杯酒释兵权 Relieving the Generals of Their Commands at a Feast
After the downfall of the Tang Dynasty, China entered a chaotic period of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms. In the Latter Zhou Dynasty (951-960 AD), Emperor Shizong let Zhao Kuangyin control the military leadership. After Emperor Shizong died, his young son succeeded to the throne. Taking this chance, Zhao Kuangyin seized the imperial power and established the Song Dynasty. And Zhao Kuangyin was Emperor Taizu.
Not long after Zhao Kuangyin came to the throne, two local military governors revolted against the central authority. It took Zhao Kuangyin a lot of energy to suppress the revolt, which upset him very much. Once he talked with Zhao Pu who had been with him for many years. He said that since the downfall of the Tang Dynasty there had changed many dynasties with endless wars. People had died numerously. What was the reason of all these? Zhao Pu said the reason was very simple. The chaotic situation in a country lay in scattering of the military power. The country would restore to peace as soon as the military power returned to the overall control of the central authority. Emperor Taizu agreed to this opinion, and it was by controlling the military leadership that he had seized the imperial power. In order to prevent the same thing from happening again, Emperor Taizu decided to take back military power from local authorities. In an autumn evening in 961, Emperor Taizu held a banquet in the imperial palace and invited Shi Shouxin and other senior generals. The emperor held up the cup and said, "But for your help, I wouldn't be what I'm like nowadays. But you don't know it's very difficult to be an emperor. In fact it's happier to be a local military governor than to be an emperor?"Shi Shouxin and the other generals were very surprised when they heard this and asked why. Emperor Taizu said, "It's quite obvious. Who does not want to be the emperor?"The generals got the underlying meaning of his words and became flustered. They knelt on the ground hurriedly and said, "We won't betray you at any time."Emperor Taizu shook his head and said, "I have confidence in all of you. But I'm afraid your subordinates may be ambitious and hanker after riches and honors. When they wrap the yellow gown (a symbol for emperor) around you and support you to be the emperor, can you refuse them?"The generals were so frightened that their faces were covered with beads of perspiration. The next day they asked to resign and the emperor agreed immediately. He gave them a large amount of money and took back their military power. This was called "relieving the generals of their commands at a feast"in history.