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The Bell of Wei Zhongxian

You can find this bell at the exhibition hall "A Brief History of Ancient Bells." It is 1.70 meters in height and 452 kilograms in weight. An inscription on the bell says that the bell was cast devoutly by Wei Zhongxian, a eunuch who was in charge of not only the Eastern Chamber (imperial secret service headquarters) but all the incoming petitions and memorials as well. He was given a free hand to place his diehard followers in the Six Boards and the offices of the governors and governors-general. Altogether they formed a eunuch clique. They ruthlessly persecuted persons whose names they had on a list. The bell also bears a line: "Long live the present Emperor! A long, long life to him!"


The bell was cast "on an auspicious day of the 4th lunar month of the 7th year of the reign of Tianqi." By a historical coincidence, according to A History of the Ming Dynasty, "a student of the Imperial College by the name of Lu Wanling appealed for building Wei Zhongxian's Memorial Temple beside the Imperial College and offering annual sacrifices to him like Confucius" and the emperor "approved the appeal." So the building of Wei Zhongxian's Memorial Temple could come true. The bell was cast in the 4th lunar month and the memorial temple was built in the 5th lunar month of the year. It seemed that this was not accidental, but might have been premeditated. Wei Zhongxian was a eunuch when Zhu Youxiao (Emperor Xizong) was on the throne. According to historical records, he "usurped the state power, sacked the state treasury, framed cases against loyal and upright officials, treated human life as if it were not worth a straw, and behaved viciously like the tiger and wolf." He acted in collusion with Nee Ke, the wet nurse of Zhu Youxiao, and carried out wanton massacre and persecution. He was killed by Zhu Youjian who succeeded Zhu Youxiao as the emperor.

Apparently the scoundrel had the bell cast in order to build up his public image and sing the praises of himself. He didn't expect that in half a year, he would be removed from office and banished to a distant place. He hanged himself, going down in history as a byword for infamy.

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