan sided with the rebels, the Manchu royals had
no alternatives but to ask their regent Queen and the last Emperor Puyi 溥儀
to abdicate on 12 February, 1912. Thus ended the foreign rule of
Manchurians over China for 268 years.

Events in other parts of the World in comparative period (1644-1911)
1640        Charles I of England executed
1654        Portugal took Brazil from the Dutch
1661        Louis XIV, monarch in France
1664        England seized from the Dutch and renamed New York
1665        Plague in London
1666        Great Fire of London
1689        Peter I, Tsar of Russia (to 1725)
1701        War of Spanish Succession
1713        Britain in slave trade
1755        Lisbon earthquake killed 30000
1757        Rule of British in India
1762        Catherine II, Tsarina of Russia (to 1796)
1773        Boston Tea Party
1776        Declaration of American Independence
1783        Treaty of Paris, end of American War
1789        French Revolution
George Washington, 1st President USA
1804        Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France
1812        Napoleon’s Russian campaign
1813        Napoleon exiled to Elba
1845        Irish famine
1848        Year of revolutions in Europe
Louis Philippe, King of France fled to England
Gold rush in California
1852        Napoleon III, King of France
1854        Crimean War
1861        American Civil War
1865        Lincoln assassinated
1868        Meiji period in Japan (to 1912)
1869        Suez Canal opened
1870        Franco-Prussian War
France’s Third Repubic
1880        European countries colonized Africa
1897        Italian Marconi invented radio
1902        Anglo-Japanese Alliance
1903        Russo-Japanese War
1907        Triple Entente

Chapter Twelve
Republic of China

Republic of China 中 華 民 國  (1912 – 1949)

In the evening of 1st January, 1912, the first President designate 臨時大總
統 of the Republic of China, Sun Zhong-shan 孫中山 (known as Dr. Sun
Yat-Sin by the West) arrived at Nanjing 南京 from Shanghai. He delivered
his Presidential Declaration 臨時大總統宣言書 and a “Communiqué to all
Compatriots” 告全國同胞書; and a new China in the making was named
“The Republic of China” 中華民國. The western calendar was adopted in
lieu of the ancient Chinese lunar calendar. (It was the year 4609 since
Huang Di黄帝, the 13th day of the 11th month of the Year Xinhai 辛亥)

Sun 孫中山 was born in 1866 in Xiangshan 香山, Guangdong 廣東 in the
reign of Tongzhi 同治. He was sent by his elder brother to Hawaii to study
at the age of fourteen and transferred to Hong Kong to continue after four
years. His first school in Hongkong in 1883 was Dicocean School 拔萃書
室; and the next year he changed to Central College (中央書院) in which
he studied until 1886. He began his study of medicine at the age of 21 in
Guangzhou 廣州 Boji Hospital 博濟醫院 and then transferred to The
College of Medicine in Hong Kong 香港西醫書院 at Alice Ho &
Nathersole Hospital 雅麗氏拿打素醫院, which was the predecessor of the
Medical School of the Hong Kong University 香港大學醫學院 formed in
1912. He graduated at the age of 27 and practised in Macau 澳 門 and
Guangzhou 廣州; and was deeply involved with the idea of saving China
from an incompetent, corrupt and suppressive government by toppling it
with a revolution.

In 1894 (aged 33), he petitioned to the chief minister Li Hong-zhang 李鴻
章 regarding new ideas to run the country but to no avail. In the same year
he went back to Honolulu 檀香山 to form the Xingzhong Society 興中會, a
first revolutionary organization. The next year he formed the Headquarters
of Xingzhong Society 興中會總會 in Hong Kong with the objectives of:
“Drive out the Manchurians; restore China; form a united government” 驅逐
韃虜, 恢復中華, 創立合眾政府. Much planning of the revolution was
done in Hong Kong with funds coming mainly from overseas. Members
purchased ammunition from America and Europe and smuggled them into
China via Hong Kong. An armed uprising was organized in Guangzhou 廣
州 but it failed. Sun’s close friend and colleague, Lu Hao-dong 陸皓東who
took charge of the matter in Guangzhou 廣州 died as a result of the failed

Sun 孫中山 was sought for in Hong Kong by the authorities and he went on
an European tour to study and experience their political and social systems.
Whilst in London he was kidnapped by Qing government agents and kept
inside the Qing embassy 清大使館. The plan was to smuggle him back to
China to face a trail. Through the help of servants who worked at the
embassy, Sun 孫中山 was able to pass a message onto his ex-tutor in
medicine in Hong Kong, Professor Cantlie 康德黎教授, telling him the
plight he was in. Cantlie contacted his friends in the Parliament and the
press and Sun’s 孫中山 arrest became headlines in the London
newspapers. A crowd gathered around the Qing embassy and the plot to
secretly smuggle Sun 孫中山 out of the country obviously would not work.
Under pressure, the Qing embassy released Sun after holding him for over a
fortnight. Details of the story were contained in Sun’s memoir “My plight in
London” 倫敦蒙難記.

Sun 孫中山 continued his Europe tour and finished spelling out his ideas on
“Min Zu” 民族 (national race), “Min Quan” 民權 (nationals’ rights) and
“Min Sheng” 民生 (nationals’ livelihood), later known as his “San Min
Principles” (三民主義). A second uprising in 1900 took place in Huizhou
惠州 but it failed again and the leader in command, Zheng Shi-liang 鄭士
良, died.“The United Revolutionary Society of China” 中國革命同盟會

In 1905, the Revolutionists gathered together in Tokyo in a covert
convention. There were at least three major societies: Xingzhong Society 興
中會 formed by Sun 孫中山, Huaxing Society華興會 led by Huangxing 黄
興 (later, leader of the revolution in the military arm), and Guangfu Society
光復會 led by Cai Yuan-pe 蔡元培 (later the first Chancellor of the
Beijing University). They merged together to form a united front in one
society called “The United Revolutionary Society of China” 中國革命同盟
會, in short the “United Society” 同盟會. Their aims were: “Drive out the
Manchurians, restore China; establish a Republic; equal shares in land
ownership” 驅逐韃虜, 恢復中華, 建立民國, 平均地權. The “United
Society” 同盟會 had branches in all the provinces to promote revolution
with over ten thousand members. A “Peoples’ News” 民報 was printed to
promote the idea of revolution. Overseas Chinese 華僑 were the main
benefactors of the movement. From 1907 to 1911, the United Society 同盟
會 organised eight more armed uprisings. Though they all ended up in
failures with heavy losses in the cadres and members, nevertheless, the
movement became widespread and was imprinted in the peoples’ hearts.
The last failed attempt in Guangzhou 廣州 in 1911 was the most famous and
well remembered as the “Battle of Yellow Flower Mount”, 黄花岡之役 in
which 72 revolutionists died and revered as martyrs 烈士 when they openly
attacked the Office of the Governor. The leader of the commandos Huang
Xing 黄興 received several gun wounds but managed to smuggled out of
Guangzhou 廣州 and escaped to Hong Kong. It captured the hearts of all
Han people 漢人 in China as well as overseas and sounded the death knell
of the Manchurians in less than half a year, leading to the final victory in the
Wuchang uprising 武昌起義.

The Wuchang Uprising 1911 武 昌 起 義

In April of 1911, in order to raise a foreign loan, the Qing government
declared that major railways were to be nationalized. That included those
from Sichuan to Wuhan 川漢 and Guangdong to Wuhan 粵漢, which were
organized by private capital. The capital acquisition was considered unjust
and caused a lot of general resentment in Sichuan 四川, Hubei 湖北 and
Guangdong 廣東. The sentiment of the people in Sichuan and investors in
the railways were boisterous and heavily anti-government. The governor
was ordered to stem out the demonstration and demonstrators were shot by
the police. This triggered civil riots in Sichuan 四川, and the Hubei New
Army 湖北新軍 was deployed to Sichuan to contain the situation.

At the same time revolutionists in Wuhan 武漢 were preparing homemade
bombs and one accidentally went off. The police was alerted by the blast
and arrests were made with leaflets calling an uprising, flags and name lists
being seized. The engineering battalion of the New Army in Hubei 湖北新
軍 assessed that the element of surprise was gone and therefore decided to
make the uprising spontaneous on the night of the 10th of October 1911.
Revolutionists in other battalions responded and the city of Wuchang 武昌
was taken swiftly with token resistance. Other cities in Hubei 湖北
followed the same pattern and were all fallen into the hands of the
Revolution Army.

Because of the lack of popularity of the Qing government, most governors
of the various provinces sided with the Revolutionists and declared
independence within two months, except three northern provinces of Henan
河南, Hebei 河北 and the homeland of the Manchurians 東三省. Towards
the end of December 1911, representatives of all the independent provinces
met at Nanjing 南京 and unanimously nominated Sun Zhong-shan 孫中山 as
the President designate, who took office on the 1st of January 1912 as a
holding President. The Qing government relied on its Cabinet Prime
Minister 內閣總理 Yuan Shi-kai 袁世凱 to fight the Revolutionists in the
south. The latter however, did not wish to see a China torn up in civil war
and offered Yuan Shi-kai a first presidency if he gave up the fight on
condition that the Qing Emperor would abdicate; Yuan would agree to the
establishment of a Republic and be bound by the new constitution. Yuan
concluded the deal and a truce was signed with the Revolutionists in
Shanghai. The Qing Manchurians had no more cards to play and the last
Emperor Puyi 溥儀 abdicated on 12 February 1912, at the age of six,
though he was still allowed to remain at the Imperial Palace with a skeleton
staff and a generous annuity.

Yuan Shi-kai 袁 世 凱

Sun Zhong-shan 孫中山 resigned the presidency in favour of Yuan Shi-kai
袁世凱 who took office in Beiping 北平 in lieu of Nanjing 南京 as
previously agreed. The United Society 同盟會 saw that Yuan could not be
trusted and they reorganized a new party called the Nationalist Party 國民
黨 (Guomindang) which became the majority party in the Parliament. The
Chairman of the Nationalist Party Song Jiao-ren 宋教仁 and leader in the
Parliament was assassinated in 1913 and Yuan 袁世凱 was undeniably the
person behind this political assassination. Yuan as President, and without
the approval of the Parliament 國會, raised a loan of 25 million Pound
Sterling from a five-nation consortium, causing an uproar in the Parliament
and Chinese nationals were all against it. Governors in opposition of the
government were dismissed. Provinces in Jiangxi 江西, Henan 河南, Anhui
安徽, Fujian 福建, Hunan 湖南, and Guangdong 廣東 declared
independence and called the movement a “Second Revolution” 二次革命.
However, they were defeated by the united army of Yuan Shi-kai 袁世凱.

After his victory, Yuan declared Guomindang (Kuomintang) 國民黨 an
illegal party and dissolved Parliament. He changed the term of the
presidency from five years to ten years and also changed the constitution. In
order to seek the support of Japan for his absolute power, he agreed to a
secret pact with Japan who demanded shrewd privileges over China known
as the “Twenty-one Clauses” 廿一條約. Yuan then handpicked
representatives into a new National Assembly 國民代表大會, which voted
him as Emperor. He took the throne on the New Year day of 1916 and the
year of the reign was called “Hongxian” 洪憲.

Various provinces organized armed uprisings against this reversion to
imperialism, notably Yunan 雲南 and Guangdong 廣東. This was known as
the “Third Revolution” 三次革命. Five foreign powers, Britain, Russia,
Italy, Japan and France advised Yuan 袁世凱 to rescind his kingship and
Yuan was utterly disheartened. He resigned as Emperor in March the same
year but retained his title as President. Yuan died a few months later in June
and China restored to a republic once again.

The Civil War of the warlords 軍閥內戰

After the death of Yuan Shi-kai 袁世凱, China resumed a republic only by
name. It gradually slid into different spheres of influence and control by
factional warlords; and between 1916-1918, there were sporadic civil
wars amongst them.  The major factions were as follows:

The Wan 皖系 faction was headed by Duan Qi-rui 段祺瑞, controlling
Beijing, Anhui 安徽, Zhejiang 浙江省 and Shaanxi 陝西省;

The Zhi 直系 faction was headed by Feng Guo-zhang 馮國璋, and then Wu
Pe-fu 吴佩夫, and Sun Quan-feng 孫傳芳, controlling Zhili 直隸, Henan 河
南省, Hubei 湖北省, Hunan 湖南省 and Chang Jiang 長江 basin;

Feng 奉系 faction was headed by Zhang Juo-lin 張作霖 controlling the
Eastern Three Provinces 東三省;

Shaanxi 陝西省 faction, headed by Feng Yu-xiang 馮玉祥 controlling
Shaanxi 陝西 and Shuiyuan 綏遠;

Shanxi 山西 faction, headed by Yan Xi-shan 閻錫山 controlling Shanxi 山

Dian faction 滇系, headed by Tang Ji-yao 唐繼堯 controlling Yunan 雲南

Gui faction 桂系, headed by Lu Rong-ting 陸榮庭 controlling part of
Guangdong 廣東省 and Guangxi 廣西;

Guangdong 廣東 faction headed by Chen Jiong-ming 陳炯明, controlling
part of Guangdong 廣東 and part of Fujian 福建.

In 1915, Yuan Shi-kai 袁世凱 privately accepted the “21 Clauses” 廿一條
約 contained in a secret pact with Japan, recognizing the rights of Japan to
succeed Germany’s interests in Shandong 山東. After Yuan’s death, in
1918, Duan Qi-rui 段祺瑞, a warlord of the Wan faction 皖系 controlling
northern China, had a secret pact with Japan, allowing Japan to have
military presence in Shandong 山東, the Eastern Three Provinces 東三省
and Outer Mongolia 外蒙古. In 1919, the First World War ended in
Europe; and China, on the side of the victorious Allies, was represented at
the peace conference in Paris. Though China opposed to the special
privileges of Japan over China, particularly in Shandong 山東, the world
powers appeased with Japan and no notice was taken to stop Japan’s
continual encroachment into China. When this news reached China, the
public was enraged, especially the students in Beiping 北平 (now Beijing).
They started a series of demonstrations and boycotting activities, later
known as the “May 4th Movement” 五四運動. In view that the sovereignty
of China was being prejudiced by the Allies, the Chinese delegation in
Paris refused to endorse as a signatory of the Treaty of Versailles 凡爾賽和

May 4th Movement 五 四 運 動

Because of the humiliation suffered by the northern warlords under Japan’s
aggression and the cold shoulder shown to China by the world powers at
the Paris Convention, the students in Beiping 北平 started a general
demonstration which developed into a national patriotic movement. There
were general strikes in schools in Beiping. This was supported by workers,
merchants and students all over China, particularly in cities such as
Shanghai 上海, Jinan 濟南, Taiyuan 太原, Changsha 長沙, Jilin 吉林,
Nanjing 南京, Guangzhou 廣州 and Wuhan 武漢 with strikes in factories
and schools and a general boycott of Japanese goods.  Cai Yuan-pe 蔡元
培, Chancellor of Yanjing University 燕京大學, was in favour of freedom
in learning and research and he refused to be subjected to governmental
pressure to sanction demonstrating students. Beijing University became the
center of this movement. The general consensus was that China could only
be saved by “democracy” 民主 and “science” 科學. To pacify the people,
the Beiping government removed the chief secretary Cao Yu-lin 曹汝霖 as
a culprit for he was the person who signed the “21-Clauses” on behalf of
the Chinese government. Not only in the field of academics, the May 4th
Movement 五四運動 marked the beginning of the voices of the people and
students in matters of national politics.

Nationalist Party of China 中 國 國 民 黨

In 1919, Sun Zhong-shan 孫中山 formed a new party called Nationalist
Party of China 中國國民黨, as distinguished from the former “Nationalist
Party” 國民黨. In 1921, Sun 孫中山 recovered Guangzhou 廣州 from other
warlords and formed a government, calling himself Extraordinary President
非常大總統. In 1924 he established the “Academy of Army Officers” 陸軍
軍官學校 in Huangpu 黄埔 near Guangzhou 廣州市. It was popularly
known as “Huangpu Military Academy” 黄埔軍校. Jiang Zhong-zheng 蔣中
正 (蔣介石) became the first headmaster. Sun 孫中山 accepted communist
members in the academy and adopted a pro-Russia policy 聯俄容共.
However, when Sun Zhong-shan 孫中山 was on his way to negotiate with
the northern warlords to resolve their differences as to how China should
be united, he fell ill in Shanghai and after he reached Beiping 北平 in
March 1925 he died shortly after.

With his new trained army, the “National Revolutionary Army” 國民革命
軍,Jiang Zhong-zheng 蔣中正 ousted the warlords in Guangdong 廣東 and
Guangxi 廣西 and prepared for his northern conquest 北伐 to unify China.
Jiang 蔣中正 defeated Wu Pe-fu 吳佩夫 and seized the three cities in
Wuhan 武漢. In the east, Jiang 蔣中正 conquered Fujian 福建 and Jiangxi
江西. In 1927, this National Revolutionary Army reached Hangzhou 杭州,
Shanghai 上海 and Nanjing 南京. By this time the subversion of the
communists within the Party was evident and Jiang 蔣中正 began expelling
communists within his party. While the headquarters of the Nationalist
Government was in Wuhan, 武漢 headed by Wang Jing-wei 汪精衛who
tolerated the Communists for one more year until 1928, Jiang 蔣中正
established another government in Nanjing 南京. At this time there were
two Nationalist government co-existing. Later, when the Wuhan government
followed the policy of Jiang to outlaw the communists, the two governments
united again in 1928 and the northern conquest continued.

Civil War continued

Zhang Zuo-lin 張作霖 who was in Beiping 北平 at the time withdrew his
troops in order not to confront with the army of Jiang Zhong-zheng 蔣中正.
This was contrary to the interest of Japan since Japan wanted China to be
divided and under civil war in order to better control it. Zhang 張作霖 was
murdered by the Japanese Army with a mine which blew up his train in
1929. His son Zhang Xue-liang 張學良 took over his father’s army and
notified Jiang Zhong-zheng 蔣中正 that he would recognize the Nationalist’
s government. He changed his local flag to fall in line with the national flag
東北易幟 in December 1929 and China for the first time in the Republic
became temporarily united. The next year, however, saw the internal strife
in the Nationalist Party 國民黨 breaking out into open armed conflict. Li
Zong-ren 李宗仁 rebelled in Wuhan 武漢 and Guangxi 廣西 but he lost and
fled to Hongkong. Feng Yu-xiang 馮 玉 祥 and Yan Xi-shan 閻 錫 山
fought Jiang 蔣中正 in Henan 河南, Shandong 山東 and Anhui 安徽,
resulting in great miseries and casualties to the poeple. Zhang Xue-liang 張
學良 coming to the aid of Jiang Zhong-zheng 蔣中正, moved south and took
Beiping 北平 and Tianjin 天津. That ended the civil war in the central
China plain 中原大戰.

Chinese Communist Party 中國共產黨

In 1920, Professors of Beijing University, Chen Du-xiu 陳獨秀, Li Da-
zhao, 李大釗 and Shao Li-zi 邵力子, influenced by Marxism and the
success of the Russian Revolution in 1917, established a Marxism
Research Society 馬克斯主義研究會 in Shanghai with branches in Hunan
湖南 and Guangzhou 廣州. Members were mostly young students. In July
1921, a covert meeting was held in Shanghai and the Chinese Communist
Party 中國共產黨 was formed with Chen Du-xiu 陳獨秀 as the Party’s
first Secretary General. In the same year, in Paris, Zhou En-lai 周恩來, Li
Li-san 李立三 and others formed a Chinese Communist Youth Party, which
later merged with the Party in China.

In 1924 Sun Zhong-shan 孫中山 made it a policy for the Nationalist Party
to admit Communist members in its first Party convention, provided they
would observe the “San Min Principles” 三民主義and were abided by the
constitution of the Nationalist Party. Among its 24 committee members
were 9 known Communists such as Li Da-zhao 李大釗, Tan Ping-shan 譚平
山, Chang Guo-tao 張國燾, Mao Zi-dong 毛澤東, Qu Qiu-bai 瞿秋白 etc.
A representative of Soviet Russia, Borodin, was nominated as the Party’s
advisor and Zhou En-lai周恩來held the post of chief political instructor at
“Huangpu Military Academy” 黄埔軍校. This was the first instance of co-
operation between the Nationalist Party and the Communists.

After the death of Nationalist leader Sun Zhong-shan 孫中山 in 1925, this
cross-party co-operation faltered. When the northern conquest led by Jiang
Zhong-zheng 蔣中正 was underway, Communists infiltrated the Nationalist
army rank and files, securing considerable sympathisers. In 1926, the acting
minister of the navy Li Ji-long 李芝龍 (a communist) attempted to kidnap
Jiang Zhong-zheng 蔣中正 on board a warship to Soviet Russia but failed.
This sparked off a serious disaccord as to the policy of allowing
communists to remain in the Party. At a Party Convention held in Shanghai
in 1927, the Nationalists were convinced that the communist members were
under the instructions of the Third Internatonal (Soviet Communist Party) in
their activities in subverting the Nationalist Party and resolved to remove
all communists from their official posts and their membership of the
Nationalist Party. The Communist Party 共產黨therefore broke away from
the Guomindang (Nationalists) 國民黨 when it was under this purge in
1927 and moved to Jiangxi 江西, Jingangshan 井崗山 to fight a guerilla
warfare, after failing in its armed uprising attempts in Nanchang 南昌,
Gunagzhou 廣州, Hunan 湖南 and Hubei 湖北. From 1928, under the
direction of the Russian Communist International 共產國際, communist
areas were formed inside China called “Soviet sectors” 蘇維埃區 (in
short, “Soviets” 蘇區). In November 1931, in Jiangxi 江西, Ruijin 瑞金,
The Communist Party called a first Meeting of Soviet Representatives and
declared the forming of a “Chinese Soviet Republic” 中國蘇維埃共和國
with Mao Zi-dong 毛澤東 as Party chairman and Zhu-de 朱德 as the
Commander of the Red Army. From 1930 to 1935, The Nationalist
government made five attempts to stem out the Communist Red Army but
failed to eliminate it. In 1934 the Communist base of Ruijin 瑞金 was lost
to the Nationalists and the Red Army broke away in a long march 長征
through Hunan 湖南, Guizhou 貴州, Yunan 雲南, Sichuan 四川, and
Qinghai 青海 provinces to escape annihilation and finally reached Gansu 甘
肅 in October 1936.

Incident of Xi’an 西 安 事 變

By 1936, the Japanese army had invaded into China for five years but Jiang
Zhong-zheng 蔣中正 was busily engaged with the Communists. His strategy
was to “first pacify the internal (Communists), then repel the foreign
(Japanese)” 先安內, 後攘外. This was greatly opposed by the people in
China and some leaders in the army. Zhang Xue-liang 張學良 who lost his
homeland in the Eastern Three Provinces 東三省 (Manchuria) was eager to
fight the Japanese invaders rather than pursuing the Commounists 共產黨 in
a civil war. While Jiang Zhong-zheng 蔣中正 was inspecting the warfront
against the Communists in Xi’an 西安, Zhang 張學良 tried in vain to
impress on him to change his mind. Together with another general, Yang Hu-
cheng 楊虎城, Zhang Xue-liang 張學良 carried out a coup in December
1936 and had Jiang Zhong-zheng 蔣中正, the Supreme Commander 總司令
of the Nationalist Army arrested. This was known as the “Incident of Xi’
an” 西安事變. After a lengthy negotiation with Zhang 張 學 良 and Zhou
En-lai 周恩來 of the Communist Party, Jiang Zhong-zheng 蔣中正
eventually agreed to stop the civil war and join forces with the Communists
to fight the Japanese in a consorted effort.

Japan’s invasion of China 日 本 侵 華

In 1931, the Japanese army attacked Shenyang 瀋陽 without any declaration
of war and Zhang Xue-liang 張學良 offered little resistance because he
was instructed by Jiang Zhong-zheng 蔣中正 not to resist, who thought
Japan was only trying to create excuses for a full scale attack. This invasion
on 18th September was known as the “Incident of 918” (九一八事變).
Within a short time of less than two months, the three provinces of Liaoning
遼寧, Jilin 吉林 and Heilongjiang 黑龍江 were lost to the Japanese army.

Again without provocation, in 1932, Japan attacked Shanghai 上海 at night
on 28th January (known as “Incident of 128” 一二八事變). A division of
the 19th Army 十九路軍of the city garrison tried its best to defend the
invasion and the battle lasted for about six weeks. A regiment of 800
Chinese soldiers stood firm for weeks, holding onto a strong depot of the
Four Banks 四行倉庫, fighting off countless Japanese attacks both from
land and air. Shanghai citizens risked and gave their lives in supplying the
besiged soldiers guarding this strong point. One night, a teenage girl scout
by the name of Yang楊 swam across the Suzhou River 蘇州河under
Japanese fire and brought to the defending Chinese soldiers a national flag
which they did not bring along during the retreat. The next morning saw the
Chinese national flag hoisted at the rooftop of the depot. No Chinese in
Shanghai who saw that flag flying against all odds and against the
onslaughts of the Japanese army, could hold back their tears in their eyes. It
was a moment of national disaster as well as national pride.
A truce was later arranged by Britain, America and France as mediators
and the Japanese army withdrew. The Japanese thought Shanghai was
another walkover like northern China but they were surprised. At the same
time, a Manzhouguo 滿州國 was created by the Japanese in northern China
with Puyi 溥儀 as the head and later Emperor. The League of Nations 國際
聯盟 (LN)(predecessor of United Nations 聯合國) sent an investigation
team to China and as a result, Lytton’s Report 禮頓報告 concluded that
Japan was the pre-meditated aggressor but no action was taken by the other
powers to check Japan’s aggression. Japan was the first country to
recognize Manzhou-guo 滿州國 and declared to walk out of LN.

In 1933, Japan continued its advance into China. Rehe 熱河 was overrun
and Shanhai Pass 山海關 at the Great Wall of China did not stop the
Japanese army. The war stopped in 1935 upon the signing of an agreement
between Japan and China. By that agreement Hebei 河北 became a
demilitarized zone, meaning that China could not put any army on its own
soil in Hebei 河北. Guomindang 國民黨 could not operate in Hebei 河北
and there should be no anti-Japanese movements.

Two years after the truce, on the night of 7th July, 1937 Japan started its
attack at Lugou Bridge 蘆溝橋 (also known as Marco Polo Bridge) near
Beiping 北平. The Chinese 29th Army resisted and that opened the defence
of Beiping 北平, known as “Incident of 77” (七七事變). Beiping 北 平 and
Tianjin 天津 were soon lost. Shanghai 上海 fell after fighting for three
months in August the same year. In December, Nanjing 南京 was lost after
an outskirt defence. The Japanese army killed, looted and raped in Nanjing
for weeks. Soldiers and civilians killed in cold-blood were estimated at
not less than 300,000. They were bayoneted, beheaded, buried alive or
machine-gunned and their bodies either buried or pushed into Yangtze
River. This was known as the infamous “Great Massacre of Nanjing 南京大
屠殺. In 1938 November, Wuhan 武漢 was lost, so was Guangzhou 廣州 at
the coast. Britain and France used to send supplies to Yunan 雲南 in China
from Siam and Vietnam, but as from 1938, in order to appease Japan, roads
from Siam (Dian-Mian) 滇緬 and Vietnam  (Dian-Yue) 滇越 to China were
closed. China was left fighting alone.

In 1940, the deputy chairman of Guomindang 國民黨, Wang Jing-wei 汪精
衛 smuggled out of Chongqing 重慶, flew to Henei 河內 and in a detour
reached Shanghai by sea and finally Nanjing 南京. On 30th March, he took
office in Nanjing 南京 as the head of a puppet Chinese government set up
under the Japanese’ approval. It was viewed by Chinese as a traitor’s
regime and referred to as “Wang’s phony government” (汪偽政府), a
Chinese version of the French Vinchy government. It ruled over most of the
areas in the south of China occupied by the Japanese army and lasted up to
the end of the war. Wang 汪精衛 died in Japan while treating his cancerous
ailment and an old bullet wound left by an assassin; while his accomplices
were either being executed or imprisoned as traitors by the Chinese
government after Japan surrendered.

The Pacific War 1941-1945 太平洋戰爭

In a Sunday morning on 7th December 1941, Japan, without any declaration
of war or warning, attacked the naval force of America at Pearl Harbour 珍
珠港 in the Hawaiian island 夏威夷 of Oahu and at the same time started
invading Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia and the
pacific islands. This unprovoked surprise attack on the American naval
base 4000 miles away from Japan was the major part of its strategic plan to
eliminate American influence in the western Pacific so that suppies,
particularly oil, could continue uninterrupted into the China and Asian war
theatres. The mastermind of this attack was the C-in-C of the Japanese
Combined Fleet, Admiral Yamamoto 山本五十六. Shortly before the
attack, he announced to his fleet, “The rise or fall of the Empire depends
upon this battle; everyone will do his duty with utmost efforts.”

The invasion into almost all the Asian countries at the same time, was of
course to execute Japan’s dream to form a Far Eastern Empire in Asia 大東
亞帝國. A new Japanese prime minister Shigenori Togo appointed in
Ocotber 1941 was a hardliner in this policy. To strengthen its world
influence, Japan also formed a military alliance with Germany and Italy,
called the “Axis” 軸心國. Tojo had given an ultimatum to America in
November 1941 to lift Japanese assets frozen by America and its allies and
lift the embargo on trade or face the consequences. America was at that
time able to read the wireless coded messages between Tokyo and its
ambassador at Washington but there was no indication whatever that Japan
would start a war without declaration and attack Amercan forces as far
away as Pearl Harbour. The following day, 8th December, the American
Congress decided unanimously to declare war on Japan. President
Roosevelt of the United States in his address to the US Congress described
the day of the Pearl Harbout attack as “a day that will live in infamy”. On
9th December, China formally declared war on the Axis nations. China
became a member of the Allies who had been fighting the European Second
World War since 1939.

In 1942 China sent an expedition army to Burma 緬甸 to assist the British
and American forces there and the joint army finally repelled the Japanese
from the eastern border of India in 1943 and by December 1944 recovered
central Burma from the over-stretched Japanese which was lacking in
supplies, in food, ammunition and equipments. The Burmese theatre was
however local in itself and non-decisive as to the outcome of the war. The
Pacific naval battles between America and Japan really turned the tide of
the aggressor’s momentum. Japan was gradually losing control of the
Pacific after the battles of the Coral Sea 珊瑚海之役 and Midway Island 中
途島之役 in June 1942. In 1943, Yamamoto山本五十六, the architect of
the Pearl Harbour attack met his death in the hands of the Americans,
ironically as a direct consequence of his meticulous punctuality in military
operations. On 16 April he was flying to inspect the Solomon Islands under
an escort of Japanese fighters, “Zero”, but the timetable of his inspection
contained in coded Japanese messages had been deciphered by American
intelligence before hand. On that day and in exactly the scheduled hour,
sixteen American fighters laid ambush on his route and he was shot down
from the air into the Pacific Ocean.

America recaptured the Philippine islands by 1944 and the Japanese
homeland was within reach by American bombers after the islands
Marianas, Iwo Jima 琉磺島, and Okinawa 冲繩島 were taken between
November, 1944 and April 1945. Squadrons of Japanese suicide aircrafts
under the name “kamikaze” 神風 crashing on American warships with
loaded bombs failed to redress the situation. Merely over Okinawa, 7,800
Japanese war planes had been shot down. Okinawa was important since it
was in a key position in the Japanese supply line, the loss of which made
the Japanese positions in China, Burma, and the Dutch Indies untenable.

Tokyo and other cities were severely attacked by America, in saturated
daylight high-altitude bombing “known as carpet bombing” 地毡式轟炸.
Later, tactics changed to night-time low-altitude incendiary attacks using the
newly tested napalm, which created fire-storms causing huge casualties.
The mode of operation was first to mark a city by path-finding planes. They
marked the four corners of a target city by incendiary devices and left. The
planes that followed just let go their bombs of napalm within these four
corners. Cities attacked included Tokyo, Kobe, Nagoya and Osaka. Many
civilian lives were lost in these bombings, a tactic which had been
experimented on German cities such as Dresden in February 1945. These
civilians died a terrible death in the hands of the Americans, ironically
paying for a crime which their militia perpetrated in Asia and China,
especially in the massacre of Nanjing. But Japan, as a government, with
over a million soldiers still occupying half of China and sufficient forces at
home to defend a foreign invasion, was unrepentant and had little desire to