Goujian (520?-465BC) was a descendent of the Miao people in the Yu the Great years. One of Goujian’s grandfathers was appointed by a prince in the Xia Dynasty to guard the Yu’s Mausoleum in Kuaiji (today’s Shaoxing).
In the 23rd year of Emperor Jing of the Zhou Dynasty, Goujian ascended the throne as the King of Yue State. In the first year of Goujian, Helu, the King of the Wu State, invaded the Yue State. Goujian deployed his army in Xieli (today’s Jiaxing) to resist the invading army. Guojian’s army defeated the Wu invaders and the King of the Wu was hurt by an arrow. On his deathbed, Helu told his son Fuchai, “Never forget Yue.” After ascending the throne, Fuchai trained his army in a determination for revenge. In May 492BC, Goujian and his wife as well as Fan Li, a minister, were put into a prison made of stones. Goujian chopped woods and took care of horses, and his wife watered gardens, swept courtyards and cleaned toilets. For three years, they never showed any resentment and anger. Fuchai was pleased and granted an amnesty. Goujian and his wife were released. They went back home. In 490BC, Goujian arrived home. He underwent self-imposed hardships, sleeping on a bed made of rough woods and tasting galls now and then, to strengthen his determination for revenge. He worked in the farm, and shared a hard life with commoners. For years, Goujian worked everything possible to unite his people, enriched his state, lightened punishment for violations of laws, levied light taxes, encouraged people to give birth to more children, and build up his army. He also adopted his prime minister’s advice to build a square city for a starter and build a larger square city later. As a result of these endeavors, his subjects became rich and the society was stable. The nation under his leadership wanted to avenge the Wu State.
In 482 BC, Fuchai the duke of the Wu State met in Huangchi with his counterparts from northern states. His crown prince was left at home to guard the state. Goujian mobilized 40,000 soldiers including 6,000 bodyguards he headed to conquer the Wu State. Goujian defeated Wu army, captured the prince, seized the capital and burned the Guxi palace. Fuchai asked an armistice. Thinking he was not powerful enough to conquer the Wu State, so he agreed to withdraw. In 487 BC, he started another revenging war on Wu. The two states battled three times at a place called Lize and Goujian scored three wins. Three years later, Goujian again started a war. His army besieged the Wu capital for three years. Fuchai asked for a peace treaty and committed suicide after the request was turned down. Goujian finally annexed the Wu state in 473 BC.
According to a history book called Yue History, “The Yue State set up the capital in Langya where the Yue Kings ruled for 240 years before King Kaolie of the Chu State annexed Yue State. Over four decades after that, Qin annexed Chu State. Another 40 years later, the Han Dynasty replaced the Qin Dynasty. It was 567 years from the time Goujian moved his capital to Langya to the 28th year of the Jianwu Period.”
Editor: Wang Moyan
King Goujian was Miao.
Sword of King Goujian