Disturbance and Security
It is said that when official are severe in everything, no one knows where it will end. If they feed off the people so severely that people are hungry and impoverished, this produces disturbances and rebellion.
Encourage people in productive work, don’t deprive them of their time. Lighten their taxes, don’t exhaust their resources. In this way the country is made wealthy and families secure.
The sun that had shone so brightly on the Han Dynasty had finally begun to set during the reign of Emperor Ling (AD156 – 189).
For decades, the country was beset by a series of natural disasters wreaking havoc throughout the country. Faced with these natural disasters, many farmers and former military settlers in the north sought employment in the south, where large landowners took advantage of the labor surplus and amassed large fortunes. Further pressure was added on the peasants by high taxes imposed on them in order to build fortifications along the Silk Road and garrisons against foreign infiltrations and invasions. In this situation, landowners and landless peasants formed armed bands, setting the stage for an armed conflict.
At the same time, the Han was weakening internally. The court eunuchs in particular gained considerably in influence on the emperor, which they abused to enrich themselves. Ten of the most powerful eunuchs formed a group known as The Ten Regular Attendants and the Emperor referred to one of them, Zhang Rang as his ‘foster father’. The Han Government was widely regarded as corrupt and incapable. Against this backdrop, the famines and floods were seen as an indication that a decadent emperor had lost his mandate of Heaven. The time was ripe for a rebellion.
黃巾之亂 The Yellow Turban Rebellion
In AD184, Zhang Jiao and his movement ‘The Way of Peace’, raised arms in an attempt to overthrow the Han Dynasty. This instigated rioting amongst the general populace leading to the largest peasant uprising in history. Over 360,000 peasants joined the Yellow Turban Rebellion. These rebels were easily recognizable as they wore yellow scarves around their heads.
However, the chaos gave birth to many distinguished heroes across the lands. These included Cao Cao, sworn brothers: Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, Sun Jian, Yuan Shao, Dong Zhuo and many others. With the assistance of such heroes, the Han armies finally managed to quell the rebellion by AD192.
The Han armies had gained a glorious victory, and it was a remarkable achievement that they removed so quickly the threat of Zhang Jiao's rebellion. The cost, however, was very high. Many offices of the government had been destroyed, magistrates had been killed, and whole districts were cut off from the writ of the central government.
The enemy had been slaughtered in the hundreds and thousands whilst many innocent people had been left homeless or destitute by the wars. The economy and society over large parts of the northern region of the empire were left in ruins and without resources. Unrest remained and bandits appeared in every district; the government, in no position to put down all the lesser disturbances, was forced to patch up the situation as best it could.
The seeds of the destruction of the Han Empire had been sown. Had Emperor Ling heeded the Zhuge Liang’s advice on ensuring the peasants were wealthy and their families secure, the general populace would never have joined the Yellow Turban Rebellion. It was his incompetence that would lead to the eventual disintegration of the Han Empire, that had lasted over four centuries.