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Chapter 3: The Great Ch`u Kingdom

At this time, it only remains a theory but it is very possible that the Chu Kingdom was Hmong. It was certainly not Chinese, so if it wasnt Hmong, itd be Thai. I interviewed a Hmong historian whos able to read, write, and speak Chinese, giving him the ability to read many books about the Chu Kingdom and Hmong history in China. He stated that all sources and statements made by other scholars show that the Chu Kingdom was Hmong. He also has good knowledge that was passed from the Hmong elders who kept the oral history from the day it was first spoken to this day now. It was fairly accurate to the Chinese history and to other Hmong oral history tellers, and so he reasons that the Chu Kingdom was Hmong.

The founder of the Chu Kingdom was known as Chu Chang. This upcoming story is based on Cheng Leng`s studies from Chinese history combined with his interviews with Hmong elders about the Hmong oral history.

It is the period known as the Warring Kingdoms era, but best known as Warring States era during the last centuries of the Eastern Zhou or Chou (pronounced joe) Dynasty. This huge war broke out because the Chou rulers were losing power as many states emerged in power from trade and war between one another. The Warring States era started in 475 BC with after more than two hundred years of fighting, in 256BC, after the fall of the Chou capital, stood only seven kingdoms, Qi (Chi), Qin (Chin), Chu, Han, Yan, Wei (pronounced way), and Zhao. Of all seven, Qin and Chu were the largest and most powerful in terms of economy and military power. But the story Im about to tell you took place during the climax of the Chu Kingdoms power in late 4th century BC into early 3rd century BC.

There was a boy by the name of Chu Yuan born in 332BC. His uncle wanted him to study social life, but he did not want to study social life. His uncle asked him to study the art of fighting in combat, but he didnt want to study that either. His uncle then asked him to study political science, and so he finally found an interest. He studied political science and achieved a good rank among the nobles of Chu as he grew up becoming a man.

(Everything below this was not written by me and can be found on other websites, I believe it came from a history book)

The great poet Chu Yuan became a minister for King Huai of Chu as a young man. He was saddened by how the people had suffered from ceaseless war. Loyal to his country and people, Chu advised his king to appoint talented and capable persons and promote the general welfare. By doing so, he found favor with the king. By this time, the state of Chin had become the most powerful, often invading the other six states.

Chu led many trips to Chi, Yan, Zhao, Han, and Wei to seek their cooperation in resisting Chin`s expansionism. His diplomatic efforts were rewarded in the 11th year of King Huai`s reign, when the heads of the six states gathered at the Chu capital city of Yingtu for the official commencement of an anti-Chin alliance. King Huai was chosen to lead the alliance. The alliance posed an effective deterrent to Chin`s ambition. It also earned Minister Chu more prestige giving him the right to oversee a wide spectrum of domestic and diplomatic affairs. A group of Chu aristocrats led by Prince Tzu-lan became jealous of Chu. They often complained to King Huai of Chus alleged arrogance and waywardness. Hearing more and more complaints, the king became less satisfied with his minister.

The King of Chin learned from his spies of this development. He had long wished to attack the state of Chi but was afraid of the six-state alliance. He asked his prime minister Chang I how feasible it was now to realize his wish. Chang explained that, among the six states, Chi and Chu were the strongest. Once discord was sown between these two, the anti-Chin alliance would fall apart. He offered to make a trip to see if he could take the advantage of Chu`s internal conflict to undermine the alliance. The King of Chin was very pleased with this idea and prepared a considerable amount of gold and jewelry for Chang`s adventure. Chang returned to the king the prime minister`s seal, pretending to resign from his position before leaving for Chu.

Chang first visited Chu Yuan. At their meeting, he boasted about how strong Chin was and proposed that Chu enter an alliance with Chin. Chu replied, The Chu state must maintain its commitment to the existing six-state alliance. Chang then turned to Prince Tzu-lan and Chin Shang, another Chu minister. In the meantime, his bribes were passed on to nearly all the Chu aristocrats. Chang told the prince, Since it is due to the six-state alliance that Chu Yuan became King Huai`s most trusted minister, he will be no longer once the alliance is broken. Tzu-lan nodded in agreement. The Chu aristocrats agreed to enter into Chang`s conspiracy.

Through Tzu-lan, Chang also approached King Huai`s favorite princess Cheng Hsiu, who received from him a pair of white jade talismans worth more than 10,000 gold ingots. The precious stones dazzled the princess. The princess expressed her willingness to promote the proposed Chin-Chu alliance in the conspiracy agreed that there could be no new alliance until the six-state alliance was disunited and the old alliance could not be broken until something was done to separate King Huai from Minister Chu. Tzu-lan encouraged Cheng Hsiu to drop a hint to King Huai that Minister Chu had taken bribes from Chang. Chang urged the princess, Young Excellency must take this opportunity to help both countries.

All these activities paved the way for Chang I to meet with King Huai. He listed the numerous advantages of withdrawing from the alliance with Chi and joining with Chin. At last, he said, The King of Chin is ready to present to Chu more than 100 square miles` territory as a gift. King Huai was a greedy man. How could he not be tempted by this seemingly generous offer? He told Cheng Hsiu of his meeting with Chang I after he returned to his palace. Cheng congratulated him, then frowned and said, I hear Chu Yuan asked Chang for a pair of white jade talismans but was turned down. Im afraid he will be unhappy with the new alliance. These words aroused the king`s suspicions. The next day, King Huai hosted a banquet for Chang I, and Chu Yuan criticized Tzu-lan and Chin Shang for their of the so-called Chu-Chin friendship. He believed that abandoning the six-state alliance would yield to Chins opportunities for further expansion and eventually threaten the very existence of Chu itself.

He condemned Chang I, Tzu-lan and Chin Shang in front of the king, saying, Your Excellency should not listen to their drivel about the Chu-Chin alliance. Chang I has been sent here by Chin to drive a wedge into our six-state alliance and isolate our state from the other five. Your Excellency mustn`t trust him. Unable to quench his desire for the free gift of land that Chin had promised or to forget what Princess Cheng had told him, King Huai retorted, Is a new territory not worth the pair of white jade talismans that you once demanded from Chang I? He ordered that Chu Yuan be taken out of his court by the garrison soldiers.

Chu waited at the stage of the palace, hoping that the king would change his mind and avert disaster. As he stood there waiting, he saw Chang I, Tzu-lan and Chin Shang walk out of the gate, all looking very happy. He murmured to himself in despair, Chu, why have you fallen into danger again? Foreseeing the collapse of the six-state alliance that he had helped to build and the end of Chus prosperity, Chu Yuan became very depressed. His sister, Nu Hsu, tried to console him. Chu said, As a Chu subject, how can I remain indifferent when my country is faced with a crisis?

He still believed the king would see the truth, but he was no longer summoned. He was so depressed that he couldn`t sleep at night. It was at this time that he composed the long poem Li Sao, literally The Lament For Leaving. This masterpiece was filled with his sorrow for his country as well as for himself. The poem was read by people in the Chu court, and was used by Tzu-lan and Chin Shang against Chu. They told King Huai that in the poem he was compared with a despotic ruler. The king was enraged and dismissed Chu Yuan from his official post.

The dismissal nearly drove Chu Yuan mad. Nu Hsu suggested that he leave Yingtu and seek tranquility elsewhere. But even if I myself leave, how would I be able to bring along my country and my people? Chu replied. At Nu Hsu`s urging, he at last decided to leave Yingtu for Hanpei. He departed reluctantly, looking back at the skyline of the Chu capital What a magnificent city! During the journey, he inquired about the state affairs.

One day, he saw in an old temple some murals depicting Heaven and Earth and the gods and sages of ancient times. The murals reminded him of the wisdom of the ancient sages, and he wondered at King Huai`s senselessness. He cried out to the gods, Is there no justice in this land? This inspired him to write the long poem entitled T`en Wen. Soon after King Huai severed diplomatic relations with Chi and dissolved the six-state alliance, he sent an envoy to Chin with Chang I to take possession of the new territory. When they arrived in the Chin capital city of Hsienyang, Chang I pretended to fall down and break his leg. A carriage came and took him away.

The Chu envoy appealed for a meeting with Chang each day, but each time, Chang postponed the meeting, claiming that he needed time for his leg to heal. The meeting did not take place until three months had passed, when Chang I was sure that the six-state alliance no longer existed. When the Chu envoy brought up the transfer of land, however, Chang appeared as if he had never known of this matter, saying, What I promised as a gift to King Huai was one square mile of my own lands. How can I give away our state`s land?

The envoy was forced to return home empty-handed, and King Huai realized he had been tricked. The king appointed General Chu Kai, commander of the 100,000 troops that he had amassed over the years to resist Chin. The King of Chin then allied with Chi to battle the Chu invasion on two fronts. Unable to compete with the combined forces of two strong military powers, the Chu army incurred a series of defeats. General Chu Kai was killed and the Chin troops occupied Chus Hanchung region.

When this news reached Hanpei, Chu Yuan despaired. He rushed back to Yingtu to help reorganize the resistance against Chin. He received a message from King Huai before he reached Yingtu. He was to go to Chi to seek the restoration of the former alliance. His Excellency has realized the truth at last, Chu thought, heaving a sigh of relief, and he set forth immediately. Even though the King of Chi despised King Huai, he respected Chu Yuan and after a few rounds of negotiations agreed to cease fighting against Chu. While he was still in Chi, Chu Yuan learned that King Huai had begun negotiating again with Chin. Fearing his king would be deceived once again, he wasted no time parting with his hosts.

Passing through Chus Yunmeng area, he saw some villagers mourning their dead soldiers. Moved by the scene, Chu Yuan stopped to participate in the ceremony. Facing the shrines, he read aloud his newly-composed poem Kuo Shang to commemorate the young warriors who had dedicated their lives to their state. All who listened wept. As he continued on his way, Chu Yuan heard that Chang I had returned to Yingtu. Chus sense of urgency increased.

Meantime, Tzu-lan, Chin Shang and Sheng Hsui feared that Chu Yuan would soon have the King`s ears again. The princess said to the king one night, Chu Yuan told the Yunmeng people that all who died in the recent battles were victims of the ideas that I advocated. He is coming to take revenge, I`m afraid. King Huai said, How dare he? He must be crazy then. He is, the princess went on. If not, how could he talk like that? I fear seeing him here. If you keep him in Yingtu, I will have no choice but to go south of the Yangtze River.

The king was thus persuaded to give Chu Yuan an assignment in another city. The message was passed on by Tzu-lan, along with the order that Chu Yuan assume his new office immediately. He would have no chance to visit the royal court. When Chu Yuan received the King`s order he looked up to heaven in despair and sighed, Your Excellency, you must act wisely; the future of Chu state depends on you. Nu Hsu urged her brother to leave quickly so that he would not get into trouble in Yingtu. Chu replied, You know, youre worried about me only because I`m worried about this state. But he followed her advice and soon left.

After Chu left, the whole cabinet sided with Tzu-lan and Cheng Hsiu. The alliance with Chi failed soon after, and beginning with the 27th year of King Huai`s reign, Chu was repeatedly invaded by Chin. Chus defenses were wearing thin. In the 30th year of King Huai`s reign, Chin seized eight more cities in the state`s northern region. King Huai was feeling greatly frustrated when a letter reached him from the King of Chin, inviting him to go to Wukuan, a Chin town, to discuss a rapprochement. The king could not decide whether to go or not. If he did not, he thought, Chu would continue to suffer defeat. But he did, he risked being taken prisoner.

Tzu-lan suggested he go, seeing the invitation as a propitious sign. Chin Shang also said, Maybe this meeting will earn Chu several years of peace. Cheng Hsiu, too, urged the king to go. So the king took their advice. The king and Chin Shang left Yingtu a few days later with 500 horses. Shortly after their departure, they saw a man approaching them. It was Chu Yuan. He had learned of King Huai`s meeting in Chin and had set off the night before with the hope of intervening. Chin is a dangerous place to go to, he advised. Your Excellency, please don`t listen to these incompetent statesmen and forsake your people.

Not having seen Chu for over a decade, King Huai saw how much he had aged. He realized that Chus decline had begun after Chu Yuan`s dismissal. The king sat in deep thought. Chin Shang said to Chu reproachfully, Today`s the day for His Excellency to begin a great journey. Why do you discourage him? Chu replied, Minister, you are also a Chu subject. And I assume that your heart is still with your people just as it should be. Dont let the King take this journey.

Chin Shang demanded that Chu step aside, but he would not. Chin ordered his men to push Chu out of the way and led the delegation forward. Chu scrambled to his feet and ran after them, but Chin Shang rode on. Chu helplessly watched the delegation disappear on the horizon. Two weeks later, only Chin Shang returned. No sooner had the king arrived at Wukuan than he and his entourage had been seized by Chin troops and sent to Hsienyang under escort. The news soon spread. Cheng Hsiu proclaimed King Huai`s son Hsiungheng the new king. She herself would manage the state affairs, and Tzu-lan would be her minister.

Chu Yuan came to Yingtu to visit the new king, King Ch`inghsiang, and expressed the hope that Chu would rebuild the six-state alliance and with its support, press Chin for the release of King Huai. As those who had urged King Huai to make the trip to Chin, Tzu-lan and his faction were afraid of being killed if theking came back. They would not listen to Chu Yuan and banished him from Yingtu, never letting him return. Three years passed and Chu learned of the death of the old king in Chin. It turned out that when King Huai was brought to Hsienyang, the King of Chin had tried to force him to agree to Chins annexation of Chus Ch`ienchung region. King Huai had refused. Chin then put King Huai under house arrest.

After a year, the King had escaped and fled from Hsienyang. He walked for a few days and entered the state of Zhao, where he appealed for asylum. But the Zhao people did not take him in because he had betrayed the six-state alliance. King Huai then turned toward the state of Wei in the south but was caught by Chin soldiers half ways there. King Huai soon fell ill and died a year later. Chin returned King Huai`s body to Chu. The people of Chu were humiliated and wept when they saw the king`s coffin on the road.

Chu Yuan cried bitterly before the King`s bier. All his hope for Chus independence had depended on this king. Now he was gone, and so was his former minister`s hope. Chu appealed to King Ch`inghsiang to rebuild the six-state alliance, but the new king showed no interest. Chu stood before the gate of the palace, day and night, hoping to win the king`s sympathy but succeeded only in making Cheng Hsiu angry. She sent Tzu-lan to accuse him to be disobedient and contemptuous for the king. Tzu-lan threatened to call the royal guards to send Chu away. Chu roared at him, You are the one who encouraged King Huai to go to Chin. Are you a minister of this government or a spy for Chin? You have ruined this land, and the Chu people are tired of you.

Tzu-lan anxiously told Cheng Hsiu what Chu Yuan had said. The princess replied furiously, He is mad. I don`t want him here cursing us. Send him far, far away. He will never again have an official post. Chu was dismissed from his position and sent to the south of the Yangtze River. Before going to live in exile, Chu told Nu Hsu to move to their native town, and said to her, I have suffered all a man can possibly suffer. I only regret that our state has been ruined. He set up a memorial tablet for King Huai, and sang a long poem to elegize his death and express his own fond memories of Chus prosperous days. Exiled in Lingyang, Chu berated himself for his inability to reverse Chus fate. Frustrated by his powerlessness and the boredom of exile, Chu decided to visit the other states. But he hesitated at the Chu border. His horse neighed and his groom looked back at Chu. Chu concluded, Yes, these two men, and this horse, are all Chus. We shall stay in Chu for our final days.

He spent nine years in Lingyang, constantly yearning for Yingtu and distressed by the bad news from the capital. Remembering that King Huai had died for Ch`ienchung region, he traveled there, but was prevented from speaking to the people. All he could do was to take strolls in the mountains or along the lakeside. Overwhelmed by his sorrow and frustration, Chu Yuan turned to his poetry. In the 21st year of King Ch`inghsiang`s reign, the tragedy anticipated by Chu Yuan finally came to pass. The Chin army headed by General Pai Chi, took Yingtu and destroyed all Chus ancestral temples and mausoleums. Chu was to be no more. Chu Yuan decided to go back to Yingtu to end his life. Unwashed and disheveled, he staggered to the Milo River and looked down at the white haired old man reflected in the water.

He walked along the river, cursing the enemy and the greed of politicians. He was determined to arouse his people`s patriotism and condemn those who had destroyed Chu State by taking his own life. He took off his clothes, tied a rock to his waist, and plunged into the river. That day was the fifth day of the Chinese lunar calendar. For many years, he was mourned by the people. To honor him on the day of his death, they would hang up swordsand put out wine to ward off evil. Believing that the patriotic poet would enjoy eternal life, they would row dragon boats out on the river to look for him. Chu Yuan became a symbol of patriotism for the Chinese people. Today the Hmong in China hold the dragon boat festival as important as their new year.