King Goujian's Perseverance
At the end of the Spring and Autumn Period, when the states in the Central Plains were embroiled in unrelenting wars, a desperate feud broke out between the Wu and Yue states along the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. It all began with Yue's triumph over Wu in a battle, in which King Helü of Wu was slain. His successor King Fuchai vowed to take revenge, and succeeded years later when he conquered Yue and captured King Goujian. Goujian was forced to remain in Wu, suffering great humiliation, for three years before he was allowed to return home.
After returning to Yue, Goujian was committed to revitalizing his state through painstaking effort. He chose to live in harsh conditions in order to strengthen his resolve. At night, he slept on straw on the ground. Before having a meal, he would taste the gall hanging in his room, so that he would not forget his humiliations. He worked personally on the farm, while asking his wife to weave cloth at home, thereby setting an example for Yue people to work hard to boost the state's economy and its revenue. Within a few years, the state embarked on a road to prosperity. However, in order not to arouse the suspicion of King Fuchai, Goujian continued to send envoys to frequently pay tribute to him.
In 482 BC, Fuchai and the kings ofthe Jin and Lu states met to form an alliance in Huangchi (southwest of present-day Fengqiu, Henan Province). Seizing this opportunity, Goujian led a 50,000-strong army to invade Wu. After three days of fierce battle, Yue troops seized Wu's capital and captured alive the crown prince. Hearing that his kingdom was under attack, Fuchai hastened back with his troops and sent envoys to make peace with Yue. Goujian soon pulled out his army, as he believed that Wu, still a powerful state, was unlikely to collapse easily. Four years later, Goujian launched another assault. This time, he forced Fuchai to commit suicide in Yangshang (west of today's Wuxian County, Jiangsu Province), which was besieged by Yue troops.
After seizing Wu, Goujian led his army northward across the Huaihe River. He summoned the rulers of Qi, Jin, Song and Lu states to meet in Shudi (south of today's Yingxian County, Shandong Province), where they formed an alliance. After gaining recognition from the king of the Zhou Dynasty as leader of the regional lords, Goujian became the last overlord in the Spring and Autumn Period.