The Chinese Warlord That Intimidated the Gods
And a few of his incredible tales
Among the many beauties of the Orient is the extensive-time period in which it has existed and the many people that have emerged from it. It is easy to conflate the idea of a land with long and rich cultural traditions with people who always conform to it.
Everywhere we go, there will always be people who stick out of society like a sore thumb, so much so that their names will never be forgotten. One such man was the Chinese warlord Zhong Zongchang, a man so eccentric and uncharacteristic that he even seemed strange to the people who knew him.
Zhang Zongchang was born in 1881 to a poor family in Shandong. As this was his reality, he got into crime and engaged in many deplorable acts. He found his place in the military when he was a bandit and served in the Imperial Russian Army in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904–1905.
It did not completely derail his life of crime as that was what he went back to. Zhang was an impressive character, despite his sketchy background. All this was considered when he joined a warlord, Zhang Zuolin, in a Chinese region known as Manchuria.
It is said that he gained prominence by standing out in the actions that he engaged in when he had the chance to have an acquaintance with the warlord. He sent two empty coolie baskets and did not appear in the meeting while other warlords brought expensive gifts. This was said to be a symbolic gesture that meant he would carry the responsibility for the warlord.
Such a deed was respectable and noble.
As this article isn’t focused on his main deeds, just the insane things he did, then we can get to them right away.
Threatening the Gods
Chinese culture and religion are extensive and intricate. Despite this, I am not sure that any provision allows anyone to insult and threaten the gods.
Fortunately or unfortunately, this is exactly what this strange man did.
The northern regions of China had been severely hit by drought, and there were severe consequences on the populations of the different regions. Among the many effects of the drought was the incapacitation of some of the militaries within wartorn China.
And this is where the brave Zhang Zongchang stepped in to save the day in his region of Shangdong.
It is said that he entered the temple of the god that had a similar name to him, approached the idol as people were praying, and then slapped it and said:
“F$@k your sister! How dare you make Shangdong’s people suffer by not giving us rain!”
He ordered his men to fire artillery at the sky, probably as an act to scare the heavens. By some miracle, the next day, it rained.
A piece of not-so-profound poetry credited to him goes like this:
“The sky god is also named Zhang
Why does he make life hard for me
If it doesn’t rain in three days
I’ll demolish your temple
Then I’ll have cannons bombard your mom”
It is said that this was probably a propaganda piece used to tarnish Zhang’s reputation by a rival general. But we cannot be too sure with the information we have.
Coming Home in a Coffin
He was a comical character engaged in a lot of activities. With his military successes and prowess in many encounters with other warlords, Zhang had effectively carved out a reputation for himself.
In one instance, he boldly proclaimed that he would either come home victorious or in a coffin. The latter was an allusion to a defeat, and it sounded like a brave thing as he would fight to the death as implied by the statement.
He lost the battle and did as he assured people he would. Zhang was carried in a coffin as he lay in there smoking a cigar as he was brought back. He had technically done what he promised to the people.
Zhang was famed for all these weird actions at the height of one of the most tumultuous times in China's history. Despite being quite a clown, he was a brutal warlord that put on the face of a cheerful and outgoing lad. It is better to remember him in the direct context of his time and the place he existed in.
Van de Ven, Hans J. War, and Nationalism in China, 1925–1945. №10. Psychology Press, 2003.
Zhang Zongchang. (2005, August 14). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved February 1, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhang_Zongchang