The Iron Chancellor of Ancient China

San Yang was the Iron Chancellor of Ancient China Photo: San Yang

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2013 — San Yang, The Iron Chancellor of Ancient China, established the economic, political and military system that transformed a backwater kingdom into a powerful nation and laid the foundation for the unification of China. He was the architect that drafted the blueprint for the creation of China.

In 356 BC, when San Yang took power, he offered ten pieces of gold to anyone that would move a ten foot long post from the South Gate of the Capital city to the North Gate. When no one took up the offer, he upped the ante to fifty pieces of gold.  Finally, one man took up the offer and received the promised reward for his labor. The feat established the credibility of the government then San Yang issued his first new set of law:

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Every citizen must have an identity chit. Violators will be treated as criminals; inn keepers will be punished if they accepted customers without identity chits.

Establishment of the national block security systems in units of ten families.  Everyone must report law violators to the authorities. Failure to report a crime is punishable by death. If one person commits a crime, all ten families of the block suffer the same penalty. Reporting on a crime equates to killing an enemy officer on the battlefield and is rewarded in the same manner.

A soldier that takes the head of an enemy officer is promoted one rank, given land, house and one serf. Relatives of aristocrats without military honors are ineligible to join the aristocracy. Senior military officers receive revenues from his fief.  Military honors could substitute for criminal penalties. Junior officers in battle must bring back one head, be that of the enemy or his own; honors won on the battlefield are transferrable to the family.  

Serfs that are good producers are promoted to become citizens.  Exceptional producers of grain or cloth are exempt from annual labor levies. Failed Merchants and people that do not engage in productive work will become slaves. Each adult male must establish his own household.

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The laws apply to all people of the realm.

Hereditary right to aristocratic ranks is abolished, except for the royal family.  Aristocratic ranks could only be won and maintained through military honors gained on the battlefield. 

One standardized official weights and measures is used throughout the realm.

The chancellor encouraged immigration from the neighboring states. He offered free farm land and housing, ten years of exemptions from taxes, plus three generations free of military and labor levy obligations.

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Initially, everyone chaffed at the unusual and severe laws; however, after three years, the people grew accustomed to and liked the laws. The policy that forced young men to start new households enlarged the tax base and population growth. New immigrants increased crop production, while freeing up manpower for military duty. The granaries filled, the army grew and the society became law abiding and crime free.

His policies fomented martial mentality; people were eager to profit from war. However, the traditional aristocrats loathed the rules that stripped them of power, social status and resources. 

In 350 BC, San Yang implemented the second phase of his reform:

Farm sizes increased. The traditional feudal system was abolished. People were free to own, buy and sell land. The country is divided into administrative districts, counties and provinces, with officials appointed by the central government. The national capital is moved from Dong-Yang to Xian-Yang.

The new laws further reduced the influence of the old school aristocrats, who raged at the increasing number of commoners among the nobility, while their own scions were left by the wayside. In 346 BC, Crown Prince Si arrived late for a formal ceremony, a major offense. Since the Crown Prince was inappropriate for punishment, yet the law must be applied, the chancellor punished the prince’s advisor and the teacher for dereliction of duty. The royal advisor, had his nose amputated; while the teacher, had his face tattooed as a criminal. The punishments effectively shut off all opposition to Yang’s policies.     

Unfortunately, San Yang created too many enemies while implementing his reforms; when his sponsor, Duke Hsiao died, San Yang was framed for treason then drawn and quartered. However, the laws and systems he instituted remained to rule the kingdom and eventually China. 


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Tang Long

William Tang is a research analyst. Born in Taiwan, he is fluent in three dialects of Chinese and Spanish, plus survival level German and Japanese. He is a graduate of the Officers Advance Course at the General Political Warfare College, Taipei, Taiwan.

He lectures on Chinese history and culture and has two books in publication: “Tales of the Dragon – The Book of Lore,” an anthology of Chinese legends, fables, and historical anecdotes; and “Pets Only,” which recounts a pets operated eating establishment in northern Virginia. He lives with Shadow (Lab), Taz (Boxer) and Foxy Lady (Japanese Shiba Inu) in Fredericksburg, VA. He writes under the penname of TANG Long.

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