Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Bai Qi -- An Exceptional Marshal and God of War in History of China

Bai Qi (? -- 257) was a famous general in both the Kingdom Qin and the entire history of China.

 

Within around 30 years of him serving in Qin’s army, he successfully attacked and occupied over 80 cities and had never failed in a war.

 

During the entire Warring States Period (403 B. C. -- 221 B. C.), there were over two million people lost their lives because of wars, and Bai Qi was responsible for about one million. 

From A Soldier to An Accomplished Marshal 

According to Shang Yang’s reform, everyone could get promoted or even noble titles based on their military achievements. Bai Qi was a perfect example of this policy.

 

He got promoted quickly because of his extraordinary performance and remarkable contribution in wars. When he first led an army as a general, he defeated a big alliance army of other countries and killed 240, 000 of their soldiers.

 

Soon, he was rewarded with the most honorable title, after he had successfully defeated the second strongest kingdom for three times and then finally occupied their capital city. This former powerful kingdom lost many good soldiers and land during those wars, and was unable to recover and fight back anymore.  

 

Later Bai Qi conquered other alliance armies and further expanded Qin’s territory, after annihilated tens of thousands of enemy soldiers’ lives.

 

Later, one of the most cruel and epic war in the history of China, the war between The Kingdom Qin and Zhao, happened. 

 

Grand War Between the Kingdom Qin and the Kingdom Zhao

The first stage of this war lasted for 3 years, when the famous and remarkable marshal Lian Po was the commander of the Kingdom Zhao’s army, who was excellent at defending strategies.

 

At that time, the leading commander of the Kingdom Qin was another general, since Bai Qi was in other battlefields. During these three years, both sides had lost some soldiers and no one could win. 

 

Then, Qin’s prime minister Fan Ju sent many spies to the Kingdom Zhao, and spread the rumor that the reason that this war had lasted for such a long time was that the General Lian Po took many bribes and would surrender soon, and the Kingdome Qin would only be threatened if the General Kuo was in charge.

 

The King of Zhao believed that and replaced Lian Po with Kuo.

 

The young general Kuo was the son of a great general who had defeated the Qin’s army before, but he was unlike his old man and only knew things from books instead of real experiences in the battlefields. 

Military Success and Large-Scale Massacre of Captives

When the Kingdom Zhao replaced the leading commander with a young, inexperienced one, the Kingdom Qin secretly nominated Bai Qi as the new commander.

 

Bai Qi asked the former general to fake a failure. Then, when Zhao’s army was chasing, Bai led his 30, 000 cavalrymen troop ambushed and cut Zhao’s over 450, 000 soldiers's big army into some smaller troops. He then besieged Zhao’s army separately, and cut off their food supply. 

 

Zhao’s soldiers tried to break the encirclement for several times, but all failed; they had insisted for another 46 days with no food supply, only attacks from Qin's aggressive warriors.

 

After their leading commander Kuo was killed by Qin in a breakout battle, the remaining desperate soldiers of Zhao surrendered.

 

Bai Qi released 240 very young captives to go back to their country, and then enslaved or killed the rest 400, 000 soldiers.

 

In this battle, the Kingdom Zhao lost 450, 000 good soldiers in total. 

 

The reason why Bai Qi slaughtered so many complied soldiers was not very clear.

 

Some said Bai believed that those large amounts of fine soldiers would be a huge trouble no matter they were taken back to Qin or released: they would not well behave in Qin’s territory nor pledge loyalty to Qin’s king, since the Kingdom Qin and Zhao had been enemies for quite a long time; but setting them free means his victory was pointless, and more wars would be on the way in the future.

 

While others said that Bai Qi was just following the king’s command.

 

Some emperors in the following dynasties in the history of China commanded to build temples to memorize these poor soldiers’ souls and tried to rebury their bodies.

 

Until today, large numbers of bones and weapons in many mass graves still kept being excavated or exposed in this ancient battlefield, especially in heavy rainy days 

(Mountain where could overview the ancient battlefield of this big war and all the relevant relics)

Bai Qi wanted to further attack the Kingdom Zhao when everything was going well, but minister Fan Ju persuaded the King of Qin to cease the war and take reparations.

 

Many people said it was because Fan Ju felt threatened by Bai Qi’s exceptional achievements. Anyway, he did successfully convince the king under the reason that civilians and agriculture all needed to rest. 

Circumvention and Suicide of the General Bai Qi

Qin’s king initiated another war toward the Kingdom Zhao and another country years later, in order to occupy Zhao’s capital city, but Bai Qi was sick so he didn’t participate in this war.

 

Qin’s army failed and lost many soldiers without the General Bai Qi, so the king wanted to ask him to command the army again when he had recovered.

 

However, Bai Qi thought Qin couldn’t win this war and gave the king a detailed analysis from a professional perspective, but the king didn’t listen, and got very angry with him.  

 

As expected, Qin failed again; Bai Qi was right about this war, since Qin had already lost the best opportunity to perish the Kingdom Zhao years ago.

 

The king was even more furious, after havng heard that Bai Qi told other people about his previous prediction.

 

So the king forced him to lead the army, no matter how heavy he was sick.

 

Bai Qi finally had to start off, but he marched very slowly because of his physical condition. The king and Fan Ju blamed Bai Qi for being reluctant and trying to hold up the war; so, under the persuasion of Fan Ju, the king commanded Bai to suicide. 

 

Then, this great general with such outstanding achievements committed suicide, while being distrusted by his respected king.

 

Before his death, Bai Qi said that after such great deal of his killings, he deserved a tragic ending. 

 

Besides his slaughter of nearly half a million captives, his military achievement and strategy was indeed exceptional in the history of China.

 

Unlike the other generals, Bai Qi wasn’t interested in occupying lands and cities; instead, his main purpose was to perish the effective strength as much as possible.

 

As an extraordinary general who was great at war of annihilation, his prediction, calculation, and movement in every battle were always extremely accurate and remarkable. 

 

Bai Qi had long been resented by people from the Kingdom Zhao; however, he was quite respected by people of the Kingdom Qin.  

 

He brought his people with victory and had only killed trained soldiers in the battlefields, never civilians. 

 

Many of Qin's people sympathized Bai Qi, for his exceptional achievements but ended with such a sad ending, so they built many ancestral halls to memorize him. Till now, his descendants are still guarding his ancestral temple in his birthplace.