Dazexiang Uprising

The Dazexiang Uprising (simplified Chinese: 大泽乡起义; traditional Chinese: 大澤鄉起義; pinyin: Dàzéxiāng Qǐyì, July 209 BCE - December 209 BCE), also known as the Uprising of 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.

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 men.

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 Swamp Village".


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 philistines. 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.

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