Hou Yi Replaces Xia-后羿代夏

Yu successfully managed the flood, won the people’s hearts, and took over as the leader of the tribal alliance, marking the late stage of the tribal society. With the development of productive forces, surplus products emerged, and tribal leaders, using their authority, turned surplus products into private property, leading to the emergence of private ownership. Tribal leaders accumulated significant social wealth and became aristocrats. With the increase in surplus products, tribal conflicts for social wealth often led to wars. In these wars, captives were no longer killed but instead captured and turned into the private property of the aristocrats—slaves. This marked the formation of two classes: the slaves and the slaveowners, pushing the tribal society to the brink of collapse.

Yu himself belonged to a large aristocratic family, owning thousands of slaves and countless cattle and sheep. In his later years, Yu reportedly inspected the eastern regions, summoning tribal leaders to a meeting at Mount Kuaiji (in the present-day Shaoxing area of Zhejiang). Many leaders attended, referred to as the “myriad nations,” and they all came with precious gifts. However, one leader from the Fengfeng tribe did not attend, which angered Yu. He ordered the Fengfeng tribe to be exterminated. This incident demonstrated that Yu had become not just the leader of the tribal alliance but a true king.

As Yu aged, he followed the abdication system, selecting Boyi as his successor to assist in flood control. However, Boyi died early, and after Yu’s death, his son Qi took over as the new leader, establishing the Xia Dynasty—the first slave society in Chinese history. Strictly speaking, Yu was the founding king of the Xia Dynasty and the creator of the slave society.

In the early days of the Xia Dynasty, the regime was not stable. Qi invited tribal leaders to banquets to gain their recognition of the new dynasty. However, the leaders, adhering to the ancient tradition of choosing leaders based on ability, were dissatisfied with Qi’s actions, which they viewed as treating the world as his own. Among them, a leader from the Hufeng tribe refused to attend the banquet. Enraged, Qi launched a military campaign against the Hufeng tribe, defeating them in battle and exterminating the entire tribe. This victory intimidated other tribal leaders, preventing further dissent, and they expressed their willingness to submit to the Xia Dynasty.

Qi appointed tribal leaders as kings of their respective tribes and granted them the title of marquis, subjecting these marquisates to the Xia Dynasty’s rule. This established a coercive national system, consolidating the Xia Dynasty’s position. In the early stages of the slave society, despite some people being freed from labor, under the coercion of slave owners, slaves were able to engage in concentrated labor, resulting in increased productivity. Soon, the Xia Dynasty prospered with tributes from all directions, social stability, and the Xia Dynasty’s position was firmly established.

However, Qi’s incompetence and indulgence led to internal power struggles, and after his death, a power struggle ensued among his five sons for succession. After fierce competition, Tai Kang emerged victorious and became the new ruler. Despite initially enjoying prosperity, Tai Kang, like his father, neglected state affairs, indulged in sensual pleasures, and eventually died after ten years in power.

After Tai Kang’s death, his five sons all sought to succeed him, leading to a power struggle within the royal family. After intense competition, Tai Kang’s son, Tai Kang, emerged victorious and became the new ruler. After Tai Kang’s ascension, he believed that he could live in comfort and do as he pleased. However, neglecting state affairs and indulging in excess, he gradually disappointed his ministers, and the people became disheartened.

At this time, there was a ambitious leader named Hou Yi from the Dongyi tribe in the lower reaches of the Yellow River. This tribe had a legendary ancestor named Yi, an immensely powerful archer. According to the legend, in ancient times, there were ten suns in the sky, each representing a son of the Heavenly Emperor. These suns took turns to appear in the sky, ensuring only one sun at a time. However, one day, all ten suns appeared simultaneously, scorching the earth and causing rivers, lakes, and seas to dry up. The Heavenly Emperor sent Yi to discipline his ten unruly sons. Yi skillfully shot down nine of the suns with his bow and arrows, restoring order to the world.

The incompetence of Tai Kang provided an opportunity for other tribal leaders to seize power. Hou Yi, sensing Tai Kang’s weaknesses, saw a chance to take over. Tai Kang spent more than a hundred days on a hunting trip to the north bank of the Luo River, ignoring state affairs. Seizing this opportunity, Hou Yi occupied the Xia capital, Anyi, and stationed his troops on the south bank of the Luo River. When Tai Kang, unaware of the situation, returned to the riverbank, he found a large army on the south bank and sent messengers to inquire about the situation. His scouts reported that Hou Yi, claiming to “suppress the unrighteous,” had come to expel him. The tribal leaders, already dissatisfied with Tai Kang, were wary of Hou Yi’s military strength, and none came to support Tai Kang. Thus, Tai Kang found himself in exile, marking the historical event known as “Tai Kang losing his state.” Tai Kang spent 27 years in exile before succumbing to illness.

Hou Yi, having expelled Tai Kang, did not immediately declare himself king. Instead, he installed Tai Kang’s younger brother Zhong Kang as a puppet king, hoping to control the real power himself, leaving Zhong Kang as a mere figurehead. However, Zhong Kang was not content to be manipulated. Planning to weaken Hou Yi’s influence and reclaim power, Zhong Kang’s conspiracy was uncovered. He was subsequently placed under house arrest, fell into depression, and eventually died.

After Zhong Kang’s death, his son Xiang was supposed to ascend the throne, but as Xiang was still young, Hou Yi expelled him and seized the throne himself, marking the transfer of power within the Xia Dynasty. Thus, the Xia Dynasty entered the era of “Family Reigns Over the State,” and after only two generations of monarchs, political power fell into the hands of outsiders