“Love in the Wulong Temple”, a television series, quite a few years ago, might be known and understood by everyone; but by contrast, few people might be quite familiar with the beautiful but sad love widely read through the ages, the oath of undying love that “we are not to be separated by our poverty and humbleness, and not to be unpicked by our wealth and honors”, and the imperial edict called the most romantic one in history, all of which are concerned with the television series.
Part one, the Prince suffered from tragedy
In the late period of Emperor Wu of the Western Han Dynasty, approaching the age of 70, Emperor Xiaowu Liu Che in his dotage was almost surrounded by villains and wicked men, finally one day, who started to make up and go on stage.
The second year of Zhenghe (91 BC), Shizhe Jiang Chong, Andaohou Han Yue, Yushi Zhang Gan, and Huangmen Su Wen wanted to use the Case of Witchcraft to frame Crown Prince Liu Ju and Queen Wei Zifu, and advanced upon them. The Prince had no alternative but to accept the plan from Taizi Shaofu Shi De, and was to dispatch troops to behead Jiang Chong and others with his mother, Queen Wei. As the plan was being put into practice, it was leaked, and then Su Wen had escaped to Palace Ganquan, and had said to Emperor Wu that Crown Prince had sent troops to kill Jiang Chong and others without permission and had conspired against Liu Che. After hearing what Su Wen said, Emperor Wu almost had no reaction but only to say that Crown Prince had done it because of fears and resenting them; and sent a messenger to summon him. The messenger didn’t dare to go to Chang’an City to summon Crown Prince, but retraced halfway Palace Ganquan to report to Emperor Wu falsely claiming that Crown Prince had really rebelled against Emperor Wu; and that he was desperate to flee here, or he might have been killed by Crown Prince.
Emperor Wu harvested his eldest son Liu Ju happily until the age of 29, so that he loved Liu Ju very much, and later made his birth mother Wei Zifu Queen; Liu Ju was humane, tolerant, soft and cautious when he grew up, so that Emperor Wu definitely minded that Liu Ju wasn’t a person like him, powerful and capable. So, the favors that Queen Wei Zifu and Liu Ju gained from Emperor Wu was declining day by day, which frequently threw the mother and son into great fear. Knowing it, Emperor Wu said to Wei Qing, the younger brother of Queen Wei Zifu, “all kinds of government affairs of Han Dynasty initiated, and the minority nations invading and riding roughshod over Central Country, if I didn’t change state institutions, later generations wouldn’t find rules to govern the country; and if I didn’t march army for conquest, land under heaven would be turbulent; for which I have to make people be exhausted from hard work. If later generations were to behave according to what I do today, Han Dynasty would follow the same old disastrous road on which Qin Dynasty has collapsed. Honest, sincere, solemn and gentle, Crown Prince must stabilize land under heaven, so that about which I don’t have to worry. To find a monarch only to abide by the former rules, there is no one who can do better than Crown Prince. I heard Queen and Crown Prince feeling a species of uneasiness, is that really true? You can send my words to them.” Hearing what Emperor Wu said, Wei Qing expressed his thanks giving Emperor Wu a kowtow; and understanding what Emperor Wu meant, Queen Wei offered a humble apology to Emperor Wu taking off her hairpin. Every time Crown Prince expostulated with Emperor Wu about the conquest of the minority nations, Emperor Wu would smile and say, “I have been bearing fatigues and will leave leisure to you, is it also not good?”
Then, Emperor Wu adhered to ministers settling lawsuits strictly by laws, most of who were cruel officials selected by him, but Crown Prince was so kind and virtuous that he dismissed most of the cases concluded by ministers to give lighter sentences. In this way, while Liu Ju gained popular supports, the ministers settling lawsuits strictly by laws were unhappy because of what he had done. Wei Qing died, Crown Prince having no clan of the Consorts to support him, to the extent that it was only when the mother and son of Wei were killed that all kinds of forces eventually in league together for different purposes could get happy. The villains, such as Su Wen and Jiang Chong, were afraid of their crimes being exposed and criticized to the degree that they should lose their life; the ministers settling lawsuits strictly by laws were fearful of losing their high official positions and riches; Imperial Concubine Gouyi of Emperor Xiaowu wanted to seize the position of Crown Prince for her son; and also, Li Guangli, the younger brother of Imperial Concubine Li of Emperor Xiaowu, wanted to contend for the position of Emperor in the future for his nephew.
As Su Wen fled in front of Emperor Wu to sow dissension and incite a quarrel between Emperor Wu and Crown Prince, Liu Ju and his mother were not idle and were bustling about deploying forces. Liu Ju gathered soldiers in these three aspects: first, made his mother Wei Zifu send the guards of Palace Changle, and fetched out the weapons from arsenal to arm tens of thousands of prisoners and people; second, sent a messenger to mobilize the cavalries of Northern barbarian tribes having surrendered themselves to Han with scepter; and finally, in person carried scepter to the gate of the barracks of the Northern Army composed of Praetorian Guard of Chang’an and part of Central Army to persuade the commander of the Northern Army Ren An to mobilize his troops to lend him a helping hand. The three original plans about deploying forces, only the first one of which was completed successfully, and the other two of which were so blocked that they couldn’t be finished. The messenger sent by Liu Ju to mobilize the cavalries was beheaded because of the cavalries seeing through his fraud. Liu Ju going to the southern gate of the Northern Army, while Ren An accepted the scepter worshiping on bended knees to it, later he closed the gate entirely and held back his troops without moving. Liu Ju had no choice but to leave.
Finally, Ren An was cut into halves by Emperor Wu under the charge of “siting and awaiting success or failure, and being undecided in course of action like a rat’s head looking two ways”; for which convicted, he sent a letter to Sima Qian to suggest that he should use his vital position of Zhongshu to push virtuous scholars and meanwhile hope that he should intercede with Emperor Wu for him. Receiving the letter, Sima Qian didn’t know what to do, feeling caught in a bind, and replied to Ren An with a letter, “A Letter of Replying to Ren An”, on the eve of Ren An’s being executed.
Snookered by the malarkey from the messenger sent to summon Crown Prince, Emperor Wu immediately flew into a rage and ordered Prime Minister Liu Qumao to command the troops and horses in the counties near to Sanfu to round up the rebels. The army commanded by Prime Minister Liu Qumao and the tens of thousands of prisoners and people gathered by Crown Prince met under the Western Watch Tower of Palace Changle, and fiercely fought each other for 5 days, tens of thousands of fighters dying or injured, and rivers of blood flowing. Just at this time, the people of Chang’an City knew Emperor Wu had moved to Palace Jianzhang in the west of Chang’an City from Palace Ganquan, and that it was not the case said before by Crown Prince that Emperor Wu had been ailing and had been trapped in Palace Ganquan, and that treacherous court officials were to rebel. Hence people revolted one after another, the fighters of Crown Prince sharply declining, and the soldiers of Prime Minister getting more and more. Not long after that, Crown Prince was defeated.
Emperor Wu sent Zongzheng Liu Chang and Zhijinwu Liu Gan to go to Palace Changle to withdraw the Seal of Queen with imperial edict. Queen Wei Zifu committed suicide. In the first year of Yuanshuo (128 BC), Wei Zifu was made Queen, becoming the mother of land under heaven by order of ancestral temple, because of her gentle appearance, her good virtues, and having given birth to Prince Liu Ju. Wei Zifu was Queen of Han Dynasty for 37 years, it could be said that she was extremely honorable for a time. Her younger brother Wei Qing was Dasima and Dajiangjun and her nephew Huo Qubing was Dasima and Piaoqijiangjun, they two took charge of all the troops and horses of Han Dynasty; her son was the Crown Prince of Han Dynasty, the heir to the throne; and there was a countless number of members in her family made Marquis. For a while, the women of land under heaven had peered enviously and adoringly at Queen Wei Zifu. “One woman should not be happy if she has a boy, and also one should not be angry if she has a girl, haven’t you seen that Wei Zifu has conquered land under heaven”, what’s more, the ballad became known far and wide; but today it was another scene that “swallows which skimmed by painted eaves days gone by are dipping now in homes where humble people occupy”. As Zixia said, “death and life have their determined appointment; riches and honors depend upon heaven”.
Losing the battle, Crown Prince Liu Ju escaped to Quanjiuli; and where his whereabouts found, he was forced to commit suicide. Incriminated for the matter, the three sons and one girl of Crown Prince Liu Ju and the other members of their families were all killed, except only one grandson of Liu Ju surviving, who just was born for few months. The infant’s name was Liu Bingyi.
Liu Bingyi was traditionally called “Imperial Great-Grandson”, in that he was the great-grandson of Emperor Xiaowu Liu Che and Queen Wei Zifu, was the grandson of Crown Prince Liu Ju and Princess Shi, and was the son of Imperial Grandson Liu Jin and his wife Wang Wengxu. Born for months, he suffered from the tragedy of the Case of Witchcraft, and was put in prison. Then Tingweijian Bing Ji heard the case of witchcraft by order of imperial edict, and picked two female prisoners, cautious and honest, to take care of Imperial Great-Grandson Liu Bingyi, with the two female prisoners and Liu Bingyi designated to stay in a cell, dry and comfortable, understanding in his heart that it was not really true that Crown Prince had rebelled, and feeling deep sorrow for the innocent suffering of Imperial Great-Grandson. In addition, Bing Ji went to the prison to visit Liu Bingyi several times every day.
Han Fei has ever said, “If wife and concubines are in equal, legitimate sons must be in danger”, and has also said, “If monarchs clear away their likes and dislikes, ministers will appear in their undisguised faces”. In the third year of Taishi (94 BC), Emperor Xiaowu’s younger son was born, with Imperial Concubine Gouyi of Emperor Xiaowu having been pregnant for 14 months. Then, Emperor Wu said to all ministers, “Before, the mother of Yao was pregnant for 14 months and gave birth to Yao, and now so did Imperial Concubine Gouyi”, and named the gate of the palace “Yaomu Gate”, where his younger son Fuling was born; so that now the catastrophe had been brewed. Sima Guang had commented on the matter, saying that, “As a monarch, he must speak and act cautiously in that he will reveal what he carries in his heart to all the people on land under heaven by his every word and action. Then, Queen and Crown Prince were safe and sound, but Emperor Wu named the gate of the palace ‘Yaomu’, where Gouyi lived, which wasn’t consistent with her status. So, the schemers ascertained in advance what Emperor Wu wanted in his mind that Emperor Wu loved his younger son very much and was to make him Crown Prince, having plan to jeopardize Queen and Crown Prince, so that ultimately the tragedy of the Case of Witchcraft had occurred, and how sorrowful it was!”
The case of witchcraft remained pending for years, and the poor Imperial Great-Grandson was still in prison of Jundi. In the second year of Houyuan (87 BC), somebody said to Emperor Wu that there was a sign of the Son of Heaven in the prison of Chang’an when he was gravely ill, and he sent a messenger with a sword to go to the prison of Jundi, and ordered him to kill all the prisoners, whether their sins were big or small.