Other Historical Figures in Chinese History
Lao Zi, styled Li, whose family name and literary name are respectively Li and Boyang, was born in Kuxian County of Qin State(today's Luyi County). He lived from 571 BC to 471 BC and once served as Counselor of Document Collection in Zhou Dynasty. Lao Zi was very smart and industrious when he was young. He spent his late years in Cheng State, his hometown, and later went to Qin State to deliver speech and spread knowledge. He passed by in Fufeng, a place in Qin. Only one of Lao Zi's great works was left to the late generations, and that is Lao Zi's Dao De Jing, also called Lao Zi. The works is poetry of philosophy written with rhyme. It is a classic works of Taoism School and very important material for studying the philosophical ideas of Lao Zi. The book is reputed as the extract of ancient philosophy by many countries such as Soviet Union, Great Britain, and Germany, etc, and has been translated into many languages for publication. Recently Lao Zi is listed by the United States as the most outstanding and greatest ancient writer of the world.
Lao Zi's Dao De Jing presents a system of materialism with plain thought of dialectics. The book advocates atheism, and Tiandao Thought which believes the objective existence of everything in the nature. The core of materialism is Taoism. Lao Zi does not believe the existence of God or mysterious strength which masters or controls everything on the earth. He proposes that Taoism is the foundation of everything; it does not govern the world with purpose or certain will but functions as the invisible rule of changes and development.
Lao Zi is a great thinker in ancient China and he is familiar to every Chinese. His great works Lao Zi's Dao De Jing ushers in a new era of ancient philosophy. The Taoism School and the philosophical ideas of Lao Zi not only contribute much to traditional cultural and thought, but exerts wide influence on the 2000-year civilization of China.
Mencius (about 372 BC—289 BC), also known as Meng Ke, is a great thinker, educator, and politician in the period of WarringStates. He was born in Zou, today's Zouxian County in Shandong Province. Mencius accounts the major thoughts and political activities of Mencius in his life time. Mencius is believed to the heir of Confucian School and thus honored "Yasheng", meaning second to Confucius, the Master of Culture.
Qu Yuan is one of the world's four most outstanding celebrities of culture. Born in 339 BC, he is also an eminent writer, the greatest patriotic poet, well known strategist, thinker, diplomat, and reformer of China.
Moreover, Qu Yuan was a famous poet and statesman during Warring States. He is the initiator and representative writer of the great works Chu Ci. In 21 century, Qu Yuan enjoys wide respect and memorization all over the world as one of the four most outstanding literators. After the revision work by Liu Xiang and his son, and annotation by Wang Yi, 25 works of Qu Yuan finally came to public. It includes one Li Sao, one Tian Wen, 11 Jiu Ge, one Yuan You, one Bu Ju, and one Yu Fu. According to Records of Historian, Qu Yuan's Chronicles by Sima Qian, there was still another works of Qu Yuan called Zhao Hun. Some researchers believe that Da Zhao is also the works of Qu Yuan. But others suspect Yuan You, Bu Ju, Yu Fu, as well as many chapters in Jiu Zhang were not written by Qu Yuan. In terms of linguistic style, all the works of Qu Yuan broke up the traditional four-character sentence pattern, and used irregular number of characters within one sentence, such as three, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and even ten. Therefore sentences with different number of characters are very flexible in collocation and arrangement. The character "兮" is frequently used together with many empty words in Chinese, like之","于","乎","夫", and "而", etc. These empties words help regulate and adjust syllables so as to make the whole paragraph reads with rolling rhyme. In a word, the works of Qu Yuan is quite innovative from form to content.
Ying Zheng (Qin Shihuang or Emperor Qin)
Qin Shihuang (259BC-210BC) is the first emperor of the first feudal dynasty-- the Qin dynasty in China. Later decedents called him "Eternal Emperor". His family name was Yingshi, given name was Zheng and belonged to Han ethnic group. He was born in the capital city of Zhao Kingdom—Handan (the present Handan city, Hebei province). He was also called Zhaoshi (in the pre-qin period, surname and shi were not combined with men called shi and women called surname). Therefore, Qin Shihuang was also called as Zhao Zheng.
According to Lv Buwei Biography in the Book of History, Qin Shihuang's mother Zhao Ji was once a concubine of Lv Buwei. Out of political purpose, Lv Buwei gave pregnant Zhao Ji to Yiren (i.e. the future Zhuangxiang Emperor) as a present. Later on, Zhao Ji gave birth to Ying Zheng after 12 month’s pregnancy. Therefore, Ying Zheng was actually the son of Lv Buwei and Zhao Ji. According to Qin Shihuang Biography in the Book of History, "Qin ShiHuang was the son of Emperor Zhuangxiang. Emperor Zhuangxiang was the prince of Qin kingdom. He was sent to the Zhao kingdom where he fell in love with the concubine of Lv Buwei. Then he married her and later Ying Zheng was born." Because there were two different descriptions in the Book of History, who was the father of Qin Shihuang was still a mystery.
In 247 BC, the Emperor Zheng ascended to the throne at the age of 13. Since he was too young to deal with state affairs, the Queen, Prime Minster Lv Buwei and Lao Ai together controlled the country. In 238 BC, the emperor held a ceremony for adulthood in the ancient city—Yong city when he was 22 years old. Then he formally took the crown and dealt with state affairs by himself. He rooted out Prime Minster Lv Buwei and Lao Ai, while put Li Si and Wei Liao in the important position. From 230 B.C. to 221 B.C. he destroyed Han kingdom, Zhao kingdom, Wei kingdom, Chu kingdom and Yan kingdom. Thus the great task of reunifying China was completed.
He established the first Feudal Empire with Han people occupying the majority of the population and unified ethnic groups. Xianyang was made the capital. Qin Shihuang thought his achievement outweighed that of Sanhuang (Three August Ones) and Wudi (Five Sovereigns); therefore he altered the honor title into "Huangdi (Emperor)".
After taking the six kingdoms, Qin shihuang started out to build the Great Wall in the North and more than 400 thousand men were confiscated each year. During the period, civilians suffered a lot.
Since the ancient times, Qin Shihuang has always been a controversial figure. He was the first Chinese emperor, the founder of the title "Emperor"; as well as the founder of Chinese emperor system which rendered China enter the centralized monarchy era. He also finished the first political unity of China, and formed a situation where "cars were driven on the same rail and books written in the same language". This laid the foundation for the unity of the following dynasties.
Li Shimin (599 BC—210 BC), known as Emperor Tai Zong, was the son of Emperor Li Yuan in Tang Dynasty. In 626 BC, he ascended the throne through Palace Coup at Xuanwu Gate Incident. During his ruling years, Li Shimin introduced and implemented Land Equalization System and Taxation System Composed of Land, Labor, and Household Cloth Taxes, strengthened assessment on local civil servants, and improved imperial examinations. He usually reminded himself of the lesson drawn from the perdition of Sui Dynasty, intelligently positioned capable persons, and listened to their advices. Therefore, social economy reached rapid development during the years which were reputed by historians as "Enlightened Administration in Zhenguan Reign under Emperor Tai Zong of Tang Dynasty.
Li Bai, styled Taibai, with a literal name Qinglian Hermit, was a great poet in Tang Dynasty. His poems boast of grandness, boldness, and generosity. They present rich imagination, smooth diction, as well as colorful and flexible rhyme. He is good at folk songs and therefore drew nutrition from them, building up the unique style of magnificence in his works. He created a new summit on history of literature featuring poetry of optimistic romanticism.
Tao Yuanming is one of the greatest litterateurs of China. He is the founder of the School of idyll, and is reputed as the ancestor of hermit poets. Tao Yuanming was very interested in books when he was young, but he never tried to seek in-depth meanings of one book. He looked down upon imperial officials or civil servants, and soon retreated to rural areas. However, Tao Yuanming became addicted to wine but was usually in short of money. Hearing this, his admirers often offered economic support to him and thus aroused some interesting stories, such as Drunk Yuanming Fallen into Asleep and Sending Wine to Yuanming, etc. the poems of Tao Yuanming were not very popular at his times, but soon became well known and widely favored by literators after Tang and Song Dynasties. It can be said that the works of Tao Yuanming bring another boom in the history of literature.
Sima Guang is conservative in politics but very brilliant on the study of history. His major works is History as a Mirror. This book and Records of Historians by Sima Qian are two bright pearls in the historiography, and widely favored by later generations.
Cao Cao (155 BC—220 BC), styled Mengde, is an eminent statesman, militarist, and poet in the times of Warring States. He was born in Qiao (today's Haoxian County in Anhui Province), and later became Emperor Wu Di of Wei. Cao Cao was very good at war. He did a lot of research on Master Sun's Art of War, and made further illustrations on it according to his own experience on the battlefield. He wrote two famous books, namely, Personal Understandings on Master Sun and Art of War. Moreover, he was very good at poetry and made much contribution to the development of poetry.
Genghis Khan (1162—1227), with a literal name Tie Mu Zhen, is a great militarist and strategist of ancient Mongol Nationality. He was born in a rich, noble family called Bo'erzhijin. From the end of 12th century to the early 23rd century, Genghis Khan unified various tribes of Mongol Nationality. He was elected as Dhahran in 1206 AD, and honored Genghis Khan for the founding of Mongolia State. In 1227, he died from illness in the palace situated in Qingshui County of today's Gansu Province. After the founding of Yuan Dynasty, he was re-honored Emperor Tai Zu.
Su Dongpo, generally known as Su Shi, is a very famous literator, painter, and calligrapher in North Song Dynasty. He is reputed as one of the "Eight Outstanding Litterateurs in Tang and Song Dynasties", and addressed "San Su" (means three literators of the same family) together with his father Su Xun and his brother Su Zhe. Su Dongpo was conservative in politics and social rites, but he also had the ambition to carry out nation wide reform on obsolete social life. Therefore his official career was full of frustrations. The poems of Su Dongpo are bold and generous, just like a free and boundless sea. They boast of freshness and strong character, and are reputed as "School of Innovation". Su Dongpo was frank and generous, and the same was true with his attitude towards ancient poets. He modestly learnt from them and at the same time made innovations featuring childlike romance. Meanwhile, he was good at painting and calligraphy, and very interested in sear trees and grotesque stones. He personally admitted that he was inferior to others in three aspects: drinking, singing, and playing chess. However, his poems, calligraphies, and paintings are very popular and widely favored by later generations.
Wang Anshi is a famous counselor in North Song Dynasty, and at the same time, a well known thinker and literator. He realized the social contradictions in the mid period of North Song Dynasty, and wrote a memorial titled Wan Yan Shu to the then Emperor Ren Zong. In the memorial he advised Emperor Tai Zong to carry out reforms on the administration of civil servants and implement new policies. In the ruling years of Emperor Shen Zong, Wang Anshi persistently carried out new policies and fought against the conservative parties headed by Sima Guang. He made unremitted efforts on the implementation of reform and was honored by Lenin the "Reformer of China in 11th Century". Wang Anshi is a gifted poet with much achievement. He is listed among the "Eight Outstanding Litterateurs in Tang and Song Dynasties, and is well known for his article Sadness for Zhong Yong, in which his emotion and reasoning are well presented. Moreover, his lines "Here comes the spring wind, in which the south bank of Yangtze River turns into green; looking at the bight moon above the head, when will I return accompanied by your jade light?" are remembered and widely spread by later generations.
Cai Lun, styled Jing Song, is the inventor of paper-making technology in Eastern Han Dynasty. He was born in Guiyang in today's Hunan Province, and became a eunuch in the 18th ruling year (75 AD) of Emperor Yong Ping. In the first ruling year of Emperor Zhang He, he was titled Chief Secretary for Imperial Secretariat. In 105 AD, that was the first year of Emperor Yuan Xing, Cai Lun invented the paper making technology. On the basis of the experience of former inventors, he used tree skin, hemp, clout, and old fishing net as the major material. Through the process of pinching, smashing, lifting, and baking, the first kind of paper—"Caihou Paper" was invented. It made much contribution to the reform and introduction of paper making. Cai Lun therefore is memorized as the inventor of paper making technology.
Li Shizhen was born in a traditional doctor's family of Hubei Province in the year 1518AD, which was the thirteenth year of Emperor Zhengde's reign in the Ming Dynasty (1368AD-1644AD). When he was just a boy, he often went out with his father and brother to collect medicinal herbs, and helped his father copy prescriptions. He learned medical and pharmacological knowledge from his father. In the Ming Dynasty, imperial examinations were quite prevalent, for one could become an honourable government official if he passed them. Li Shizhen passed the imperial examination of the first level when he was just 14 years old. However, he loved his medical career and wanted to be a doctor rather than a government official. As a result, after failing the second level examination for three times, he just gave up and made up his mind to be a good doctor.
Li Shizhen had read as many as 800 different medical and pharmacological books from history, and in the meanwhile, he did a lot of investigations and researches before he finally finished his great medical book---Compendium of Materia Medica, which was called "Ben Cao Gang Mu" in Chinese. The whole book took him as long as 27 years to finish and it was a huge and comprehensive book which was a summary of all the achievements in pharmacology before the Ming Dynasty. The book has enjoyed acclaimed reputation both at home and abroad and it has been translated into several foreign languages. Li Shizhen also wrote some other medical books, such as Pin Hu Mai Xue and Qi Jing Ba Mai Kao, which were about how to feel patients' pulses while doing medical examinations. As soon as the book --- Ben Cao Gang Mu was finished, it immediately became popular in China. Nowadays it has been translated into many languages including Japanese, English, German, French, Latin and Russia. That is to say this famous book has spread all over the world. Even today it is still an important ancient science book with high academic values and Li Shizhen has been considered to be an outstanding medical scientist. In the year 1593, the great doctor Li Shizhen passed away at the age of 76.
Ji Xiaolan is a popular bel-asprit in Qing Dynasty. He is a gifted person and good at making couplets. He can express everything in his couplets in a fantastic and unique way. It is said nobody can compete with or surpass him in this aspect. Moreover, he is an eloquent talent, the remarks of whom are well organized, full of logic and very persuasive. Besides, he is good at dealing with people. Especially, he can make the right prediction of what is on the mind of the emperor, and is very capable in fighting against those treacherous officials with intelligence. Although he experienced several ups and downs in the official career, he all succeeded in saving his own life. Ji Xiaolan read numerous books in his life and left to later generations several great works, such as Si Ku Quan Shu and Records in Yuewei Hall. Ji Xiaolan is a widely recognized eminent writer. Average in political achievements, however, he is well known and admired by later generations.
Mao Zedong (1893-1976), styled Run Zhi and with a literal name Zi Ren, was born in a family of peasant in Xiangtan of HunanProvince on December 26, 1893. He received education in No. 1 Normal School in Changsha City in his early age. When he grew up, he devoted himself to revolutionary activities, believed in Marxism-Leninism, and started to introduce it among Chinese people. In 1921, Mao Zedong became one of the founders of Communist Party of China. Later he was elected successively Chairman of the Central Committee of CPC, Chairman of Central Military Committee, and Chairman of People's Republic of China. Besides dealing with political and military affairs, Mao Zedong was very interested in poetry and calligraphy, was very industrious in practicing them. The great works of Mao Zedong include five volumes of Mao Zedong Florilegium, Analogy of Mao Zedong's Scripts, Analogy of Mao Zedong's Epigraphs, Collections of Poetry and Lyric Scripts of Mao Zedong, and Analogy of Mao Zedong's Poems and lyrics.
Lu Xun is a great modern litterateur, translator, and founder of New Cultural Movement in China. He wrote 20 volumes of greatworks, which have exquisite and rich connotations, impressive reflections on history, and courageous introduction to new times. Kuangren Diary, Kong Yiji, and Drug laid the foundation for new literatures; The True Story of Ah Q established an ever-lasting monument on the history of new literature, exerting wide influence on writers in China and the world at large; Hot Wind and Erxin Collection written in a sarcastic and acute style developed a school of his own and ushered in an era of modern literature. The eminent works of Lu Xun nor only enriched the Chinese culture and art, but contributed a lot to world literature. Lu Xun is one of the most accomplished writers in the literary world. If you want to know about the real history, social development of China and especially Chinese people, the great essays of Lu Xun will tell you all.
As the descendant of Prince Zhongshan of the Western Han Dynasty, Liu Bei was born in the year 161AD and died in 223AD. His father was named Liu Hong. While working for the imperial court to crack down the peasant uprising, he made the acquaintance of Guan Yu and Zhang Fei and the three became sworn brothers. Then Liu Bei became the magistrate of Anxi County, however he was unsatisfied with all the obstacles created by his superior towards him and therefore quitted the job after beating the superior. After that Liu Bei went to seek shelter in the area ruled by Gongsun Zan, who then nominated him as the magistrate of Pingyuan County. In the year 221AD, Liu Bei declared himself the emperor of the Han Dynasty and passed away two years later in the city of Baidicheng, which is now located in today's Chongqing area.
As an excellent ruler and militarist, Liu Bei had a lot of merits, such as loving the common people, appointing virtuous government officials, being kind and just in dealing with state affairs, respecting other people and being honest and fair to people of all walks of life. He managed to attract a large number of political and military elites and made them work for him. The typical example of that is Zhuge Liang. According to the records from The History of the Three Kingdoms, before he died, Liu Bei said to Zhuge Liang, ' You are a genius and I am sure you will be able to unite the whole country. After my death, if my son is good and excellent enough to be a new ruler, you could just help him as the prime minister, if not, I will never blame you if you take the throne yourself and rule the country.' Zhuge Liang was greatly moved by his words and thus determined to devote his entire life in helping the new king to rule the country. Even when he worked as the prime minister and controlled the army, he never thought of making a rebellion or declaring himself as a new ruler. Liu Bei's personality vividly reflected the traditional political and philosophical theories in Chinese history. Both Confucius and Mencius had emphasized the rule of virtue and the policy of benevolence. They had told all the kings to rule the common people by virtues and influence them with the ruler's own excellent personality and gracious morality.
From the intricate political struggles, Liu Bei had realized the importance of using the political theories of Confucius to rule the country, and as a result, he took it very serious in cultivating his own personality and morality and setting up good examples as a ruler. Before he died, he kept on telling his son, who would ascend the throne, that it was a sin to steal a pin. He also said that only virtues could make other people admire and obey the ruler. These basic political ideas made Liu Bei a respectable political leader and finally made him the emperor of the Han Dynasty.
Born in the year 624AD in today's Guangyuan city of Sichuan Province, Wu Zetian's family used to live in today's Shanxi Province. She died at the age of 81 in 705AD. While serving in the imperial court, he was known as Wu Meiniang and was cute, clever and good at playing power tactics. Even as a little girl, she was lovely, smart and quick-witted. She was also quite articulate and surpassed others in bravery and wisdom. Her father took notice of all her faculties and taught her to read, write and learn all kinds of knowledge. According to the records from history books, at the age of 14 years old, Wu Zetian had read a lot of books and she had quite a good memory. Adept at Chinese calligraphy, this young girl was also talented in making poems, writing essays and singing songs.
She was first taken into the palace as one of the imperial concubines of Emperor Taizong, who was the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty (618AD-907AD). Later when the emperor died, she fell in love with the new emperor, the son of the former emperor, and the two later got married. So Wu Zetian became the queen, meaning that she was the most powerful woman in the palace. Wu Zetian was the mother of Emperor Zhongzong and Emperor Ruizong. As the empress, she always helped the emperor to deal with the state and military affairs for as long as 30 years. Then her husband died and her two sons became the new emperors one by one. Both of them were forced to abdicate while at the throne, because Wu Zetian was such an ambitious woman and she wanted to be a monarchess, the most powerful person in the country. She made it.
She changed the name of the country into Zhou and succeeded to the throne. She managed to be the only monarchess in the Chinese history, and no other women were able to do that before or after her. She was at the throne from the year 690AD to 705AD, and from the time when she began to help the emperor to deal with state affairs until she passed away in the Shangyang Palace, she actually ruled the country for as long as half a century. Together with the reign of Emperor Taizong and the reign of Emperor Xuanzong, Wuzetian's reign had also contributed a lot to the prosperity of the early and middle Tang Dynasty. Just like the former vice Chinese president Song Qingling said, 'Wu Zetian was an excellent female ruler in ancient Chinese feudal society'. She was also given the title---Zetian the Great, and her name Zetian in Chinese means that following the laws made by the God of Heaven and doing everything he demands.
Actually before ascending to the throne herself, during her 30 years of helping her husband deal with the state affairs, Wu Zetian had been acclaimed in the whole imperial court as a great ruler with resourcefulness and strategy. In the 15 years after succeeding the throne, as an excellent politician, the monarchess did very well in appointing government officials, handling state affairs, and ruling the whole country. She paid much attention to the development of agriculture, and in the meanwhile, especially in the later period of her rule, she spent a lot of efforts in choosing the excellent people and sending them to work as government officials in various parts of the country. In addition, the monarchess also contributed a lot in resisting foreign invasions, protecting and maintaining the peace of the border areas, and improving the relationships between China and other countries.
Of course, as a ruler, Wu Zetian also committed a lot of misconducts and crimes during the half-century-long reign. Some of the high-rank government officials she appointed were very cruel to the common people. They often extorted confessions by torture, murdered the innocent, and made false charges against good people. As a result, many innocent officials and military officers had been put into prison or killed. At the same time, Wu Zetian also encouraged and rewarded secret informers. Even though what she did helped a lot in maintaining her rule of the country, however, contradictions between different groups in the imperial court were intensified and everyone felt insecure. In that case, the agricultural and productive development of the country was seriously influenced. She appointed a great number of people to be officials, so there were more and more government bureaucracies and the common people had to pay much more taxes to support the government expenditure.
During the later years of her rule, she became very proud of what she had achieved, and lived an extravagant life, wasting a lot of money and labour forces. What she did also created some obstacles in the productive development of the country. However, compared with all the contributions she made in promoting the prosperity of the country, these mistakes and misconducts were just minor aspects. As the only monarchess ever in the Chinese history, she managed to overcome all difficulties and maintain a strong rule of the country. During the 50 years of her reign, generally speaking, social stability was strengthened and the economy was very well developed. She also made a lot of political and economic reforms, improved the imperial examinations to attract more excellent people to serve the country, and appointed numerous virtuous officials, the measures of which eventually made China one of the strongest and most prosperous countries in the world.
Each merit of Wu Zetian was accompanied by mistakes. As the famous Chinese scholar Linda said, ' as each stripe of sunlight was shed, a patch of shadow was also created.' In the over 1,000 years after Wu Zetian's death, appraisals to her always changed a lot. For example, in the early Tang Dynasty, most people held positive views to the rule of the monarchess. However, with the great development of Confucius theories from the middle Tang Dynasty to the appearance of Chengzhu Philosophy in the Northern Song Dynasty (960AD-1127AD), negative comments on this great woman spread over the country. Wang Fuzhi, who was a famous philosopher at the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368AD-1644AD), said that what Wu Zetian had done could never be accepted by either the deities or the fiends and all the government officials and the common people should hate this evil woman. However, with the development of feminism in the modern times, Wu Zetian has been acclaimed as a good example of the liberation of woman in Chinese history.
Coming from a Han ethnic group family, Zhuge Liang was born in 181AD and died in 234AD. He was also named Kongming, and Wolong, which means the 'lying dragon' in Chinese, refers to this great man, too. Zhuge Liang has been considered to be an outstanding statesman, militarist, strategist, essayist and diplomat. According to the records from the Book of History, which was called Shi Ji(a book recording history) in the Chinese language, he was as tall as 1.84 meters.
Zhuge Liang was born in the family of a local government official in the area of today's Yinan County of Shandong Province in the 4th year of Emperor Lingdi's reign. The Zhuege family was actually a traditional distinguished family in the local county. Zhuge Feng, who was one of the ancestors of the family, used to work as a military officer guarding the capital city in the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-25AD). Zhuge Liang's father Zhuge Gui, whose alias was Jungong, used to work as the prefecture chief in Taishan region in the later period of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25AD-220AD). When Zhuge Liang was only three years old his mother died, and what's worse, his father also died five years later. Therefore Zhuge Liang and his younger brother Zhuge Jun went to live with their uncle Zhuge Xuan, who had been appointed to be the governor of Yuzhang region. However, several years later Zhuge Xuan was replaced by another official dispatched by the imperial court. So Zhuge Xuan went to Jingzhou city to seek help from his old friend Liubiao, who was the governor there. Zhuge Liang and his brother were also taken to Jingzhou by his uncle.
In the year 197AD, their uncle died of illness, and the Zhuge brothers lost their only relative and they moved to Nanyang city, where Zhuge Liang, who was then just 19 years old, together with his friend Xushu, became the students of Mr Sima Wei, who was a very famous knowledgeable person at that time. Later Zhuge Liang realized that the local governor Liubiao was so addled and incompetent, he just gave up his wish to be a government official. Instead, he became a hermit in Longzhong village, which was located in the great mountains twenty kilometers west of Xiangyang city. During his ten years of life in the countryside, Zhuge Liange made a lot of friends and he was considered to be the most resourceful person of all of them. In spite of his isolation from the outside world, he always paid close attention to what has been happening in the whole country and therefore he knew the details of all the important events which had already happened. As a result, he was nicknamed Wolong, which means a lying dragon. Clever and resourceful as he was, he just lived as a hermit in the mountains. During this period, he got married with Huang Yueying--the daughter of Huang Chengyan, who was also a knowledgeable man at that time.
In the year of 207AD when Zhuge Liang was 27 years old, he was invited to work for Liu Bei, who was the descendant of the Eastern Han royal family and wanted very much to reunite the whole country, which then had been split up by several vassals. After refused by Zhuge Liang twice, Liu Bei went there for the third time. Zhuge Liang was greatly moved by his sincerity and determination and finally decided to work for him. When the two met with each other, Zhuge Liang was asked how to unite the whole country. He made a penetrating and reasonable analysis of the circumstances at that time before giving his own plan. He advised Liu Bei to take Jingzhou and Yizhou regions as their bases of operations first, then make political reforms inside the court, and diplomatically, cooperate with Sun Quan, who was then a vassal in the southeast area of China. Meanwhile, he said Liu Bei should make friends with the minority groups in the southern and western parts of China, and eventually sent armies to capture the northern territory and unite the whole country when the suitable time came. This was Zhuge Liang's suggestion to Liu Bei, who suddenly felt hopeful and strongly agreed with everything Zhuge Liang suggested him. He also realized that Zhuge Liang was a very rare talent and sincerely asked him to go out of the mountains to help him unite the country and rebuild the Han Dynasty. After working for Liu Bei, Zhuge Liang helped him to cooperate with Sun Quan and defeat the armies of Cao Cao in Chibi region. Before that, Cao Cao at that time was the most powerful vassal ruling the largest area in China. After this war, the three sides, Liu Bei, Sun Quan and Cao Cao stood like the legs of a tripod and Liu Bei seized Jingzhou as his base. In the year 211AD, Liubei took Yizhou and then defeated Cao Cao's army again and seized Hanzhong area. Ten years later, he founded Shu Kingdom in the city of Chengdu in southwest China and appointed Zhuge Liang as his prime minister.
Later when Liu Bei died, his son Liu Chan ascended the throne, Zhuge Liang was conferred the title of Lord Wuxiang and the land of Yizhou region was also given to him by the emperor. During the years when Zhuge Liang served as the prime minister of the Shu Kingdom, all the state affairs, including the military, political, and fiscal affairs were decided by Zhuge Liang, who was quite strict and fair in meting out rewards and punishments. Diplomatically, he continued the policy of cooperation with the kingdom of Wu, founded by Sun Quan. Domestically, Zhuge Liang paid much attention to improve the relationship and friendship between the Han nationality and other ethnic groups in southwest China. Also he sent garrison troops and peasants to open up wasteland and grow crops again. In addition, he took some measures to enhance the combat readiness of the army. Unfortunately in the year of 234AD when leading troops in Wuzhangyuan area to fight Caocao's army, Zhuge Liang died of illness. He handed all the state affairs to Jiang Wei, who was the best general in the kingdom before he died.
As a traditional thinker in the ancient feudal society, Zhuge Liang tried his best to defend the rule of the feudal rulers and admired the theories of fidelity and loyalty from Confucius. However, instead of merely following all the teachings of Confucius, he made some improvement and innovations according to different circumstances. He defended the rule of the king, but he did not allow any ethnic discriminations. He acted the best ethnic policy of all the three kingdoms and made friends with all the minority groups. He was respected by the Chinese people as he was loyal to the king, loved the common people, and devoted his entire life to the country.
Yellow Emperor (Huang Di)
In legend, Yellow Emperor was the title of the ancient imperial emperor—Xuanyuan Shi. His surname was Gongsun (or Ji) and named after his birth place-- hillock of Xuan Yuan. Yellow Emperor built his kingdom in Youxiong (today's Xinzheng in Henan province) and thus was also known as Youxiong Shi. According to the legend, mother of Yellow Emperor was called Fubao. One night, she got pregnant after she saw a lightning revolving the Big Dipper Axis star and falling down.
After being in pregnancy for 24 months, she gave birth to a boy. The boy was the later Yellow Emperor. Yellow Emperor appeared exceptionally clever. He could spoke shortly after he was born. When he was 15 years old, there was nothing that he didn't know. Later on, he ascended to the throne of Xiong Kingdom.
He was agile as a teenage, amiable and capable as young adult, wise and persistent as an adult. He is a legendary character and is considered the father of Huaxia tribes. In the meantime, he was the leader of three kings and five emperors (in ancient China, the Fu, Nuwa, Shen Nong were called "three kings" and Taihao, Yan Emperor, Yellow Emperor, Shaohao and Zhuanxu were called "five emperors"). Yellow Emperor was endorsed as ancestor of Taoism and enjoyed special status in Taoism.
During Yellow Emperor’s long reign, the country enjoyed strong state power, stable political status and cultural progress. During the period, there were many inventions and production, such as text, music, calendar, palaces, ships, clothing and vehicle with compass and the like. In line with the legend, Yao Emperor, Shun Emperor, Yu Emperor and Shang Emperor were all his descendants, so the Yellow Emperor is considered to be the common ancestor of Chinese people.
Yellow Emperor has four wives and ten concubines. His leading wife's family name was Xiling and given name was Luozu. She cultivated mulberry tree and raised silkworm and therefore was called the "first silkworm keeper". His second wife's family name was Fanglei and given name was Nvjie. The third wife's family name was Tongyu. The last wife was Momu who was ugly but earned respect from Yellow Emperor because of her lofty morality. Among his 24 sons, 14 were granted a title and manor.
Every nation has its own legend period. Yellow Emperor is a representative during China's legend era. He possessed many merits and made lots of creations, leading Chinese from savage to civilization. Consequently, he was regarded as a humane primogenitor. According to New Text of Twenty-five Histories, Yellow Emperor probably exists for real in the history. He was a leader of alliance tribes in central plain area during the patrilineal clan period. He unified the tribes in central plain through wars and did a lot of good deeds, and thus occupied an important position in ancient people's oral instruction history.
Qu Yuan (340BC—278BC) was from Danyang in the Chu Kingdom of the Warring States Period. His surname is Qushi, given name is Ping and courtesy name is Yuan, while his alias given name is Zhengze and alias courtesy name is Lingjun. (It is natural for ancient Chinese to have such a long list of names.) He was the offspring of Qu Xia who was the son of Emperor Chuwu—Xiongtong. He promoted to make an alliance to against Qin state and advocated a kind of policy with saint ruler and sagacious officials.
Qu Yuan is one of the greatest romantic poets in ancient China and the earliest famous poet and statesman that we know. He created "Chu ci" (The song of Chu) –a kind of writing style and the tradition of "fragrant plant and beauty". Qu Yuan used metaphor here. He compared "beauty with the Emperor or the courtier. Generally speaking, Qu Yuan compared himself to the women deserted by her husband to express his miserable feeling. As accessory, the fragrant plant enriched the meaning of the beauty. The fragrant plant represents on the one hand advanced quality, such as morality and gracious traits, and on the other hand, the force that fight against the vicious plant. Li Sao, Jiu Zhang (nine chapters), Jiu Ge (nine songs), Tian Wen(asking the heaven) are his representative masterpieces. Li Sao is the longest lyric poem in China. All the works that the following people see are embodied in the Chu Ci (The song of Chu) which was mainly about the works of Qu Yuan and compiled by Liu Xiang in the West Han dynasty.
Fully trusted by the Emperor Huai in the Chu state at the very beginning, Qu Yuan served as the chief assistant to the Emperor. He often discussed national affairs with Emperor Huai, involved in the formulation of laws, advocated making the law transparent, recommended talents, reformed the politics and made alliance with Qi state to fight against Qin state. At the same time, He was in charge of foreign affairs. With Qu Yuan's efforts, the national power of Chu state was improved a lot. However, due to his upright character and the slander of treacherous people, Qu Yuan was alienated gradually by the Emperor. In 305 BC, Qu Yuan opposed the decision of the Emperor Huai to sign "Huang Ji Treaty" with Qin state, but the Chu state still plunged into the hug of Qin state. It resulted in Qu Yuan's banishment to Ying city and driftage to the North of Han. During his banishment, Qu Yuan embarked on the literal writing in which he showed great sentimental attachment to the tradition and feature of Chu state and the passion of devoting to his country. His works were outshined by their gorgeous words, peculiar thoughts, newfangled metaphors and profound annotations.
In 278 BC, a general called Bai Qi of Qin Dynasty led the troop down South to breach the Ying city. Swallowed by despair, grief and indignation, Qu Yuan plunged into the Mi Luo River with heavy stones. At the year 1953 when it was the 2230 anniversary of Qu Yuan, the World Peace Council passed a resolution which regarded Qu Yuan as one of the world's four famous people of that year.
At the news of his suicide, the Chu people, who were thrown into deep sorrow, rushed out in their boats to worship him and tried hard to rescue him by boats, but failed, even just to find his body. To prevent his body from being eaten by fish, a fisherman dropped rice dumplings and eggs prepared for Qu Yuan into the River. On seeing this, other people followed suit. A Chinese doctor came and poured an altar of realgar wine into the River, stating that the wine can faint the fish so as to prevent them from hurting the body of the great poet. Afraid that the rice dumplings may be eaten by Jiao dragon in the River, the populace wrapped them with the leaves of chinaberry, and coiled with colorful strings. Therefore, "Zongzi (rice dumplings)" came into being.
Qu Yuan is creative and knowledgeable. He is familiar with astronomy, geography, music and ritual system, ups and downs of each generation before the Zhou dynasty and some important historic events. He also knows the histories of the giant kingdoms built after the Spring and Autumn Period and some important figures. He knows especially well about the history of the founding of the Chu kingdom. In this broad field of polities, he summarizes many classic governing theories and puts forward deep ideas. All Qu Yuan's works show his loyalty to the throne as well as the strong sentiment to the people and the country.
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