Chinese Culture Culture Soul of China

Valor and self-sacrifice

Halfway into his reign, Ming Emperor Wan Li (萬曆 1573-1620) deployed a lot of eunuchs across the country to serve as mine supervisors and tax collectors. Invoking revenue generation, the eunuchs wantonly extorted large sums of money from the people. This further oppressed the masses, especially those living in dire poverty and had no livelihood. Cries of discontent resonated throughout the land.
In 1599, about 4,000 angry people in Lin Qing (臨清), Shandong province, fed up with the brutal exploitation of the feudal authority, ousted tax collector Ma Tang (馬堂). They torched his office, killed more than 30 of his henchmen and tattooed the words 偷賊 (pilferer) on their arms.
The incident shocked the feudal authority. It dispatched soldiers to suppress the masses whom it now considered its enemy. Many innocent people were killed in the indiscriminate attacks.
Wang Chao Zuo (王朝作), a commoner, defied the brute force. He bravely stepped forward and indignantly claimed he was the initiator. He dared the authority to kill him instead of implicating the innocent. He calmly and unflinchingly met his death.
To honor Wang Chao Zuo’s bravery, the people of Lin Qing built a temple for him and worshiped him yearly.
In 1601, the tax collector of Su Zhou (蘇州), Sun Long (孫隆), hiked business taxes on all sorts of pretext. Many weaving workshops closed down. Weavers and dyers lost their livelihood and, consequently, their ability to buy food and clothing.
In July, the unemployed workers, driven beyond the limits of their forbearance, chose Ge Cheng (葛誠) as their leader and staged an uprising. They killed six of Sun Long’s trusted followers. They arrested the general tax collectors and threw them into the river. They burned down the houses of ruffians.
The people sieged the municipal office and demanded a stop to tax collection. A frightened Sun Long secretly escaped to Han Zhou and hid there.
Upon learning about the uprising, the flustered and exasperated Emperor Wan Li immediately ordered the protesters arrested. To protect the masses, Ge Cheng surrendered to authorities. He was pardoned and released in 1613.
Ge Cheng died in 1630. His tomb was built in Su Zhou’s Hu Qiu (虎丘), beside the tombs of five other chivalrous persons. Together, the site is known as the tombs of six chivalrous persons.