The licentious Xia Jie-荒淫的夏桀

The efforts of Shao Kang’s restoration brought about a prosperous era for the Xia Dynasty, consolidating the ruling position of the Xia royal family. Following this, the Xia Dynasty continued for over four hundred years until its seventeenth monarch, Jie.

Jie, also known as Gui or Lü Gui, was the last monarch of the Xia Dynasty. Jie was a legendary figure with outstanding literary and martial talents. He could straighten iron hooks with his bare hands and withstand attacks from tigers and leopards unarmed. With such exceptional abilities, he had the potential to benefit the people and become a wise and revered ruler. Unfortunately, Jie squandered his talents on indulgence and tyranny instead of using them for the administration and well-being of the realm.

Before Jie’s reign, the preceding monarch had failed in governance, leading to the decline of the Xia Kingdom and making it vulnerable to powerful vassal states. The Xia Dynasty faced internal and external threats, indicating a declining state. When Jie ascended to the throne, despite his exceptional abilities, he failed to take decisive measures to reverse the decline and instead focused on extreme indulgence, exacerbating the crisis of the Xia Dynasty.

Jie had a penchant for drinking and demanded only the purest wine, along with exquisite food. To satisfy his desires, he ordered his officials to search for fine wines and delicacies, causing the officials to toil anxiously due to Jie’s tyrannical nature.

Additionally, Jie surrounded himself with sycophants and dismissed loyal and wise ministers. One such sycophant was Zhao Liang, who knew how to flatter and please Jie. Observing Jie’s penchant for indulgence, Zhao Liang catered to his desires, presenting various ways to satisfy Jie’s hedonistic pursuits. Jie rewarded Zhao Liang for his efforts, further escalating the corruption within the court.

The Chief Historian, Zhonggu, could not bear to witness the suffering of the people under Jie’s extravagant and oppressive rule. Zhonggu entered the palace and earnestly advised Jie, “Throughout history, the emperors who were supported and loved by the people were those diligent and compassionate rulers. A king who concentrates the resources of the entire kingdom for the enjoyment of one person will lose the people’s trust. Continuation on this path will inevitably lead to the downfall of the nation.” Jie, angered by these words, dismissed Zhonggu’s counsel and accused him of exaggeration, interference, and meddling.

Jie’s insatiable greed led to incessant demands for tributes from various vassal states. One particular state, Youshi, resisted the excessive levies imposed by Jie. Enraged, Jie summoned the leaders of other vassal states, gathered a large army, and launched an eastern expedition against Youshi. This military campaign aimed not only to subjugate Youshi but also to intimidate other vassals into compliance.

Facing the overwhelming force, Youshi resisted valiantly but ultimately surrendered. In a gesture of submission, Youshi agreed to provide Jie with beautiful women and treasures. Among the women was a maiden named Meixi, renowned for her exceptional beauty. Jie, captivated by her beauty, made her his queen and decided to construct a grand palace called “Qing Palace” to honor her.

Meixi had a peculiar inclination – she enjoyed the sound of tearing silk and satin. She found the sound crisp and delightful, and each time she heard it, she burst into laughter. Capitalizing on this quirk, Jie ordered his servants to bring the finest fabrics contributed by the people, and strong palace maids tore them one by one in front of Meixi to amuse her. This extravagant act wasted precious resources and further burdened the people.

Jie’s excessive indulgence in luxury and cruelty deepened the suffering of the common people. The burdens imposed by forced labor disrupted their production and livelihoods. Despite the people’s silent resentment, voicing any dissent could result in severe punishment, stifling any potential opposition.

Jie’s tyrannical rule and extravagance created unbearable conditions for the people, leading to widespread discontent. However, Jie remained oblivious to the brewing turmoil and surrounded himself with flatterers who painted a rosy picture of the realm, believing falsely in the tranquility of his reign.

Unbeknownst to Jie, the people had reached their limit, expressing their discontent through veiled complaints and secretly wishing for the downfall of the Xia Dynasty. Jie’s despotic and extravagant governance hastened the Xia Dynasty’s decline, setting the stage for a significant upheaval.