Monarchs and People

In the Pre-Qin Era (the times before 221 BC), there was democracy in many states. The many monarchs and ministers and even the common people are as friends. Monarchs thought highly of people, and they thought their ruling must be kept by the support of people, not by punishment. If someone offended people, his ruling would end soon. In 841 BC, the people revolted against Zhou Li-King (周厉王) because he was greedy and denied the people freedom of speech. A minister once counseled him, “Preventing the mouths of people is more serious as preventing rivers. If the dams collapse, the floodwater won’t be blocked.” But Zhou Li-King didn’t accept the advice. Soon, the people of the capital Hao (镐京) revolted. The King-Army couldn’t resist because most of the members of the revolt were from freemen who were the main population of the Central Nation, as slavery in ancient China wasn’t yet developed. Revolutionaries entered the palace of the king very quickly. Zhou Li-King had to run away to a remote place. Li-King spent the rest of his life in seclusion. He never tried to counter-attack in revenge, because now he knew the power of the people. If a monarch was expelled by another noble, he would try revenge, but if a monarch was expelled by the people, he had to accept that reality.

In the Pre-Qin Period, many monarchs and the common people were friendly to each other, so the people liked to imitate their monarch. After that time period though, the people didn’t do so because their actions would be regarded as rebellious. For example, after the Pre-Qin times, the costume of the emperor was a golden dragon robe. If anyone dared to dress in the golden dragon robe, he would be killed because others thought he wanted to be the emperor. In the Pre-Qin Period, there were no such taboos. So the style of the costume of the Pre-Qin monarchs often became fashion for the common people.

Here are two examples.

Qi Huan-Gong (齐桓公), the first leader of feudal states in the Spring-Autumn Period, liked dressing in purple. So all the people of the Qi (齐) State would dress in purple. Because of this, purple cloth became very expensive. Qi Huan-Gong thought this was abnormal, and asked the prime minister Guan Zhong (管仲), “I like purple, but purple cloth is very expensive. The whole country’s people all still like purple. What can I do?” Guan Zhong said, “Why not just stop dressing in purple? You can tell the others that you dislike the smell of purple cloth very much.” Huan-Gong did so, and the people of the whole country stopped dressing in purple too!

In the Warring-States Period, a monarch of the Zou (邹) State liked to fasten his cap by long ribbons, so ministers and people all liked to fasten their caps by long ribbons. Because of this, long ribbons became very expensive. The monarch asked his ministers what to do, and the ministers said, “You like long ribbons, and the people like them too, so long ribbons are expensive. “The monarch of Zou then cut his long ribbons and went out into public. The people found their monarch started to dislike long ribbons, so they too abandoned long ribbons!

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