The Dazexiang uprising (simplified Chinese: 大泽乡起义;
traditional Chinese: 大澤鄉起義; pinyin: Dàzéxiāng Qǐyì,
July 209 B.C. - December 209 B.C.), also known as the Uprising
Chen Sheng and
Wu Guang (simplified Chinese: 陈胜吴广起义;
traditional Chinese: 陳勝吳廣起義; pinyin: Chén Shèng Wú
Guǎng Qǐyì), was the first uprising against Qin rule following the
death of Qin Shi Huang.
Uprisings of Qin Dynasty
Chen Sheng and
Wu Guang were both army officers who were ordered to
lead their bands of commoner soldiers north to participate in the
defense of Yuyang (漁陽). However, they were stopped halfway in
Anhui province by flooding from a severe rainstorm. The harsh Qin laws
mandated execution for those who showed up late for government jobs,
regardless of the nature of the delay. Figuring that they would rather
fight for their freedom than face execution, Chen and Wu organized a
band of 900 villagers to rebel against the government.
With Chen's men declaring him king of the former Kingdom of Chu, he
and Wu became the centre of armed uprisings all over China. Over the
course of just a few months, their strength grew to around ten
thousand men, a force composed mostly of discontented peasants.
However, in less than a year, their uprising faced serious trouble;
their force was no match for the highly skilled battlefield tactics of
the professional Qin soldiers and both were assassinated by their own
While their insurrection was ultimately unsuccessful, Wu and Chen set
up the example that was to be followed by
Liu Bang and Xiang Yu. Their
spirit is best summed up in Chen's quote "王侯將相寧有種乎"
(wáng hóu jiāng xiāng níng yǒu zhǒng hu, "Are kings and nobles
given their high status by birth?"), meaning that every man,
regardless of birth, can become something great if he applies himself.
The uprising was started in Dazexiang, which translates into "Big
Chen Sheng and
Wu Guang led the uprising.
Chen Sheng was a tenant who
was born in Henan and
Wu Guang was his townsman. When
Chen Sheng was
young, he used to plow with some peasants. One day, he felt tired,
then he stopped working and went to a hill for a rest. At that time,
he said to his companions "If someone among us rises to power and
position, please don't forget us." His companions laughed at him and
said "You are a tenant, how can you be rich and powerful?" Chen Sheng
sighed and said "How can a sparrow comprehend the ambition of a swan?"
(燕雀安知鸿鹄之志哉?) Later on,
Chen Sheng became an army
officer, and led the Uprising with Wu Guang, his deputy.
Wu Guang was
a kind and influential man, but nothing more could be found about him
from the history records.
^ J.Huang (2004). The Dynamics of China's Rejuvenation.
^ Hong Liu (2015). The Chinese Strategic Mind. Edward Elgar
Publishing. p. 145.
^ Joshua Zhang, James D. Wright (2018). Violence, Periodization and
Definition of the Cultural Revolution: A Case Study of Two Deaths by
the Red Guards. BRILL.
Qin dynasty topics
Qin's wars of unification
Qin's campaign against the Xiongnu
Qin's campaign against the Yue tribes
Burning of books and burying of scholars
Battle of Julu
He Shi Bi
Twelve Metal Colossi
Shuihudi Qin bamboo texts
Ten Crimes of Qin