The White Snake Uprising-斩白蛇起义


After Chen Sheng and Wu Guang launched the mass uprising in Daze Township, the descendant of Chu’s famous general, Xiang Liang, also rose in rebellion with his nephew Xiang Yu. They killed the commandant of Wuzhong (present-day Suzhou, Jiangsu), and the twenty-four-year-old Xiang Yu showed exceptional prowess by single-handedly slaying over a hundred guards of the commandant’s residence. Subsequently, they led thousands of passionate men from Wuzhong to join the anti-Qin uprising.

After Chen Sheng’s demise, his former lieutenant Lu Chen, filled with resentment, swiftly raised the banner of the Zhang Chu regime again, reclaiming Chen County, which had been occupied by Qin forces. He then joined forces with his subordinate Zhaoping, and both pledged allegiance to Xiang Liang, who was appointed as the Grand General of the Upper Pillar State, reviving the anti-Qin struggle. Before long, Xiang Liang installed the grandson of King Huai of Chu as king, still adopting the title of King Huai of Chu. Xiang Liang and Xiang Yu fought valiantly, successively capturing Dong’e, Dingtao, and other places, scattering the Qin troops.

Meanwhile, news of a peasant uprising in Zhongyangli, located in Pei County (modern-day Peixian, Jiangsu), spread. Leading this movement was a man named Liu Bang, originally a commoner who, despite his idleness, possessed remarkable eloquence and rapport with local officials, which earned him the position of a district magistrate (responsible for managing an area within ten li). One day, while escorting laborers to Mount Li to work on Qin Shihuang’s mausoleum, Liu Bang found his group dwindling as people escaped. Realizing the dire consequences of arriving with insufficient laborers, he freed the bound laborers under the cover of night, advising them to flee for their lives. However, upon encountering a large white snake blocking their path, Liu Bang fearlessly slew the snake with his sword. Grateful, some laborers departed, while others pledged to follow Liu Bang, repaying him for saving their lives. Contemplating his options, Liu Bang decided to seek refuge in Mangdang Mountain with these followers.

Seeing uprisings across the country, the county magistrate of Pei County also sought to join the anti-Qin movement, both to gain the trust of the rebels and to maintain control over the county. The magistrate enlisted Fan Kuai to seek out Liu Bang. Fan Kuai, a close friend of Liu Bang, soon brought Liu Bang, along with some laborers who had remained, and the gradually arriving refugees, back to Pei County, totaling over a hundred people.

However, the magistrate soon realized the potential danger of his actions, fearing that Liu Bang might not comply with his orders. Apprehensive of Liu Bang’s intentions, he preemptively closed the city gates, ordering death to anyone attempting to open them, and had soldiers arrest Xiao He and Cao Can. Little did he know that Xiao He and Cao Can had received advance warning and had already fled Pei County. They lay in wait for Liu Bang’s arrival, informing him of the situation in the city and devising a plan to unite the populace against the magistrate. Liu Bang then wrote a letter, attached it to an arrow, and shot it into the city. Outraged by the magistrate’s actions, the people stormed the county office, killed the magistrate, and opened the city gates to welcome Liu Bang. Under the people’s support, Liu Bang, adopting the symbolism of slaying the white snake, plunged into the uprising. Since he launched the uprising in Pei County, people also referred to him as “Lord of Pei.”

Subsequently, Liu Bang, with several thousand men, began attacking neighboring counties, achieving some success in the uprising. However, Liu Bang’s forces remained insufficiently powerful. At this opportune moment, Xiang Liang, under the banner of “King Huai of Chu,” was waging battles everywhere, prompting Liu Bang to join him with his followers.


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