Tales from the Stone Cattle Trail: How a Golden Poo Changed All of China


Years prior to the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi, his great-great-great grandfather managed to take over the great Sichuan province in a Trojan horse-esque maneuver. The grandfather's name was King Hui of Qin and he was about to start the creation of an empire.

King Hui's first step in the take over of the great Sichuan province of Shu was to commission the making of five life sized stone cows. These cows were then splattered with gold upon their rear ends and placed in a field. A scout from the nearby Sichuan King of Shu saw these cattle and immediately scurried back to his master in order to carry a tale of cattle who purportedly were pooing gold. The Shu king became was quite excited-and somewhat gullible-and requested to have these cattle shipped to him. His mind was undoubtedly filled with the idea of an unlimited supply of golden cow pies. Unfortunately for the Shu king, the King of Qin could not bring them across the thin mountain path lanes and into the valley.

Ultimately, a solution was found. The King of Shu allowed the King of Qin to make a larger, well built road big enough to carry five stone cattle-or a large army-into the country.

The road building completed, the cattle were sent in to the King to his dismay. On his receipt of the cattle, the King of Shu realized that they were merely stone figurines and sadly sent them back to the King of Qin.

The road that was built by the King of Qin served another purpose however. In 316 B.C. the King Hui invaded Sichuan using the Stone Cattle Road and took over a countryside that had previously been impregnable.

The creation of the Stone Cattle Road marked an important deviation in Chinese history. It brought all of Sichuan under Xia culture and influence, doubled the size of King Hui's lands and made it into a super state. The takeover of the kingdom of Shu in Sichuan allowed the Qin to gain a strong foot hold in China and a ready supply of grains and minerals. This supply ultimately enabled the first Emperor of China to overtake the rival Chu state and unify China.

Keay, John. China: A History. Basic Books, 2009.

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