During the Qianlong period of the Qing Dynasty, there was a middle-class family in Fuzi Township, Guizhou County, headed by Liu Chengzong. Liu Chengzong is tall and powerful. He keeps his family’s 20 mu land in good order. In those years, the government was smooth and the people were harmonious. Emperor Qianlong exempted taxes for three years. In the early autumn of this year, Liu Chengzong took out the sickle in the warehouse, prepared to grind it and harvest rice in a few days. But he took out the sickle and saw that the teeth on it had been polished. He had to buy a new sickle. Just then, he heard someone shouting: “credit knife! Credit kitchen knife, sickle, firewood knife, pig killing knife, bone chopping knife…”
When Liu Chengzong looked, he saw a middle-aged man with a hat and a basket on his back. The circle around the mouth of the basket was full of sickle heads and firewood heads like a crescent moon. Liu Chengzong wondered. He had only heard of those who sold knives, but had never heard of those who sold knives on credit. So he said to the middle-aged man, “brother, go into the yard and have a drink.”
The middle-aged man did not refuse and walked into the yard. When the middle-aged man finished drinking water, Liu Chengzong asked, “I just heard my eldest brother say credit knife, can’t I call it wrong?”
The middle-aged man said, “yes, it’s a credit knife.”
Liu Chengzong asked, “how can I get credit?”
The middle-aged man asked, “how much is a kilo of rice now?”
Liu Chengzong said, “three Wen copper coins are a kilo.”
The middle-aged man asked, “how much is that sickle?”
Liu Chengzong said, “one thirty Wen copper coin.”
The middle-aged man said, “in other words, a sickle can be exchanged for ten kilograms of rice.” Liu Chengzong said it was good.
The middle-aged man said, “the credit knife is that you make a contract with me. I’ll give you the knife on credit, not a penny. When the rice rises to 30 Wen copper a kilo, I’ll collect the knife money again. At that time, a knife will be charged at 300 Wen copper.”
Liu Chengzong said with a smile, “if the price of rice rises ten times, we farmers will all be rich. My father lived 72 years old. After Kangxi, Yongzheng and this dynasty, the price of rice has only increased from two Wen and one jin to three Wen and one jin. I advise my eldest brother not to charge the knife. I’m afraid my eldest brother won’t receive the knife money if he lives forever.”
The middle-aged man smiled and said, “if I can’t live until then, naturally others will come to collect the money.”
Seeing that the middle-aged man didn’t listen to advice, Liu Chengzong thought that most of the man had something wrong with his brain, so he said he wanted a knife on credit. The middle-aged man said, “the man who credits the knife must be a man. Each man is limited to two knives.”
Liu Chengzong had two sons. There were three men in his family. He chose two sickles, two firewood knives, a pig killing knife and a bone chopping knife, and then signed his name on the middle-aged man’s account book. After the middle-aged man left, Liu Chengzong saw a small gossip figure engraved on each knife. He tried those knives. The steel fire was very good and the blade was sharp. It never rolled.
For several days, the middle-aged man was in the village on credit. Many villagers gave their knives on credit, and everyone laughed at the stupidity of middle-aged people.
A month later, a group of officials came to the village and searched door-to-door for the people of the heaven and Earth Society. They said that Pang Guangyu, the leader of the heaven and earth society, had been active nearby. It turned out that not long ago, Pang Guangyu led hundreds of people into Guizhou County under the slogan of “opposing the Qing Dynasty and restoring the Ming Dynasty”. He insisted for half a month, but he was easily wiped out by the Qing army because there was no response. When Pang Guangyu fled, he took away ten thousand liang of silver in the county government. The officers and servants searched the village for a long time and didn’t find Pang Guangyu, so they gave up.
More than ten years later, the emperor changed from Qianlong to Jiaqing. Liu Chengzong’s two sons, Liu Yihu and Liu erhu, are both in their twenties. Although Liu Chengzong is still very healthy, he feels that the exorbitant taxes and miscellaneous taxes in the past two years are becoming more and more unbearable. Ten years ago, only 10% of his grain was used to pay taxes, but in the past two years, 60% has been used to pay taxes.
This year, there was another drought in Guizhou. There was no rain for three months. Liu Chengzong’s family still has more than 100 kilograms of surplus grain. Some families in the village ran out of grain last year, and others have starved to death.
That day, the township head came to collect taxes with several county yamen servants. Liu Chengzong greeted him with a smile and said, “township head, I have paid all my taxes.”
The township head “hum” twice, and the Yamen on one side said, “haven’t you heard that the emperor issued an order to charge one or two silver ‘bandit suppression tax’ for the recent rebellion of the ‘heaven and earth Association’.”
Liu Chengzong said, “township head, there is really no money at home.”
The township head said, “if you don’t have money, don’t you just sell grain? Now one kilogram of rice is 40 Wen, and one or two silver is worth 1600 Wen. You can sell 40 kilos of rice.”
Liu Chengzong said: “this year is so dry, it seems that there will be no harvest again. We have to leave some rations to survive.”
A yamen servant listened and said to Liu Chengzong, “don’t you want to resist taxes?”
Liu erhu, Liu Chengzong’s youngest son, was young and vigorous. He shouted: “in the year of drought, the imperial court does not provide disaster relief, but also collects taxes. If you can’t eat rice, what fart tax do you pay!”
Liu Chengzong wanted to stop, but it was too late. Several yamen came forward and locked Liu erhu with an iron chain. The township head said, “Liu erhu dares to speak recklessly and has the intention of rebellion. Go to the county government to get people.” then they took Liu erhu away.
Knowing that his son had caused great trouble, Liu Chengzong immediately sold his family’s grain, collected one or two silver and handed it to the township head. The head of the village did not accept any money. He said to Liu Chengzong, “Liu Er dares to resist taxes. Now he has been put in prison. I’m afraid he will have to deal with some money before he can be released.”
Liu Chengzong asked, “how much does it cost?”
The township head said, “ten Liang silver.”
When Liu Chengzong heard this, he was struck by lightning. When he got home, he sold the rest of the grain and asked his wife to take down the silver bracelets and silver hairpins. He sold a few acres of land and collected ten liang of silver. He was about to go to the township head. He saw a young man carrying a cage outside the door. The young man asked, “excuse me, are you Liu Chengzong?”
Liu Chengzong hurriedly said yes. The young man said, “my name is Pang Jihao. I came to your house to ask for an old account. My father used to credit a batch of knives here. He said that when the rice rose from three Wen to thirty Wen, he would collect it. Now the rice has risen to forty Wen. Please give me 1800 Wen copper money for six knives.” then the young man took out the account book.
After hearing this, Liu Chengzong’s head became big. He said to Pang Jihao, “it’s true, but now the family is in trouble. Can you give it a grace period of time?”
Pang Jihao asked, “what can I do for you?”
Liu Chengzong told Pang Jihao about his son Liu erhu. Pang Jihao listened and said, “I’ve come to collect the money. I heard the people say that Jiaqing is like a tiger. The servants below are like mosquitoes and flies. They all have to bite when they see the people. Don’t worry first. Owe the money first. Three days later, your son will see duanni.” after that, he left.
Liu Chengzong believed Pang Jihao’s words and waited for three days. He didn’t see his son, but the guards surrounded their family with officers and soldiers. The officers and men, like wolves and tigers, knocked the door open and caught the Liu Chengzong family. Liu Chengzong said to the officer, “I have just raised all the money and I want to send it to you.”
The officer sneered and said, “I didn’t expect you to have the courage to collude with heaven and earth to capture the county government and save Liu erhu and other anti thieves.”
Liu Chengzong repeatedly shouted grievances. At this time, an officer and soldier found several knives from the Liu family and said, “look, these knives are engraved with the mark of heaven and Earth Society. Dare you say that you have nothing to do with heaven and Earth Society?”
Liu Chengzong realized that the middle-aged man and Pang Jihao were originally from heaven and earth. Now he couldn’t argue.
Liu Chengzong’s family was bound and escorted to the prison. At this time, a gun rang, and hundreds of people killed from both sides of the road with sickles, kitchen knives and firewood knives. The officers and soldiers were defeated and fled in all directions.
Liu erhu ran over, untied the rope for Liu Chengzong, and took him to an old man. Liu Chengzong saw that the old man was Pang Guangyu, the middle-aged man who had a knife on credit more than ten years ago.
It turned out that Pang Guangyu was the helmsman of the West Hubei Branch of the society of heaven and earth. More than a decade ago, he led hundreds of people to revolt. Although he captured Guizhou County, no one responded. Only then did he understand that in a peaceful and prosperous age, the people had no worries about food and clothing, and the people’s hearts turned to the Qing court. It was inevitable that his uprising would fail.
Pang Guangyu used the ten thousand taels of silver he robbed to buy iron tools, beat them into knives, and gave the knives to farmers on credit. He said that when the grain price rose ten times, he would come to collect money. He is waiting for time. If food prices do not rise, it must be a clean world; If food prices rise tenfold in a short period of time, the common people will complain and rise up. Those engraved knives are their weapons.
The tiandihui uprising in Western Hubei failed to overthrow the Qing court, but it dealt a heavy blow to the Qing court, which has changed from prosperity to decline since then.