King of the Nine Mountains: A Tale of Deception, Revenge, and Tragedy

Explore the intriguing tale of the 'King of the Nine Mountains' - a story of revenge, deception, and tragic consequences.

In Caozhou, there was a scholar surnamed Li. His family was always wealthy, but their residence was not very spacious. Behind the house, there was a garden occupying several acres of land, which had been left uncultivated and unused. One day, an old man came to rent a room and offered one hundred taels of silver as rent. Scholar Li declined, saying there were no vacant rooms. The old man replied, “Please accept it; you need not worry.” Scholar Li didn’t understand the old man’s intention but reluctantly accepted the silver, curious about what mysterious event might unfold.

The next day, the villagers saw many carriages, horses, and family members entering Scholar Li’s house, bustling with activity and excitement. Everyone suspected that Scholar Li’s house couldn’t accommodate so many people, so they went to inquire. Scholar Li had no idea and went home to investigate, but there was no sign of any commotion.

A few days later, the old man suddenly came to visit and said, “We have been staying in your house for several days now, setting up stoves and cooking, with no time to attend to the proper etiquette for guests. Today, my daughters have prepared a meal, and we hope you’ll join us.” Scholar Li agreed and, as he entered the garden, he suddenly saw a row of magnificent buildings, all brand new. Inside the house, the decorations were exquisite, and the furnishings were luxurious, with a fragrant atmosphere. The wine cauldron was already heated in the corridor, and the tea stove in the kitchen was emitting green smoke. Before long, wine was poured, and delicious dishes were served. It was all sumptuous and delicious.

At that moment, Scholar Li noticed many young people walking in the courtyard, and he heard the murmuring of his daughters. Laughter emanated from behind the curtains. In addition to his family, there seemed to be dozens or even hundreds of people in the house. Scholar Li understood that these were fox spirits.

After the banquet, Scholar Li harbored dark intentions. Every time he went to the market, he bought some saltpeter and sulfur, accumulating hundreds of pounds in secret throughout the garden. One day, he suddenly ignited the substances, causing a massive explosion. Flames shot into the sky, and the smoke resembled black lingzhi mushrooms. The stench was overwhelming, the smoke was blinding, and it was impossible to approach. All that could be heard were cries and screams, creating a deafening uproar.

After the fire was extinguished, Scholar Li went in to inspect and found dead fox spirits scattered all over, charred and countless in number. While he was inspecting, the old man entered from outside, with a very pained expression. He reproached Scholar Li, saying, “We’ve never wronged you. Offering one hundred taels of silver each year for an abandoned garden is not a small compensation. Why did you have the heart to exterminate our entire clan? Such a grievance cannot go unavenged!” After speaking with resentment, he left.

Scholar Li was suspicious that the old man might cause trouble, but more than a year passed without any unusual incidents.

In the early years of the Shunzhi reign, the mountains saw the emergence of many bandits, amassing a force of over ten thousand people. The local authorities were incapable of capturing them. Scholar Li’s family had a large household, and they worried daily about the turmoil. At that time, a man who claimed to be skilled in astrology arrived in the village, calling himself “Nanshan Weng.” He predicted fortunes and misfortunes for people with such accuracy that his reputation spread far and wide.

Scholar Li invited him to his home and asked him to calculate the birth charts of his family members. Nanshan Weng, after a quick calculation, stood up in astonishment and respectfully said, “This is a true Son of Heaven!” Scholar Li was greatly puzzled and thought this was nonsense. Nanshan Weng earnestly insisted that it was true. Scholar Li, half-believing and half-doubting, asked, “How can someone rise from nothing to become an emperor?” Nanshan Weng explained, “That’s not correct. Throughout history, most emperors started as commoners. Who is born an emperor?” Scholar Li was bewildered and sought advice.

Nanshan Weng, identifying himself resolutely as Zhuge Liang, the Sleeping Dragon, proposed that Scholar Li prepare thousands of sets of armor and bows and arrows. Scholar Li worried that no one would join their cause, but Nanshan Weng said, “I will contact the various mountain strongholds on behalf of the King and establish deep connections. Then, we’ll spread the word that the King is the true Son of Heaven. This will rally the soldiers in the mountains.” Scholar Li was delighted with the plan and sent Nanshan Weng to execute it while he himself unearthed the hidden silver to manufacture armor and bows and arrows.

Several days later, Nanshan Weng returned and said, “With the King’s authority and my eloquence, all the mountain strongholds are willing to lend their support, following under the King’s banner.” About ten days later, indeed, several thousand people came to pledge their allegiance. Nanshan Weng was then appointed as the military strategist, banners were crafted, colorful flags were set up in abundance, and fortifications were built along the mountains, creating a grand spectacle. The county magistrate led an army to suppress them, but Nanshan Weng commanded the bandits and defeated the official forces. The county magistrate, fearing for his life, sent for reinforcements from Yanzhou. When the Yanzhou troops arrived, Nanshan Weng ambushed the bandits, launching a sudden attack, and the state troops suffered a major defeat, with many officers and soldiers killed or injured.

Scholar Li’s influence grew stronger, and his followers numbered in the tens of thousands. He declared himself “King of the Nine Mountains.” Nanshan Weng, feeling short of horses, learned that there was a horse convoy from the capital heading to Jiangnan. He dispatched a unit to intercept and seize the horses. This further enhanced the reputation of the King of the Nine Mountains. He also conferred the title of Grand General of the Guard upon Nanshan Weng.

The King of the Nine Mountains, confident in his position, believed that he was on the verge of greatness. However, the Shandong provincial governor, infuriated by the horse theft, was preparing to launch a campaign against them. Additionally, he received reports from Yanzhou about their actions. Consequently, the governor mobilized a force of several thousand elite soldiers and attacked the bandits from six different directions, their banners fluttering as they filled the valleys.

The King of the Nine Mountains was greatly alarmed and summoned Nanshan Weng for counsel, but Nanshan Weng had disappeared. The King of the Nine Mountains, helpless, ascended the mountaintop and gazed at the approaching official forces, saying, “Today, I finally understand the might of the imperial authority!” The mountain stronghold was breached, the King of the Nine Mountains captured, and his family was killed. It was at this moment that he realized Nanshan Weng was the old fox who sought revenge on Scholar Li for the extermination of his clan.

The chronicler of strange tales said: A person who lives in seclusion at home, leading a leisurely life with their spouse and children, how could they invite such a calamity upon themselves? Even if they were killed, what reason could there be to bring about the annihilation of their entire clan? The fox’s revenge scheme was indeed clever. Just as soil that doesn’t sow seeds won’t yield a harvest, watering and nurturing alone won’t make it grow. The scholar Li Xiucai’s cruel act of killing the fox revealed a seed of becoming a bandit hidden deep within him. That’s why the old fox was able to nurture it and ultimately seek revenge. If you were to try and stop someone passing by now and say, “You’re going to be an emperor!” there wouldn’t be anyone who wouldn’t be startled and run away. Clearly, it was a case of guiding him to commit the act of exterminating a clan, and he willingly went along with it. As a result, his wife and children were killed. What more can be said? However, when people hear such delusional words, they often begin with anger, then transition to doubt, and as they continue to listen, they start to believe. It’s only when they experience a downfall and their reputation is shattered that they realize they’ve been deceived. Most people tend to follow a similar pattern.

《九山王》

曹州李姓者,邑诸生。家素饶,而居宅故不甚广,舍后有园数亩,荒置之。一日,有叟来税屋,出直百金。李以无屋为辞,叟曰:“请受之,但无烦虑。”李不喻其意,姑受之,以觇其异。

越日,村人见舆马眷口入李家,纷纷甚夥,共疑李第无安顿所,问之。李殊不自知,归而察之,并无迹响。过数日,叟忽来谒,且云:“庇宇下已数晨夕,事事都草创,起炉作灶,未暇一修客子礼。今遣小女辈作黍,幸一垂顾。”李从之,则入园中,欻见舍宇华好,崭然一新,入室,陈设芳丽。酒鼎沸于廊下,茶烟袅于厨中。俄而行酒荐馔,备极甘旨。时见庭下少年人往来甚众,又闻儿女喁喁,幕中作笑语声。家人婢仆,似有数十百口。李心知其狐。席终而归,阴怀杀心。每入市,市硝硫,积数百斤,暗布园中殆满。骤火之,焰亘霄汉,如黑灵芝,燔臭灰眯不可近,但闻鸣啼嗥动之声,嘈杂聒耳。既熄,入视,则死狐满地,焦头烂额者,不可胜计。方阅视间,叟自外来,颜色惨恸,责李曰:“夙无嫌怨,荒园岁报百金,非少,何忍遂相族灭?此奇惨之仇,无不报者!”忿然而去。疑其掷砾为殃,而年馀无少怪异。

时顺治初年,山中群盗窃发,啸聚万馀人,官莫能捕。生以家口多,日忧离乱。适村中来一星者,自号南山翁,言人休咎,了若目睹,名大噪。李召至家,求推甲子。翁愕然起敬,曰:“此真主也!”李闻大骇,以为妄。翁正容固言之,李疑信半焉,乃曰:“岂有白手受命而帝者乎?”翁谓:“不然。自古帝王,类多起于匹夫,谁是生而天子者?”生惑之,前席而请。翁毅然以“卧龙”自任,请先备甲胄数千具、弓弩数千事。李虑人莫之归,翁曰:“臣请为大王连诸山,深相结。使哗言者谓大王真天子,山中士卒,宜必响应。”李喜,遣翁行,发藏镪,造甲胄。

翁数日始还,曰:“借大王威福,加臣三寸舌,诸山莫不愿执鞭靮,从戏下。”浃旬之间,果归命者数千人。于是拜翁为军师,建大纛,设彩帜若林,据山立栅,声势震动。邑令率兵来讨,翁指挥群寇,大破之。令惧,告急于兖。兖兵远涉而至,翁又伏寇进击,兵大溃,将士杀伤者甚众。势益震,党以万计,因自立为九山王。翁患马少,会都中解马赴江南,遣一旅要路篡取之。由是九山王之名大噪。加翁为“护国大将军”,高卧山巢,公然自负,以为黄袍之加,指日可俟矣。东抚以夺马故,方将进剿,又得兖报,乃发精兵数千,与六道合围而进,军旅旌旗,弥满山谷。九山王大惧,召翁谋之,则不知所往。九山王窘极无术,登山而望曰:“今而知朝廷之势大矣!”山破,被擒,妻孥戮之。始悟翁即老狐,盖以族灭报李也。

异史氏曰:夫人拥妻子,闭门科头,何处得杀?即杀,亦何由族哉?狐之谋亦巧矣。而壤无其种者,虽溉不生。彼其杀狐之残,方寸已有盗根,故狐得长其萌而施之报。今试执途人而告之曰:“汝为天子!”未有不骇而走者。明明导以族灭之为,而犹乐听之,妻子为戮,又何足云?然人之听匪言也,始闻之而怒,继而疑,又继而信,迨至身名俱殒,而始知其误也,大率类此矣。

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