Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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King Li of Zhou -- A Reformist Who Starved to Death

Ji Hu (904 B. C. — 829 B. C.), also respected as King Li of Zhou or Zhou Li Wang, was the tenth monarch of Zhou Dynasty in the history of China.

 

He was always regarded as a tyrant, but also a brave reformist.

 

His reform achieved success and made his kingdom stronger in the beginning, but many of the controversial policies hurt both noble and civilian’s interest. 

 

Enthronement and Predicament

When Ji Hu, now the King Li of Zhou, ascended the throne, Zhou Dynasty had experienced a huge decline already.

 

Many vassal states stopped paying tribute or pledging loyalty to the central royal government; a lord in the south even claimed himself king, while nomadic regimes kept harassing Zhou on the northern borders. 

 

King Li of Zhou's Controversial Reform with Consequences 

King Ji Hu immediately nominated some people he trust to be ministers of economy and military, which overthrown the system that only nobles could serve in important positions.

 

Those ministers convinced the king to claim the ownership of all the mountains and lakes and asked people to pay money if they wanted to approach those places.

 

The King Li of Zhou also monopolized all the profitable industries and made lots of money.

 

In addition, he put all the noble titles and lots of political positions in clear prices and let whoever rich to buy.

 

With those efforts, he collected large amounts of treasures into the exchequer while civilians became more poverty. 

 

These reform policies, though, enriched the country obviously, they strongly weakened nobles’ benefits as well.

 

A few years after the king's reform, Empire Zhou defeated all the invading armies and retrieved their lost lands; all the drifted lords pledged their loyalty again and recovered the tribute system.

 

Even the king of that southern powerful vassal state abrogated his king's title and became a subdued lord again. 

 

The King with the First Plain Clothes Spy Agency

The King Li of Zhou also invented the first plain clothes spy agency when he heard that his civilians were complaining about his reform policies.

 

Many people were sentenced to death or banished far away because of saying negative words about their king.

 

In addition to civilian’s increasing poverty, they finally initiated a riot toward him. 

 

Civilian's Riot and the Helpless King Li of Zhou

The King Li of Zhou then had to escape to an isolated mountain; he didn’t dare to go back to the capital again.

 

Two people from the royal family were in charge of the Empire Zhou for a few years, while Ji Hu, the ambitious reformist and powerful King Li of Zhou, was starved to death in that bleak mountain.  

 

When the riot happened, a royal minister hid Ji Hu's crown prince in his place; he sacrificed his own son when angry civilians were surrounding his house and asking for the prince.

 

Years later, after hearing the King Li of Zhou died in the banished mountain, those two royal members who were in charge welcomed the hidden crown prince back and enthroned him as the new king. 

 

The King Li of Zhou's achievements were remarkable in the history of China, which made his country powerful again and gained the loyalty of all the lords.

 

However, he displeased nobles by jeopardizing their interests, and hurted the civilians by making people shut up in cruel methods. 

 

Therefore, when the riot happened, he didn’t get support from either aristocrats or civilians.

 

This ambitious, powerful and aggressive reformist, unexpectedly, ended up in a wild mountain lonely and deplorably.