National Uprising-国人暴动

During the reign of King Li of Zhou, the cities of the Zhou Dynasty typically had two layers of walls, dividing the city into the inner city (cheng) and the outer city (guo). The people residing within the inner city were referred to as “guo ren” or “countrymen.” Due to severe internal divisions among the aristocracy, many marginalized nobles and impoverished scholar-officials, as well as individuals from the general population such as craftsmen, merchants, and those from the lower social strata, became part of the “guo ren.” Those living outside the city were referred to as “wild men” or “commoners.”

During the reign of King Li of Zhou, the relationship between the court and some ethnic minorities was tense. King Li conducted frequent southern expeditions, pressuring the Dongyi people who had once submitted to Zhou into rebellion. Simultaneously, he had to defend against invasions from nomadic tribes in the west. Continuous warfare led to significant losses in agricultural production, resulting in extreme hardship for the common people.

King Li, driven by greed, implemented the “monopoly” policy, heavily taxing those who made a living utilizing natural resources such as mountains, forests, lakes, and marshes. The discontent among the common people grew, and to suppress their dissent, King Li employed the services of a diviner from the State of Wei to eavesdrop on their conversations. This diviner, acting ruthlessly, would punish those who expressed discontent, leading to a situation where the common people dared not speak openly but instead communicated through glances.

Under the oppressive policies of King Li, social contradictions further intensified. Although the common people seemed silent, their underlying discontent continued to rise.

In the year 841 BCE, the oppressive rule of King Li finally provoked a rebellion among the “guo ren” in Haojing (the capital). Armed with clubs and agricultural tools, they rallied and stormed the royal palace, seeking to kill King Li. Panicked, King Li ordered the military to suppress the rebellion. However, his ministers responded, stating that the soldiers of Zhou were drawn from the “guo ren,” meaning that the rebels were essentially their own soldiers. With the “guo ren” in open rebellion, there were no soldiers to call upon.

Faced with this predicament, King Li, in order to save himself, hastily fled from Haojing, escaping along the Wei River to Zhi (modern-day Huozhou in Shanxi). King Li eventually met his end in Zhi, and this uprising of the “guo ren” became known as the “Zhi Rebellion.”

When the rebels entered the royal palace, King Li had already fled, but the angry commoners turned their wrath toward the Crown Prince Ji Jing. Duke of Shao (召穆公) managed to conceal Ji Jing in his own residence. Learning of this, the infuriated commoners besieged Duke of Shao’s residence, demanding the surrender of the Crown Prince. To protect the Crown Prince, Duke of Shao used his own son as a substitute. The Bamboo Annals recorded, “(The commoners) took the son of Duke of Shao and killed him.” Thus, the Crown Prince was spared from harm.

Believing that they had avenged the killing of the Crown Prince and following the counsel of Duke of Shao and Zhou Dinggong, the commoners gradually dispersed.

King Li’s escape left Zhou without a ruler temporarily, but the state could not be without a leader for long. Therefore, under the leadership of Duke of Shao and Zhou Dinggong, a noble assembly was convened. After deliberation, the nobles decided to temporarily manage state affairs jointly under the leadership of Duke of Shao and Zhou Dinggong. Important matters were discussed by the six ministers, marking the establishment of a “Zhou-Shao Republic” or “Republican Administration.” The year 841 BCE became known as the first year of the republic. From this point on, a clear system of chronological records emerged in Chinese history, uninterrupted for thousands of years.