Chinese Stories/Tricking the lords

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The tricking of the lords is an important Chinese story. It is very similar to the Boy Who Cried Wolf, and was 100 years earlier than Aesop as cited in the Records of the Grand Historian. However, the Tsinghua Bamboo Slips researched in 2012 in Tsinghua University in Chinese capital Beijing would dispute whether the story really happened.[1]

The Story[edit | edit source]

You of Zhou (Yo of Joe) was a bad king. Despite the three major disasters that took place in his time, the late Western Zhou dynasty, he neglected his country and spent his whole life eating, drinking and flirting with women. His favourite of them all was the concubine Bao Si, whom he adored greatly. However, Bao Si never smiled, and You of Zhou was annoyed about this. He offered a huge reward on whoever made Bao laugh.

An obsequious official of You's, Guo Shifu, thought of a nasty idea. To defend China from the babarious tribe Quanrong, about twenty beacons had been built on Lishan. When the Quanrongs attacked China, the first beacon would be lit. The second beacon would be lit at the sight of the first, and so on. When nearby lords, who owned land and power in the feudalist society,[2] saw the lit towers, they would send an army to assist the king. Guo told You to light the beacons in order to trick the lords.

They did as planned. The lords, thinking that their country was in danger, brought their army to fight the Quanrongs. When they arrived at the 'battlefield', however, they heard little but a piece of music, leaving the noblemen dumbstruck. Amused by the palaver, Bao Si smiled. Her smile made You happy, but it also left the lords angry. Concealing their fury, the lords went away.

You of Zhou adored Bao so much, he decided to abandon Prince Yijiu and appointed Bao's son, Bofu, instead. Queen Shen, his Queen, was angry. So were the people, as this was against his ancestors, the Duke of Zhou and Wu of Zhou's institution. Queen Shen's father, the Marquis of Shen, decided to rebel against You. He allied with the Quanrongs and attacked the capital Haojing. The other lords, thinking that they were being tricked again, ignored the signals.

You was defeated and the Marquis of Shen declared Yijiu the king. Yijiu was made Ping of Zhou[3] and moved the capital to Luoyi, as the Quanrongs had pretty much destroyed the whole of Luoyi, and they still posed a danger to the country. Luoyi was much smaller than Haojing, lowering the King's power, and the Eastern Zhou and Spring and Autumn period began.

Historical significance[edit | edit source]

This story is of particular historical significance as it has caused the beginning of the Eastern Zhou dynasty. After Ping moved to Luoyi, his popularity fell as he had killed his father, and because Luoyi was smaller. Some of the states started to brown-nose the king. Others turned against the king. Most were neutral. But they all shared one thing in common: They wanted to be a hegemon.[4] They wanted power. This lead to years of battles, battles and battles, called the Spring and Autumn Period, until Jin fell apart, starting the Warring States period, which was worse. Had You not tricked the lords, all this may not have happened.

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. Chinese Wikipedia w:褒姒 cites an article from Chengdu Daily Newspaper dated on 13 January 2012.
  2. Technically, China followed fengjian, a system similar to feudalism.
  3. Chinese kings, emperors, dukes, marquises, earls, etc, were named with a special name for every successor, rather than with a number.
  4. The most famous among these were Duke Huan of Qi, Duke Wen of Jin, Duke Mu of Qin, Duke Zhuang of Chu, King Fuchai of Wu and King Ouqian of Yue.