The Human Emperor Chapter 678
Chapter 678: Operating A City
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"Big Uncle, the lands of Zhao are good, but I've already thought of a place." Wang Chong suddenly spoke, interrupting Wang Gen's words. The seated Wang Gen's expression froze, his entire body stunned.
"I've also thought for a very long time about the question of the fief. Although Zhao County is good, for me, there's an even more suitable place."
Wang Chong blew the bubbles off the surface of his tea and took a sip, his expression unperturbed as he spoke.
"You already have an idea?"
Wang Gen's eyes widened, his mind unable to grasp the notion. Wang Chong's words had caught him completely by surprise.
"Where do you want your fief? What place could be better than Zhao County?"
Wang Chong extended a finger toward an unremarkable location on Wang Gen's map, to the west of Longxi. Upon seeing the place that Wang Chong pointed out, Wang Gen found himself growing nervous, the smile fading from his face.
"Chong-er, are you joking with me?" Wang Gen said in wide-eyed disbelief. His first reaction was that Wang Chong was playing a joke on him, he had misheard, or Wang Chong had pointed to the wrong place on the map. But the earnestness on Wang Chong's face clearly indicated that this was no joke, so Wang Gen quickly turned serious.
"Chong-er, a fief is no minor matter. Do you know how many clans and nobles are envious of us? These are the golden words of the Sage Emperor, a major affair unprecedented in the last few decades. Other than the capital, you can pick any place in the entire Great Tang. This is an enormous show of favor."
Wang Gen had always viewed his nephew with great importance and trust. From a certain point of view, he favored him more than his own son. Others said that Wang Chong, not his own son Wang Li, was the Qilin son of the Wang Clan, the number one figure of the Wang lineage's younger generation, yet not only was Wang Gen not displeased, he felt honored and proud of such praise.
But this time was completely different.
"Wushang? Do you know what sort of place that is? 'Of all the places in the world, no place is more prosperous than Longyou.' There's no better choice than picking a fief in Longxi. Moreover although you developed a few conflicts with Geshu Han during the Regional Commanders incident, the fief is by His Majesty's decree, so not even Geshu Han would dare to object. If this matter is done well, it will be of enormous benefit to both you and our Wang Clan. And yet you want to set up your fief in this barren and impoverished land near Qixi? Just what are you thinking?"
Wang Gen spoke these words with great solemnity, and he straightened up and looked gravely at his nephew.
Wang Gen had no impression of this place known as 'Wushang', but he did know the place that Wang Chong had pointed out on the map. If Wang Chong had picked a slightly better place, Wang Gen would have never reacted this way. But Wang Chong had insisted on picking this barren land on the road to the west. This was a complete waste of the fief that the Imperial Court had given to Wang Chong and the Wang Clan.
"Haha, Big Uncle, I know you find this very difficult to accept, but I naturally have my reasons for this."
Wang Chong smiled at the rebuke and took a light sip of his tea. His expression was calm and natural, not at all nervous.
"Then what is it?"
Perhaps influenced by Wang Chong's demeanor, Wang Gen took in a deep breath and relaxed a little.
"Haha, Big Uncle, Wushang truly is an impoverished land without much prosperity. But, Big Uncle, take a careful look. Where is it located?"
Wang Chong gestured his finger over the map. Wang Gen had not noticed it at first glance, but his eyes widened as he noticed this time. He probed, "You are speaking of the Silk Road?"
"Yes! The Silk Road!"
Wang Chong smiled and pointed at a place close to Wushang. A winding road ran through that place, that famed road to the west frequently mentioned in all of the Great Tang and the foreign kingdoms, the Silk Road.
"You have a plan for this road?"
Wang Gen glanced at Wang Chong as he contemplated the matter, his expression slowly losing its sternness. The Silk Road to the west was also the famous Road of Gold. Countless merchants from the east and west traveled along this road, bringing with them silk, spices, jewels, jade ware, porcelain, camels, tea leaves Almost all the Hu merchants and Western Regions merchants operating in the Great Tang used this road.
The immense price disparity between the goods of the east and west had resulted in immense profits, giving rise to many extremely wealthy merchants.
Those Hu merchants who traded with the Great Tang were all fabulously wealthy. Pearls, agate, jade ware they treated them like earthen tiles.
The products they traded in were all staples, and the fortunes they had accumulated were so vast that it was impossible for many people to even imagine it. Even the great clans felt inadequate before such wealth. In terms of importance, the road to the west was the world's number one, far more important than the famed Tea Horse Road of the southwest.
From a certain perspective, the Great Tang owed no small part of its current prosperity to the Silk Road that connected it to the various other countries.
"Big Uncle, the lands of Zhao truly are decent, but it's stagnant water. The most revenue it can make will be two hundred thousand, but the Silk Road to the west is different. Whether it was the Great Han Dynasty, the previous dynasty, or this dynasty, the first thing they did after uniting the realm was to reopen this Silk Road that connects the east to the west. One can easily imagine the importance with which the empire views this trade route," Wang Chong declared with confidence.
"Big Uncle, you also know just how affluent the Hu merchants of the capital are. Those Hu merchants from the Western Regions, the spice merchants from the Abbasid Caliphate, and the jewel merchants from Charax Spasinu spent every year crossing vast distances to reach the Great Tang, all of them carrying vast sums of wealth with them. Has Big Uncle ever thought about just how much wealth passes through this trade route every day, with all these merchants constantly traversing this road?"
Wang Gen had nothing to say. He knew even more clearly than Wang Chong the great importance that the Great Tang Imperial Court placed on this road to the west, and this regard was inspired solely by the Sage Emperor himself.
No one in the Great Tang, not inside or outside the court, would ever dare to question the Sage Emperor's decision.
This was why that trade route had remained so easy to traverse.
Moreover, Wang Chong was also correct in that this road to the west truly was brimming with wealth. Even the Bureau of Revenue of the Imperial Court found it difficult to calculate the amount of wealth flowing through it each day, much less others.
"So, Chong-er, you intend to snatch some of this trade route's wealth for yourself?"
Wang Chong gave a firm nod, his gaze profound and his expression appearing to gaze far into the future.
"But this way will be fruitless. The east-west trade is the exclusive business of those Hu merchants, and they don't permit anyone else to enter. In the past, when the Silk Road was opened, no small number of great clans and noble houses eyed this trade route. Even a few of the princes of the imperial household participated. But they quickly realized that we couldn't understand the languages of the Western Regions, Arabia, and Charax Spasinu. Adding onto that the fact that the Tang view learning barbarian languages with contempt, the long and arduous journey required to reach Arabia and Charax Spasinu, and our unfamiliarity with the environment, those efforts were essentially all failures. After failing several times, the great clans and noble houses completely gave up on the idea.
"Chong-er, it's not that I want to reject your idea. It's a rather good one, but carrying it out is quite implausible."
Wang Gen shook his head and looked worriedly at Wang Chong. Wang Chong's ambition to use the Silk Road to the west and take some of its wealth for himself was truly worth his acknowledgment.
But he was clearly treating things too simply.
If one could so easily get a cut of the profits, then in all the years since the founding of the Great Tang, the numerous nobles would have long ago partitioned up the profits. How could this situation have lasted until it was finally the Wang Clan's turn?
In the southwestern war, Wang Chong truly had revealed an extraordinary talent for the art of war. But the art of war was different from the art of commerce, and even Wang Chong didn't seem capable of mastering both fields at the same time.
"Haha, Big Uncle, you've misunderstood."
Wang Chong unexpectedly smiled.
"I have no intention of dipping my toe into the Silk Road's trade of silk, spices, and gems, entering the Abbasid Caliphate or Charax Spasinu to buy and sell. The road to the west is more than ten thousand li long. In one year, you can at most run one or two caravans. The time needed for return on investment is far too long."
"Return on investment?"
A hint of surprise flashed through Wang Gen's eyes, but he completely regained his composure. He was already used to the astonishing statements made by his nephew. The line 'the one who laughs last laughs best' was known by everyone in the capital.
"If you don't plan to enter this business, then what is your plan?"
Wang Gen was truly rather confused. The most profitable venture on the road to the west was the trade of silk, spices, and gems If he wasn't planning on involving himself in this trade, then how did he plan to make money?
Wang Gen truly found it impossible to see through his nephew.
"Haha, I naturally plan to build a city there and make profit from those merchants!"
Wang Chong smiled as he brought his tea cup down onto the map with a thud, placing it on the Silk Road. This move was beyond all expectations, and Wang Gen stared in a daze at that cup on the map of the Great Tang, speechless.
Wang Chong pushed back his chair and stood up.
"The road to the west is a place of great fortune, but the road is long, and as they say, a long night brings many dreams. As a result, the road to the west is plagued by bandits, and the complexity of the terrain makes it difficult for the Imperial Court to restrain them, with many suppression missions having been forced to return in failure.
"Previously, for the sake of the Hyderabad ore, I ordered Li Siye to destroy the largest bandit group on the Silk Road, the Black Dragon Bandits. But the Black Dragon Bandits were only one of the groups. Before them were the Flowing Dragon Bandits, the Black Flame Bandits and there are certain to be more bandit groups in the future. As long as there are profits, this situation will continue to crop up no matter how many times you stamp it down.
"Imagine for a moment if there was a city on the westward road. All the traveling merchants could obtain protection and supplies there. Would they be willing to come? And those merchants traveling to the west all have massive caravans with hundreds of members, perhaps even exceeding one thousand. Having this many people stop for a single day will result in significant expenditure. What if we let them buy and sell things without fee there? Would anyone be willing to start a business there? And the merchants traveling to the west are quite generous in this aspect.
"And once a lot of these people gather, we can start collecting a tax. How does Big Uncle think such a city will fare? After all, this is an exclusive business!"
Wang Chong turned and gave a faint smile to Wang Gen.