Banish the Monarch

In 519 BC, in the Ju (莒) State (modern-day Ju County in Shandong Province), the monarch Gengyu (庚舆) was banished by his people. Why did Gengyu meet such fate? He was a tyrannical man. Gengyu was very interested in swords. At that warrior time, swords were the favorites of all Chinese men, but what Gengyu liked to do was abnormal and brutal. Every time he got a new sword, he must use the sword to cut a person for trying it. The common people didn’t want to look on with folded arms, because they knew that, though they were not directly violated by the monarch, someday such a tyrannical man would bring heavy suffering to them. So they were very critical of their monarch. The supercilious monarch actually decided to be against the Qi (齐) State, the ally of the Ju State. The people of the Ju State thought such stupid decision would bring wars to their country. Now they couldn’t forbear. The citizens in the capital took to the streets, and demanded the monarch to abdicate. Wu Cun (乌存), the respected general, led the government army to support the common people. Gengyu, the extremely arrogant man, was strong in appearance but weak in reality. He had no time to pack up and rode in a carriage for running away. When he arrived at a crossing, he saw Wu Cun hold a weapon on the road ahead. Gengyu dreaded that Wu Cun might kill him, and trembled with fear. Yuanyang Muzhi (苑羊牧之), a minister, smiled and said, “Don’t worry, Monarch! Wu Cun has been famed for his strength, so he doesn’t need to kill a monarch for being famous.” Then Gengyu left the Ju State and ran away to the Lu State. The dethroned monarch started his exiled life, and didn’t return to his state any longer. Gengyu couldn’t forget that, many years ago, the people of the Ju State expelled his nephew who didn’t feel sad after the death of old monarch, and supported him to ascend the throne, but now the people of his state banished him and welcomed his nephew to return.

In the Pre-Qin Era (the era before the Qin Dynasty) of China, there were such social phenomena: If a monarch or a feudal lord offended some nobles and he was dethroned or expelled, he would try to recapture his power; but if he was dethroned or expelled by the common people, he would not make a comeback any longer. Zhou Li-King (周厉王), the king of the Western Zhou Dynasty, was a tyrannical man. He forbade free speech, and arrested the people who were critical of him. Shao Gong (召公), one of prime ministers, warned him, “Blocking the mouths of people is more serious than blocking great rivers.” In 841 BC, all the people in the capital took to the streets and demanded the king to abdicate. Zhou Li-King, the sovereign man and the Heaven-Son, actually didn’t dare to order his army to suppress the people, because most of the troops were from the common people, and they wouldn’t be against the volition of the common people. At that time, a government army was loyal to a country, not a monarch. So Zhou Li-King ran away rapidly. This king lived as an exile for fourteen years until he died, and he had never made a counterattack. In the fourteen years, there was not a new king in the Zhou Dynasty, and ministers shared public administration.

The way of thinking of Chinese people in the Pre-Qin Era was similar to the way of thinking of the European people. The common people didn’t want dynastic changes, and they wanted their rights to be respected and the state’s policies to be improved. So, in the Zhou Dynasty, many old families ruled their feudal states for hundreds of years, and the society was steadily developing. Any uprising or rebellion only influenced some ruling members, but not the whole country. This was the reason that finally there were many different schools, social thoughts, and developing ways in feudal states in the Warring-States Period of China.

Pastor Martin Niemöller once said, “In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me – and by that time no one was left to speak up.” From these words, we can understand, why the Chinese people in the Pre-Qin Era were able to freely dethrone monarchs and monarchs had no boldness to make a comeback, but since the Qin Dynasty, the people of empires didn’t dare to offend their emperors in the most times, and most resisters and rebels met tragic fate except few ones who destroyed an old empire and created a new empire.

Yike Jiang avatar