Excessive Tax Collection Leads to an Earthquake in the Capital

By Yi Lian

PureInsight | July 14, 2008

[PureInsight.org] During the Yuan Dynasty, in the spring of the 24th year of Emperor Ziyuan (A.D. 1287), Hu Bilie entrusted authority to his minister Shang Ge. However, Shang Ge was autocratic and cruel in his politics. He favored members of his own party and at the same time, rebuked and attacked politicians from other parties who had differing views. Shang Ge established a department called the "Zhengli" (tax collection) that was responsible for collecting owed taxes. This department dispatched many officers to monitor the roads. People who could not pay the taxes were arrested, and the jails were soon crowded with people. People who walked on the road dared not talk and were often suspicious of each other.

Then Beijing suffered an earthquake. Arluhunsali wrote a letter to Hu Bilie recommending that he speak out about the situation openly. He said that the cause of the earthquake was the excessive tax collecting by the "Zhengli" Department and that people were furious and complained angrily. He appealed to Hu Bilie to do away with the "Zhengli" department and release the innocent people from jail. Hu Bilie followed Arluhunsali's recommendation, eliminated the "Zhengli" Department and waived the owed taxes. On the day that he announced his decision to the entire nation, people in Beijing cheered and celebrated. The market sold out of liquor. Later, Shang Ge's corruption was exposed, and he was dismissed from office and tried in court. When he was facing sentencing, Shang Ge sighed to Arluhunsali, "I ended up here today because I did not heed your advice."

In ancient China, everyone from the emperor and senior officials to the common people believed in the correspondence between heaven and the human world. They believed that if an emperor is virtuous and cares for his people, then gods will give people auspicious signs and blessings. If an emperor is ill-hearted and rules his country ruthlessly, harming his people, then gods will send disasters to warn the emperor. Earthquakes, droughts and other natural disasters were signs of warning to rulers. Whenever disasters came from heaven, emperors all needed to think about what they did wrong and issue an imperial decree to expose their mistakes to the whole nation. They fasted and prayed. They freed all innocent prisoners and tried to correct their mistakes in order to beg for pardon from gods and therefore bring an end to calamities and lay a foundation for future good fortune.

Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2008/6/19/53384.html

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