Chen Sheng Wu Guang uprising

The Chen Sheng and Wu Guang Uprising (simplified Chinese: 陈胜吴广起义; traditional Chinese: 陳勝吳廣起義; pinyin: Chén Shèng Wú Guǎng Qǐyì), July–December 209 B.C.,[1][2] was the first uprising against Qin rule following the death of Qin Shi Huang. Led by Chen Sheng and Wu Guang, the uprising helped overthrow the Qin and pave the way for the Han dynasty, one of China's greatest golden ages.

Chen Sheng and Wu Guang Uprising
Qin Uprisings.png
Uprisings of Qin Dynasty, including Chen Sheng and Wu Guang's Dazexiang Uprising.
DateJuly–December 209 BC
Result Qin victory
Rebel Forces Qin empire
Commanders and leaders
Zhang Han
900 Unknown

In 2019, the People's Education Press from China removed the Chen Sheng Wu Guang uprising from middle school Chinese language textbooks, stating that they did it to avoid repetition as the story is already covered in history textbooks. [3]


It is also called:


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 (simplified Chinese: 渔阳; traditional Chinese: 漁陽). However, they were stopped halfway in present-day 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 than accept execution, Chen and Wu organized a band of 900 villagers to rebel against the government.

There are two stories for this uprising. To convince people to support this uprising, Chen Sheng and Wu Guang wrote "King Chen Sheng" on a piece of silk, and placed it in the belly of a fish. A man in this army brought the fish and was surprised. They also imitated the animals to say "Da Chu flourishes, King Chen Sheng" to make people believe in them.[5]

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 can be summed up in Chen's quote "王侯将相宁有种乎?" (traditional Chinese: 王侯將相寧有種乎, pinyin: wáng hóu jiàng xiàng nìng yǒu zhǒng hū; "Are kings and nobles given their high status by birth?"), meaning that every human, regardless of birth, can become something great if he applies himself.

Historical materialsEdit

There is a biography of Chen Sheng and Wu Guang, which is called aristocratic family of Chen Sheng, in Records of the Grand Historian. The main points of the passage are as follows. Chen Sheng was a tenant who was born in Henan province and Wu Guang was his townsman. When Chen Sheng was young, he used to plow with some peasants. 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." ("苟富贵,无相忘。")

His companions laughed at him and said "You are a tenant, how can you be rich and powerful?" ("若为佣耕,何富贵也?")

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.


  1. ^ Hong Liu (2015). The Chinese Strategic Mind. Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 145. ISBN 9781783474141.
  2. ^ Joshua Zhang, James D. Wright (2018). Violence, Periodization and Definition of the Cultural Revolution: A Case Study of Two Deaths by the Red Guards. BRILL. ISBN 9789004360471.
  3. ^ "Chinese school book's omission of farmers' revolt provokes debate". South China Morning Post. 2019-02-26. Retrieved 2021-06-27.
  4. ^ J.Huang (2004). The Dynamics of China's Rejuvenation. Springer. ISBN 9780230503137.
  5. ^ Dull, Jack L. (1983). "Anti-Qin Rebels". Modern China. 9 (3): 285–318. doi:10.1177/009770048300900302. ISSN 0097-7004. S2CID 143585546.