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.