楚四 THE STRATAGEMS OF CHU IV

或謂楚王
Speaking to the King of CHu

或謂楚王曰:「臣聞從者欲合天下以朝大王,臣願大王聽之也。夫因詘為信,舊患有成,勇者義之。攝禍為福,裁少為多,知者官之。夫報報之反,墨墨之化,唯大君能之。禍與福相貫,生與亡為鄰,不偏於死,不偏於生,不足以載大名。無所寇艾,不足以橫世。夫秦捐德絕命之日久矣,而天下不知。今夫橫人嚂口利機,上干主心,下牟百姓,公舉而私取利,是以國權輕於鴻毛,而積禍重於丘山。」

 

Someone spoke to the King of Chu[1], saying, "I have heard that the Vertical Alliance wants to federate All-Under-Heaven in Your Majesty's court. I hope that you will listen to them. Retaining one's integrity in the face of humiliation and overcoming old wrongs to achieve success: these are the duties of a hero. Absorbing blows and turning them to your advantage, forming a minority and turning it into a majority: this is the job of the perspicacious. Turn and turn about, silently the situation evolves, only a great Lord is commensurate to this task. Disaster and blessings go side by side and life and death are neighbours. If you are not willing to die while yearning to live, then then you lack what it takes to carry off a great name. If you have no enemy to push against, then you lack what is necessary to build an world-spanning alliance. Qin long ago abandoned all honour and broke with the mandate of Heaven, but All-Under-Heaven was oblivious. Now the partisans of the Horizontal Alliance are greedy for opportunities, capturing the hearts of their lords above them and those of the hundred clans below. In their public roles they grasp for private benefits. In such circumstances, the state's power is as light as a goose feather, and your stockpile of misfortunes is as heavy as a mountain."

[1] Possibly King Kaolie of Chu (262–238 BC), who annexed the state of Lu. 

魏王遺楚王美人
The King of Wei Sends a Beautiful Woman to the King of Chu

魏王遺楚王美人,楚王說之。夫人鄭袖知王之說新人也,甚愛新人。衣服玩好,擇其所喜而為之;宮室臥具,擇其所善而為之。愛之甚於王。王曰:「婦人所以事夫者,色也;而妒者,其情也。今鄭袖知寡人之說新人也,其愛之甚於寡人,此孝子之所以事親,忠臣之所以事君也。」

 

The King of Wei[1] sent a beautiful woman to the King of Chu[2], and the King of Chu was delighted with her. His principal wife, Zheng Xiu[3] knew that the King was happy with the new arrival, and so she also showed her deep affection. Clothes and trinkets were selected for her enjoyment and sent to her. Rooms in the palace and furnishings were chosen to please her and set aside[4]. Zheng Xiu showed even deeper affection for her than the King did. The King said, "Wives' utility to their husbands lies in their physical attractions, and jealousy is inherent in their natures. Now Zheng Xiu knows that we are pleased with this new girl, but she is even fonder of her than we are. It is thus that a filial child serves his family, and how a loyal servant attends upon his lord." 

鄭袖知王以己為不妒也,因謂新人曰:「王愛子美矣。雖然,惡子之鼻。子為見王,則必掩子鼻。」新人見王,因掩其鼻。王謂鄭袖曰:「夫新人見寡人,則掩其鼻,何也?」鄭袖曰:「妾知也。」王曰:「雖惡必言之。」鄭袖曰:「其似惡聞君王之臭也。」王曰:「悍哉!」令劓之,無使逆命。

 

Once Zheng Xiu was confident that the King did not believe she was jealous, she spoke to the new arrival, saying, "The King is partial to your looks; nevertheless, he has criticised the shape of your nose. The next time you have an audience with the King, you should cover it up." 

When the new wife next saw the King, she covered up her nose.

The King spoke to Zheng Xiu about it, saying, "When the new girl came to see us she arrived with her nose covered. Why?"

Zheng Xiu said, "Your servant knows why..."

The King said, "However bad it may be, you must tell us."

Zheng Xiu said, "She seems to dislike the way Your Majesty smells[5]."

The King said, "How insolent!" He gave the order to have the new arrival's nose cut off, and could not be made to relent.

[1] King Hui of Wei (344 - 319 BC) succeeded Marquis Wu following a violent succession conflict during which Wei was almost conquered by Han and Zhao. He conducted several discussions with Mencius and exchanged territory with Han, making his state easier to defend.

[2] King Huai of Chu (328 - 299 BC) was known for having been the object of various poetic complaints by Qu Yuan​. He was captured by Qin in 299 BC and his son King Qingxiang took the throne. He made one attempt to escape, but was recaptured and died in 296 BC.

[3] Zheng Xiu was King Huai's favourite wife, and known for her political skills.

[4] The commentaries suggest 喜 for 善 here.

[5] The commentaries suggest that the 君 here is superfluous. 

楚王后死
THe Death of the Queen of Chu 

楚王后死,未立后也。謂昭魚曰:「公何以不請立后也?」昭魚曰:「王不聽,是知困而交絕於后也。」「然則不買五雙珥,令其一善而獻之王,明日視善珥所在,因請立之。」

 

After the Queen of Chu[1] died and before a new Queen had been chosen, someone spoke to Zhao Yu[2] saying, "Why not ask the King[3] to let you appoint a new Queen?"

Zhao Yu said, "If the King does not listen, then my ability to use my intelligence[4] will be circumscribed as my relations with the new Queen will already have been severed[5]."

"In that case, why not buy five pairs of earrings[6], ordering that one be made better than the others, and offer them to the King. The next day, look to see where the best pair has ended up, and take the opportunity to request that its wearer be made queen."

[1] I am not sure which Queen is indicated here. Some of the commentaries suggest that it may refer to Zheng Xiu.

[2] Zhao Yu was Chancellor of Chu.

[3] This may be a reference to King Huai of Chu (328 - 299 BC).

[4] The commentaries suggest 智 for 知 here.

[5] The commentaries disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear.

[6] Reading 何不 for 不, per the commentaries.

莊辛謂楚襄王
Zhuang Xin Speaks to King Xiang of Chu

莊辛謂楚襄王曰:「君王左州侯,右夏侯,輦從鄢陵君與壽陵,專淫逸侈靡,不顧國政,郢都必危矣。」襄王曰:「先生老悖乎?將以為楚國祅祥乎?」莊辛曰:「臣誠見其必然者也,非敢以為國祅祥也。君王卒幸四子者不衰,楚國必亡矣。臣請辟於趙,淹留以觀之。」莊辛去之趙,留五月,秦果舉鄢、郢、巫、上蔡、陳之地,襄王流揜於城陽。於是使人發騶,徵莊辛於趙。莊辛曰:「諾。」莊辛至,襄王曰:「寡人不能用先生之言,今事至於此,為之奈何?」

 

Zhuang Xin[1] spoke to King Xiang of Chu[2], saying, "To your left you have Marquis Zhou[3], and to your right Marquis Xia[4]. Lord Yanling[5] and Lord Shouling[6] follow your carriage. They have given themselves over to degeneracy and dissipation, paying no attention to affairs of state. The city of Ying[7] will soon be in danger."

King Xiang said, "Have you gone senile, professor? Do you want to call down misfortunes upon the state of Chu?"[8]

Zhuang Xin said, "It is the simple truth of what your servant has foreseen, and will certainly become a reality. I would not dare call down misfortunes upon the state, but if the favour you show these four does not decrease then the Chu will certainly be doomed. I beg leave to distance myself, and go to Zhao to wait and observe." Zhuang Xin left for Zhao and stayed there for five months as Qin incorporated Yan[9], Ying, Wu[10], Shangcai[11] and Chen[12] within its own territory. King Xiang escaped to Chengyang[13]. It was under such circumstances that he dispatched an envoy with a mounted escort to summon Zhuang Xin from Zhao.

Zhuang Xin said, "I will come." 

When Zhuang Xin arrived, King Xiang said, "We were incapable of making use of your recommendations, and now things have come to this. What can be done?"

莊辛對曰:「臣聞鄙語曰:『見兔而顧犬,未為晚也;亡羊而補牢,未為遲也。』臣聞昔湯、武以百里昌,桀、紂以天下亡。今楚國雖小,絕長續短,猶以數千里,豈特百里哉?

Zhuang Xin replied, "Your servant has heard an old saying that goes, 'When you see the rabbit it is still not too late to call your dog; after your sheep are gone, it is still not too late to repair the pen.' I have heard that in the past Tang[14] and Wu[15] flourished from within a territory of a hundred li, while Jie[16] and Zhou[17] possessed All-Under-Heaven and perished. Chu may now be smaller than it was, but if you use your strong points to compensate for your shortcomings and thus are equal to a state of a thousand li, why would it matter that you have only a hundred?

「王獨不見夫蜻蛉乎?六足四翼,飛翔乎天地之間,俛啄蚊虻而食之,仰承甘露而飲之,自以為無患,與人無爭也。不知夫五尺童子,方將調鈆膠絲,加己乎四仞之上,而下為螻蟻食也。蜻蛉其小者也,黃雀因是以。俯噣白粒,仰棲茂樹,鼓翅奮翼,自以為無患,與人無爭也。不知夫公子王孫,左挾彈,右攝丸,將加己乎十仞之上,以其類為招。晝游乎茂樹,夕調乎酸鹹,倏忽之間,墜於公子之手。

 

"Can it be that Your Majesty has never seen a dragonfly? It has six legs and four wings, and flies between heaven and earth, grabbing horseflies and gnats to eat and drinking the sweet dew, careless in its self-sufficiency, having no conflict with anyone. It does not know that a young boy is busy making a trap from sticky sweetened threads[18], which will be hung four ren[19] or more in the air to catch crickets and ants to eat[20]. But a dragonfly is an unimportant thing[21], so let us consider the siskin. A siskin looks down to peck at pale grains or glances up to its perch in the lush trees[22], fluttering its wings and climbing ever higher, careless in its self-sufficiency, having no conflict with anyone. It does not know that some lord or scholar's child is approaching with a slingshot in his left hand and a stone in his right, with a vertical reach of ten ren and the siskin's neck as his target[23]. A bird that was in the bushes that day will be pickled in brine by evening, brought down in the blink of an eye at the hands of a child.

 

「夫雀其小者也,黃鵠因是以。游於江海,淹乎大沼,府噣魚卷鯉,仰嚙𢤹衡,奮其六翮,而凌清風,飄搖乎高翔,自以為無患,與人無爭也。不知夫射者,方將脩其碆盧,治其繒繳,將加己乎百仞之上。彼礛磻,引微繳,折清風而抎矣。故晝游乎江河,夕調乎鼎鼐。

 

But a siskin is an unimportant thing[24], so let us consider the huanghu[25]. A huanghu is at home on rivers and seas, wading the great marshes and to gulping down eels, pecking at water chestnuts and pondweed[26], stretching its wings and soaring in the clear air, riding the wind and hovering the empyrean, careless in its self-sufficiency, having no conflict with anyone. It does not know that an archer is preparing a flint arrow and attaching a cord[27], about to shoot a hundred ren in the air, where the sharp arrow trailing its rope of raw silk will cut through the pure air to drag it down[28]. The huanghu that roamed between the Yangtze and the Yellow River that day will be boiled in a pot by evening[29].

 

「夫黃鵠其小者也,蔡聖侯之事因是以。南游乎高陂,北陵乎巫山,飲茹谿流,食湘波之魚,左抱幼妾,右擁嬖女,與之馳騁乎高蔡之中,而不以國家為事。不知夫子發方受命乎宣王,繫己以朱絲而見之也。

 

But a huanghu is an unimportant thing, so let us consider the affairs of Marquis Ling of Cai[30]. Marquis Cai travelled South to Gaobei[31] and climbed Mount Wu[32] in the North, drinking from the Ruxi River[33] and eating fish from the Xiang[34], with his left arm around his newest concubine and his right around his old favourite. He gave himself over to horse racing in Gaocai[35], taking no part in the affairs of the nation. He did not know that Zifa[36] had already received his orders from King Ling[37], and that he would be brought before the King of Chu tied in vermilion ropes[38].

「蔡聖侯之事其小者也,君王之事因是以。左州侯,右夏侯,輩從鄢陵君與壽陵君,飯封祿之粟,而戴方府之金,與之馳騁乎雲夢之中,而不以天下國家為事。不知夫穰侯方受命乎秦王,填黽塞之內,而投己乎黽塞之外。」

 

But the affairs of Marquis Ling of Cai were an unimportant thing, so let us consider the affairs of the King of Chu. To your left you had Marquis Zhou, and to your right Marquis Xia. Lord Yanling and Lord Shouling followed your carriage[39]. They lived off the lands you bestowed upon them, carrying off the gold from your treasuries. You raced your horses with them in Yunmeng[40], paying no attention to affairs of state. You did not know that Marquis Rang[41] had received orders from the King of Qin[42] to make his preparations beyond the Mian Pass[43], and was about to burst out."

 

襄王聞之,顏色變作,身體戰慄。於是乃以執珪而授之為陽陵君,與淮北之地也。

 

When King Xiang heard this his face flushed and he shuddered. Because of this he gave Zhuang Xin the title of Consul General[44], making him Lord Yangling[45] and giving him lands North of the Huai River[46].

[1] Zhuang Xin was a Chu politician.

[2] King Qingxiang of Chu (298–263 BC) was the son of King Huai, and ascended the throne while his father was still held prisoner in Qin. 

[3] This is the second of who known Marquis Zhous. The previous one served King Xuan of Chu. He was a favourite of King Qingxiang.

[4] Marquis Xia was a favourite of King Qingxiang.

[5] Lord Yanling may possibly have been from Wei, he was a favourite of King Qingxiang.

[6] Lord Shouling was a favourite of King Qingxiang.

[7] Ying was near modern Jingzhou in Hubei.

[8] The idea behind this was that speaking negatively about a thing could jinx it.

[9] Yan was modern Yicheng, in Hubei.

[10] This refers to modern Wushan County, near Chongqing.

[11] Shangcai is still called Shangcai, and is in Henan.

[12] Chen had formerly been an independent state, but had been annexed by Chu.

[13] The commentaries suggest reading 成陽 for 城陽. It is not entirely clear whether this refers to a place in the vicinity of Runan in Henan, or the town of Chengyang in modern Shandong. 

[14] Tang overthrew the Xia Dynasty to found the Shang Dynasty.

[15] King Wu overthrew the Shang Dynasty to found the Zhou Dynasty.

[16] Jie was the tyrannical last ruler of the Xia Dynasty.

[17] Zhou was the last ruler of the Shang Dynasty.

[18] Reading 調飴繆絲 for 調鈆膠絲 per the commentaries. 

[19] The precise length of the ren varied widely over time, making this distance hard to estimate.

[20] The crickets and ants attracted will probably be eaten by the child. Some interpretations of this have the crickets and ants eating the dragonfly, which is linguistically possible but seems less likely. 

[21] The commentaries suggest that this part may be superfluous. 

[22] The commentaries disagree on the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear. 

[23] The commentaries disagree on the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear. 

[24] The commentaries disagree on the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear. 

[25] A huanghu was a large mythological bird, but this passage seems to be referring to a real animal, possibly some kind of swan.

[26] The commentaries disagree on the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear. 

[27] The commentaries disagree on the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear. 

[28] The commentaries disagree on the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear. 

[29] Yao suggests that both 乎s here may be superfluous. 

[30] Reading 蔡靈侯 for 蔡聖侯. Marquis Ling of Cai was the ruler of the state of Cai during the Spring and Autumn period. He was killed by Chu.

[31] Gaobei is still called Gaobei and is in Guangdong.

[32] Wushan is actually in Southeast China, near Chongqing.

[33] The Ruxi River was in Sichuan, near Mount Wu.

[34] The Xiang River is in Hunan.

[35] Gaocai was near Xiangyang in Hunan.

[36] Zifa was Chancellor of Chu in the fifth century, and while he is recorded to have attacked Gaocai, it was after the death of Marquis Ling of Cai.

[37] Reading 靈 for 宣, per the commentaries. King Ling of Chu (540–529 BC) usurped the throne from his nephew before annexing Chen and Cai.

[38] Yao suggests that the 以 here may be superfluous. Traditionally red was worn by prisoners.

[39] The commentaries disagree on the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear. 

[40] Yunmeng is still called Yunmeng, and is in Hubei.

[41] Wei Ran, Marquis Rang, was Prime Minister of Qin. Ironically, he was also a minor member of the Chu royal house.

[42] King Zhaoxiang of Qin (306–251 BC) began life as a relatively minor prince, and served as a child hostage in Zhao before being sneaked out by Queen Xuan (his mother), her brother Wei Ran, and King Wuling of Zhao to assume the throne following the premature death of his brother, King Wu. Upon coming of age, he exiled Queen Xuan and Wei Ran, and worked with a succession of important figures of the age (Gan Mao, Fan Ju, Bai Qi...) to expand Qin's territory during the course of a long and successful reign.

[43] The Mian Pass is now known as the Pingjing Pass, and is not far from Suizhou, Hubei.

[44] Literally "Jade Tablet".

[45] The commentaries disagree on the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear. 

[46] Bao suggests that the 也  here is superfluous. The Huai River rises in Henan and flows through Jiangsu.

齊明說卓滑以伐秦

Qi Ming Tries to Persuade Zhuo Hua to Attack Qin

齊明說卓滑以伐秦,滑不聽也。齊明謂卓滑曰:「明之來也,為樗里疾卜交也。明說楚大夫以伐秦,皆受明之說也,唯公弗受也,臣有辭以報樗里子矣。」卓滑因重之。

Qi Ming[1] tried to persuade Zhuo Hua[2] to attack Qin. Hua would not listen. Qi Ming spoke to Zhuo Hua, saying, "If I came here, it was to divine the state your foreign relations[3] on behalf of Chuli Ji[4]. I tried to persuade Chu's Counsellors to attack Qin, and they were all receptive to my persuasions; only you refused. Your servant will report your comments to Chuli Ji." Zhuo Hua consequently worked to bolster Qi Ming's influence[5].  

[1] Qi Ming appears more than once in the Stratagems, but his background is not well-known.

[2] The commentaries suggest that this may be intended to read 淖滑 (Nao Hua). Both were alternative names for the same Chu politician.

[3] I.e. relations between Qin and Chu.

[4] Chuli Ji was a politician and general in Qin.

[5] In other words Qi Ming's attempts to win Zhuo Hua over to Qin failed, so he pretended that it was just a test and that he would be reporting back on Hua's loyalty. As a result, Hua has every interest in increasing Ming's political power. 

或謂黃齊
Speaking to Huang Qi

或謂黃齊曰:「人皆以謂公不善於富摯。公不聞老萊子之教孔子事君乎?示之其齒之堅也,六十而盡相靡也。今富摯能,而公重不相善也,是兩盡也。諺曰:『見君之乘,下之;見杖,起之。』今也,王愛富摯,而公不善也,是不臣也。」

 

Someone spoke to Huang Qi[1], saying, "Everyone is talking about your dislike of Fu Zhi[2]. Have you never heard about the lesson Master Lao Lai[3] gave to Confucius on the subject of how to serve one's lord? He showed him how his teeth had worn away[4] after having been ground together for sixty years. Now Fu Zhi is so talented that you and he are incapable of getting along because each of you wears the other down. There is a saying that goes, 'When you see your Lord's carriage, descend from your own; when you see him pick up his stick, stand up.' Now you are in is such a situation. The King is partial to Fu Zhi, but you dislike him. This is not proper behaviour for a servant." 

[1] A politician from Chu.

[2] Another Chu politician.

[3] Lao Lai was a hermit and paragon of filial piety. He lived in Chu in the Spring and Autumns period.

[4] Yao suggests that this should read 齒,曰齒 for 齒. In that case it would read, "He showed his teeth and said, 'My teeth have worn down after having been ground together for sixty years.'"

長沙之難

Trouble at Changsha

長沙之難,楚太子橫為質於齊。楚王死,薛公歸太子橫,因與韓、魏之兵,隨而攻東國。太子懼。昭蓋曰:「不若令屈署以新東國為和於齊以動秦。秦恐齊之敗東國,而令行於天下也,必將救我。」太子曰:「善。」遽令屈署以東國為和於齊。秦王聞之懼,令辛戎告楚曰:「毋與齊東國,吾與子出兵矣。」

 

During the trouble at Changsha[1] Crown Prince Heng of Chu[2] was sent to serve as a hostage in Qi[3]. When the King of Chu[4] died, the Duke of Xue[5] sent the Crown Prince back and seized the opportunity to raise troops from Han and Wei. He then proceeded to attack the state of Chu from the East. The Crown Prince was afraid. Zhao Gai[5] said, "Better have Qu Shu[6] offer the eastern part of our state in return for peace with Qi, and use your accord to intimidate Qin. Qin will be afraid once we have surrendered the eastern part of our state to Qi, so it will dispatch its orders among the states of All-Under-Heaven and they will come to our aid."

The Crown Prince said, "Very well." He immediately ordered Qu Shu to offer the eastern part of the state to Qi in return for peace.

The King of Qin[7] heard about it and panicked. He ordered Mi Rong[8] to take a message to Chu, saying, "Do not give the eastern part of your state to Qi. I will send you troops."

[1] Changsha is still called Changsha, and is in Hunan. This refers to the Qin invasion of Chu during the reign of King Huai.

[2] Xiong Heng, later King Qingxiang of Chu.

[3] I.e. to guarantee Chu's good faith and thereby secure a defensive alliance with Qi. 

[4] King Huai of Chu (328 - 299 BC) was known for having been the object of various poetic complaints by Qu Yuan​. He was captured by Qin in 299 BC and his son King Qingxiang took the throne. He made one attempt to escape, but was recaptured and died in 296 BC.

[5] Also known as Lord Mengchang, The Duke of Xue was a member of the Qi royal house and had a successful political career in Qi and Wei.

[6] Zhao Gai is not otherwise well-known.

[6] Qu Shu is not otherwise well-known.

[7] King Zhaoxiang of Qin (306–251 BC) began life as a relatively minor prince, and served as a child hostage in Zhao before being sneaked out by Queen Xuan (his mother), her brother Wei Ran, and King Wuling of Zhao to assume the throne following the premature death of his brother, King Wu. Upon coming of age, he exiled Queen Xuan and Wei Ran, and worked with a succession of important figures of the age (Gan Mao, Fan Ju, Bai Qi...) to expand Qin's territory during the course of a long and successful reign.

[8] Reading 羋 for 辛, per the commentaries. Mi Rong was the brother of Queen Xuan of Qin and a minor member of the Chu royal house.

有獻不死之藥於荊王者
Offering The Elixir of Life to the King of Jing

有獻不死之藥於荊王者,謁者操以入。中射之士問曰:「可食乎?」曰:「可。」因奪而食之。王怒,使人殺中射之士。中射之士使人說王曰:「臣問謁者,謁者曰可食,臣故食之。是臣無罪,而罪在謁者也。且客獻不死之藥,臣食之而王殺臣,是死藥也。王殺無罪之臣,而明人之欺王。」王乃不殺。

 

There was once someone who came to offer a medicine conferring eternal life[1] to the King of Jing[2]. As an attendant was carrying it into the palace, one of the guards said to him, "It's for eating?"

He replied, "It is[3]." Upon hearing this, the guard grabbed it and ate it. The King was annoyed, and ordered someone to execute the guard.

The guard sent someone to persuade the King against this, saying, "I asked the attendant about it, and the attendant said that it was for eating, so your servant ate it. This being so, it was not me who committed an offense, rather, the offense was on the part of your attendant. Moreover, your guest was offering a medicine supposed to grant eternal life and I ate it, so if you succeed in killing me, then that means that it does not work. If Your Majesty kills an innocent servant, then it will be clear that someone has tricked you." As a result, the King did not kill him. 

[1] As in Europe, China had a long alchemical tradition based around searching for the elixir of life.

[2] It is likely that this story was written in Qin, where the character for Chu was under a naming taboo during the latter part of the Warring States era, and hence the alternative character, Jing, was used instead. This story seems to refer to King Qingxiang of Chu (298–263 BC), the son of King Huai, who ascended the throne while his father was still held prisoner in Qin. 

[3] In Chinese the same phrase is used for "Is it edible?" and "Can I eat it?"

客說春申君
A Visitor Exercises his Persuasions on Lord Chunshen

客說春申君曰:「湯以亳,武王以鄗,皆不過百里以有天下。今孫子,天下賢人也,君籍之以百里勢,臣竊以為不便於君。何如?」春申君曰:「善。」於是使人謝孫子。孫子去之趙,趙以為上卿。

 

A visitor exercised his persuasions on Lord Chunshen[1], saying, "Tang[2] had Bo[3], and King Wu[4] had Hao[5]: neither had more than a hundred li of land, but they used it to gain possession of All-Under-Heaven. Now Master Sun[6] is a sage within All-Under-Heaven, and Your Lordship is going to enrol him as a hundred-li power[7]. Your servant humbly suggests that this is will not make your life easier. Is it not so?" 

Lord Chunshen said, "Very well." This being so, Lord Chunshen sent someone to thank and dismiss Master Sun. Master Sun left for Zhao, and Zhao made him a high-ranking official. 

客又說春申君曰:「昔伊尹去夏入殷,殷王而夏亡。管仲去魯入齊,魯弱而齊強。夫賢者之所在,其君未嘗不尊,國未嘗不榮也。今孫子,天下賢人也。君何辭之?」春申君又曰:「善。」於是使人請孫子於趙。

 

Then another visitor exercised his own persuasions on Lord Chunshen, saying, "In the past Yi Yin[8] left Xia[9] and went to Yin[10]; thus Yin[11] attained the throne and Xia was exterminated. Guan Zhong[12] left Lu and went to Qi, and so Lu was weakened and Qi strengthened. Wherever a sage resides, that state has never yet lacked in glory and its lord has never yet lacked for respect. Now Master Sun is a sage in All-Under-Heaven. Why did Your Lordship dismiss him?"

Lord Chunshen once again said, "Very well." As a result of this, he sent an envoy to beg Master Sun to return from Zhao.

孫子為書謝曰:「癘人憐王,此不恭之語也。雖然,不可不審察也。此為劫弒死亡之主言也。夫人主年少而矜材,無法術以知奸,則大臣主斷國私以禁誅於己也,故弒賢長而立幼弱,廢正適而立不義。春秋戒之曰:『楚王子圍聘於鄭,未出竟,聞王病,反問疾,遂以冠纓絞王,殺之,因自立也。齊崔杼之妻美,莊公通之。崔杼帥其君黨而攻。莊公請與分國,崔杼不許;欲自刃於廟,崔杼不許。莊公走出,踰於外牆,射中其股,遂殺之,而立其弟景公。』近代所見:李兌用趙,餓主父於沙丘,百日而殺之;淖齒用齊,擢閔王之筋,縣於其廟梁,宿夕而死。夫厲雖箒腫胞疾,上比前世,未至絞纓射股;下比近代,未至擢筋而餓死也。夫劫弒死亡之主也,心之憂勞,形之困苦,必甚於癘矣。由此觀之,癘雖憐王可也。」因為賦曰:「寶珍隋珠,不知佩兮。褘布與絲,不知異兮。閭姝子奢,莫知媒兮。嫫母求之,又甚喜之兮。以瞽為明,以聾為聰,以是為非,以吉為凶。嗚呼上天,曷惟其同!」詩曰:「上天甚神,無自瘵也。」

Master Sun sent a letter declining, in which he said, "A leper should pity a King. This is not a respectful poverb; nevertheless, this old saying is no empty one[13], and one cannot but consider it comprehensively, because it talks of Lords who are killed or exiled by their ministers. When the Lord of Men is young and over-confident, he lacks the reference points and the skills to recognise a traitor so his personal private secretaries exercise arbitrary power over the state in their own interests; self-interested and seeking to forestall their own executions, they kill wise leaders and put weak children in their place. They discard what is honest and correct and put iniquity in their place. The Spring and Autumn Annals[14] gives a warning, saying, 'Prince Wei of Chu[15] left to visit Zheng, but before he had crossed the border he heard that the King was ill, so he returned to ask after his condition and then strangled him with the ties of his cap, killing him and taking the opportunity to claim the throne for himself. Cui Zhu[15] of Qi had a beautiful wife[16] and Duke Zhuang[17] had an affair with her. Cui Zhu gathered his followers and attacked. Duke Zhuang begged to share his state with him, but Cui Zhu would not countenance it[18]. Duke Zhuang begged permission to commit suicide in his ancestral shrine, but Cui Zhu would not countenance it. Duke Zhuang fled, and was trying to climb over the wall when he was shot in the thigh, which killed him. His younger brother Jing[19] was then enthroned as the new Duke.' It can be seen among more recent generations too: Zhao was at Li Dui's[20] disposal and he starved the King's father[21] at Shaqiu[22] for a hundred days, thus killing him. Qi was at Nao Chi's[23] disposal, and he stretched King Min's[24] sinews, hanging him from a beam in his ancestral shrine, where he lingered overnight and then died[25]. However deeply disease may eat into one's viscera, it should be compared to the fates of former generations' Kings[26] - who were strangled with their cap ties or shot in the thigh - or to those of our current generation - who had their tendons stretched or were starved to death. The exhausted despair in the heart, the bitter helplessness of the Lord who is killed by his subordinates, these cut deeper than the lesions of any disease. From this perspective, even a leper should pity a King." He took the opportunity to attach a poem[27], saying, "Oh to have a treasure like the pearl of Sui[28] and not know how to fasten it to your belt[29]! Oh to see no difference between phoenix robes and plain silk threads[30]! Lü Shu[31] and Zi She[32] could not find matchmakers, but Momu[33] was much sought-after and deeply beloved. To take the blind to be clear-sighted, and the deaf to be sharp of hearing; to take true for false, and good fortune for bad, alas - Heaven above - how could anyone see them as equal? As the Book of Poetry[34] says, 'Heaven's ways are deeply mysterious, so offer no hostages to fortune.'"

[1] Lord Chunshen, also known as Huang Xie,  was a successful politician and general in Chu. He may also have been the real father of King You of Chu.

[2] Cheng Tang (c. 1675 – 1646 BC) ruled a small feudal state under the Xia Dynasty. He conquered neighbouring states and finally overthrew the Xia.

[3] Bo was in modern Shangqiu, Henan.

[4] King Wu of Zhou (1046–1043 BC) defeated King Zhou of Shang to become one of the founders of the Zhou Dynasty.

[5] Reading 鎬 for Hao was in Gaoyi County, Hebei.

[6] 孫子 was an alternate form of  荀子. Xunzi was a Confucian philosopher.

[7] Reading 之勢 for 勢, per the commentaries. 

[8] The commentaries suggest that the 尹 here may be superfluous. Yi Yin was a former slave who helped Tang of Shang overthrow the Xia Dynasty, and then served as his Chancellor.

[9] The court of the Xia Dynasty.

[10] The court of the coming Shang Dynasty.

[11] I.e Cheng Tang.

[12] Chancellor of Qi during the Spring and Autumns period, Guan Zhong raised Duke Huan of Qi to the status of hegemon and was a leading legalist thinker.

[13] Reading 雖然,古無虛諺 for 雖然, per the commentaries. 

[14] The Spring and Autumn Annals was Confucius' history of the state of Lu. A passage approximating this does appear in the Zuo Zhuan, the principal commentary on the text.

[15] Later King Ling of Chu (540–529 BC), Prince Wei usurped the throne from his uncle, King Jia'ao. He enjoyed several military victories but later was subject to a domestic coup and replaced by his brother, Zi'ao.

[15] Cui Zhu was a politician in Qi in the sixth century BC.

[16] Tang Jiang was Cui Zhu's second wife.

[17] Duke Zhuang of Qi (553–548 BC) was originally nominated as Crown Prince of Qi, before being deposed and replaced with a brother. However, Cui Zhu later placed him on the throne. 

[18] The commentaries disagree on the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear.

[19] Duke Jing of Qi (547–490 BC) was a half-brother of Duke Zhuang by a concubine. Cui Zhu and another politician, Qing Feng, dominated the state under his rule, with both all three of their families experiencing violent internal conflicts during his reign. 

[20] Li Dui was a politician in Zhao in the third century BC.

[21] King Wuling of Zhao abdicated in favour of his younger son, Zhao He, which triggered a rebellion by his elder brother, Zhao Zhang. The rebellion was defeated by troops led by Li Dui, and Zhang fled to his father's fort at Shaqiu. Li Dui laid siege to Shaqiu, and straved the inhabitants until Wuling killed Zhang in an attempt to convince Li Dui to raise the siege. It did not succeed and Wuling starved to death.

[22] Shaqiu was in modern Guangzong County, Hebei.

[23] Nao Chi was a politician and general in Qi. Tired of King Min's incompetence, he finally killed him. Variations on 擢閔王之筋 appear more than once in the stratagems and I cannot find a good explanation of precisely what the process involved. Other English translations read "bind by the joints", though it seems odd that what was presumably a minor stage in the process is mentioned assiduously in every description. Possibly he broke Min's arms to stop him breathing, crucifixion-style.

[24] King Min of Qi (300–284 BC) was famously bad at managing his subordinates, and almost lost his state following an invasion by Yan. His own generals eventually turned upon him and one of them, Nao Chi, killed him.

[25] The mechanics of King Min's death seem to have been clear to contemporary readers but have been lost to modernity. I suspect it was a form of positional asphyxia, which would have left King Min's body intact and thus - by the standards of the time - would have been considered a dignified death, as well as potentially allowing Chi to claim that he was not directly responsible for the regicide, since Min would have died when he was not present.

[26] The commentaries disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear.

[27] This poem, or something very close to it, appears in the Xunzi.

[28] The Marquis of Sui's Pearl was a famous jewel in the Warring States era.

[29] The commentaries suggest that 佩 may be intended to read 俾, in which case this should read "and not know how to make use of it!"

[30] The commentaries disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear.

[31] Lü Shu was a famous (female)  beauty from Wei.

[32] Zi She was a famous (male) beauty from Zheng.

[33] Momu was the Yellow Emperor's fourth wife. She was famously ugly but hard-working and intelligent. 

[34] The version that has come down to us gives the line as 上帝甚蹈、無自瘵焉.

天下合從
All-Under-Heaven Forms an Anti-Qin Alliance

天下合從。趙使魏加見楚春申君曰:「君有將乎?」曰:「有矣,僕欲將臨武君。」魏加曰:「臣少之時好射,臣願以射譬之,可乎?」春申君曰:「可。」加曰:「異日者,更羸與魏王處京臺之下,仰見飛鳥。更羸謂魏王曰:『臣為王引弓虛發而下鳥。』魏王曰:『然則射可至此乎?』更羸曰:『可。』有間,雁從東方來,更羸以虛發而下之。魏王曰:『然則射可至此乎?』更羸曰:『此孽也。』王曰:『先生何以知之?』對曰:『其飛徐而鳴悲。飛徐者,故瘡痛也;鳴悲者,久失群也,故瘡未息,而驚心未至也。聞弦音,引而高飛,故瘡隕也。』今臨武君,嘗為秦孽,不可為拒秦之將也。」

 

When All-Under-Heaven formed an alliance against Qin[1], Zhao sent Wei Jia[2] as an envoy to seek an audience with Lord Chunshen[3] of Chu. He said, "Has Your Lordship settled on a general yet?"

Lord Chunshen said, "I have. I wish to make Lord Linwu[4] our General."

Wei Jia said, "When I was young, I was fond of archery, so I wish to draw an archery parallel, if that is permissible?"

Lord Chunshen said, "Go ahead."

Jia said, "One day, Geng Lei[5] and the King of Wei[6] were standing at the foot of the Jing Tower[7], when they looked up and saw birds flying over them. Geng Lei spoke to the King of Wei, saying, 'Now, I will draw my bow and, without an arrow, bring down a bird for Your Majesty[8].' The King of Wei said, 'Is it possible to shoot a bird in such a way?' Geng Lei said, 'It is.' After a while, a wild goose came flying over from the East, and Geng Lei, without an arrow, pulled back his bowstring and brought the bird down. The King of Wei said, 'Is it possible to shoot a bird in such a way?' Geng Lei said, 'It was already infirm.' The King said, 'How did you know?' Geng Lei replied, 'Its flight was slow and its call was mournful. If it was flying slowly, it was because it was injured and in pain; if its cry was mournful, it was because it had long since lost its flock. Thus, it must have had unhealed wounds. It was already losing heart[9]. When it heard the sound of my bowstring being pulled back, and an arrow about to fly[10], it fell to its old wounds.' Now Lord Linwu has experienced injury at Qin's hands, and will not be able to repel Qin's General."

[1] Zeng suggests 舍 for 合 here. 

[2] A politician from Zhao. 

[3] Lord Chunshen, also known as Huang Xie,  was a successful politician and general in Chu. He may also have been the real father of King You of Chu.

[4] Lord Linwu served in both Chu and Zhao, as well as debating strategy with Xunzi before King Xiaocheng of Zhao. 

[5] Geng Lei was a celebrated archer in Wei.

[6] It is not clear which King of Wei is intended here.

[7] This may just be a non-specific tall tower; the commentaries disagree on this point.

[8] Bao suggests 君 for 王 here, per the commentaries. 

[9] The commentaries disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear.

[10] The commentaries disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear.

汗明見春申君

Han Ming Seeks an Audience with Lord Chunshen

汗明見春申君,候問三月,而後得見。談卒,春申君大說之。汗明欲復談,春申君曰:「僕已知先生,先生大息矣。」汗明憱焉曰:「明願有問君而恐固。不審君之聖,孰與堯也?」春申君曰:「先生過矣,臣何足以當堯?」汗明曰:「然則君料臣孰與舜?」春申君曰:「先生即舜也。」汗明曰:「不然,臣請為君終言之。君之賢實不如堯,臣之能不及舜。夫以賢舜事聖堯,三年而後乃相知也。今君一時而知臣,是君聖於堯而臣賢於舜也。」春申君曰:「善。」召門吏為汗先生著客籍,五日一見。

Han Ming[1] sought an audience with Lord Chunshen[2]. After waiting three months[3], he obtained one. When they eventually spoke, Lord Chunshen was delighted with him. Han Ming requested permission to return and speak to him again, but Lord Chunshen said, "I am already aware of your presence, professor, you can relax."

Han Ming appeared disappointed[4], and said, "There was one thing I wanted to ask Your Lordship, but I was afraid to insist. I am not sure who is more sagacious, yourself or Yao[5]?" 

Lord Chunshen said, "You are going to far, professor. How could your servant match up to Yao?"

Han Ming said, "In that case, does Your Lordship believe that my resourcefulness is greater than that of Shun[6]?"

Lord Chunshen said, "You are indeed like Shun."

Han Ming said, "Not so. I beg your leave to finish my speech. Your Lordship's wisdom does not equal that of Yao. Your servant's capacities do not equal those of Shun. Even with Yao's wisdom and Shun's sagacity, it took them three years to get to know one another. Now Your Lordship has only known me for one day; this being so, either your sagacity is greater than that of Yao or my wisdom is greater than that of Shun."

Lord Chunshen said, "Well said." The palace gatekeeper entered Professor Han's name on the rolls, and he was accorded an audience every five days.

汗明曰:「君亦聞驥乎?夫驥之齒至矣,服鹽車而上太行。蹄申膝折,尾湛胕潰,漉汁灑地,白汗交流,中阪遷延,負轅不能上。伯樂遭之,下車攀而哭之,解紵衣以㨆之。驥於是俛而噴,仰而鳴,聲達於天,若出金石聲者,何也?彼見伯樂之知己也。今僕之不肖,阨於州部,堀穴窮巷,沈洿鄙俗之日久矣,君獨無意湔拔僕也,使得為君高鳴屈於梁乎?

 

Han Ming said, "Has Your Lordship heard about the horse Ji[7]? After it grew too long in the tooth, it was retired to pull a salt wagon in the Taihang Mountains[8]. Its hooves were overgrown and its knees crooked, its tail drooped and its feet were ulcerated. Froth ran down its sides and dripped to the ground, mixing with its flowing sweat as it toiled up the slope, unable to drag its cart any higher[9]. Bo Le[10] encountered it, jumped down from his carriage, took its reins and sobbed over it, undoing his own ramie coat to cover it. Ji, when this happened, lowered its head and panted, then raised its head and whinnied, and the sound carried up to heaven, ringing out like metal on stone. Why? Because Ji saw that Bo Le understood him. Now I was a lowly individual, stranded in the lowest ranks of the bureaucracy, living in poverty in a dark alleyway[11], spending my long days drowning in the morass of the vulgar. Surely it could not be that your Lordship intends wash me clean and lift me up[12], and have me praise you to the skies in Liang[13]?" 

[1] Han Ming is not otherwise well-known.

[2] Lord Chunshen, also known as Huang Xie,  was a successful politician and general in Chu. He may also have been the real father of King You of Chu.

[3] Yao suggests 候間 for 候問 here.

[4] The commentaries disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence. He may have sighed, frowned, or expressed his displeasure in some other way.

[5] Yao (c. 2188-2089 BC) was a semi-legendary founding father of China.

[6] Shun (c. 2187-2067 BC) was Yao's successor. Yao recruited him to take over the running of his government before abdicating.

[7] This was a semi-legendary horse that could travel a thousand li (a li was a third of a mile) without resting.

[8] The Taihang Mountains are in Shanxi and Hebei.

[9] The commentaries disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear. 

[10] Bo Le was a celebrated horse trainer who worked for Duke Mu of Qin.

[11] Yao suggests 陪堀 for 堀 here.

[12] The commentaries disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear. 

[13] The Taihang Mountains were in Liang. 

楚考烈王無子
King Kaolie of Chu Has No Children

楚考烈王無子,春申君患之,求婦人宜子者進之,甚眾,卒無子。

King Kaolie of Chu[1] had no children, and Lord Chunshen[2] was worried about it. He searched for women capable of bearing children and sent them to the King, but however numerous the women, this still did not result in a child.

 

趙人李園,持其女弟,欲進之楚王,聞其不宜子,恐又無寵。李園求事春申君為舍人。已而謁歸,故失期。還謁,春申君問狀。對曰:「齊王遣使求臣女弟,與其使者飲,故失期。」春申君曰:「聘入乎?」對曰:「未也。」春申君曰:「可得見乎?」曰:「可。」於是園乃進其女弟,即幸於春申君。知其有身,園乃與其女弟謀。

 

Li Yuan[3], a resident of Zhao, had a younger sister, and wished to offer her to the King of Chu. However, he had heard that she may not find it easy to conceive, and was worried[4] that the King would not value her. He sought a position as an attendant in Lord Chunshen's household. When he had obtained the position, he requested leave a leave of absence and returned late. When he came back from his leave, Lord Chunshen asked him what was going on. He replied, "The King of Qi has sent an envoy to request my younger sister. I was drinking with the envoy, and that is why I was late."

Lord Chunshen said, "Have you received the dowry yet?"

He replied, "Not yet."

Lord Chunshen said, "Would it be possible for me to see her?"

He replied, "It would." Things having thus been arranged, Yuan sent his sister[5] to Lord Chunshen and she was favoured by him. When they realised she was pregnant[6], Yuan and his sister discussed their strategy together. 

園女弟承間說春申君曰:「楚王之貴幸君,雖兄弟不如。今君相楚王二十餘年,而王無子,即百歲後將更立兄弟。即楚王更立,彼亦各貴其故所親,君又安得長有寵乎?非徒然也?君用事久,多失禮於王兄弟,兄弟誠立,禍且及身,奈何以保相印、江東之封乎?今妾自知有身矣,而人莫知。妾之幸君未久,誠以君之重而進妾於楚王,王必幸妾。妾賴天而有男,則是君之子為王也,楚國封盡可得,孰與其臨不測之罪乎?」春申君大然之。乃出園女弟謹舍,而言之楚王。楚王召入,幸之。遂生子男,立為太子,以李園女弟立為王后。楚王貴李園,李園用事。

Yuan's sister seized her opportunity to exercise her persuasions on Lord Chunshen, and said, "The King of Chu treasures and favours Your Lordship even more than his own brothers[7]. Now you have served as the King of Chu's Chancellor for over twenty years[8], and the King has no child. After his allotted span has passed, one of his brothers will be enthroned. If Chu establishes a new King, he will want to elevate all those who are close to him[9]. How long then will you retain your favoured position? Moreover[10], you have served the King for many years, and have offended his brothers on many occasions. If one of them really becomes King[11], it will be a disaster for you. How will you keep hold of the Chancellor's seals and your domains East of the Yellow River[12]? Now I know that I am pregnant, but nobody else does. It is not long since I first received your favour, and you could plausibly use your influence to introduce me to the King of Chu and he will certainly favour me likewise. I will place my trust in Heaven to ensure that I have a son, then Your Lordship's child will be King. Would you rather take the whole state of Chu as your fief[13] or find yourself charged with some unspecified crime[14]?" Lord Chunshen agreed heartily. He sent Yuan's sister to stay in a secret place, and spoke about her to the King of Chu. The King of Chu summoned Yuan's sister to the palace, and bestowed his favours upon her. Subsequently, a son was born, and he was established as the Crown Prince, with Li Yuan's sister becoming the Queen. The King of Chu ennobled Li Yuan, and Li Yuan took charge of his affairs.

 

李園既入其女弟為王后,子為太子,恐春申君語泄而益驕,陰養死士,欲殺春申君以滅口,而國人頗有知之者。

 

Li Yuan had made his sister Queen and her son Crown Prince, but he was afraid that Lord Chunshen would let something slip as he grew more self-confident. He secretly cultivated assassins[15] with the aim of killing Lord Chunshen and thus stopping his mouth, but there were many in the state who came to learn of it. 

春申君相楚二十五年,考烈王病。朱英謂春申君曰:「世有無妄之福,又有無妄之禍。今君處無妄之世,以事無妄之主,安不有無妄之人乎?」春申君曰:「何謂無妄之福?」曰:「君相楚二十餘年矣,雖名為相國,實楚王也。五子皆相諸侯。今王疾甚,旦暮且崩,太子衰弱,疾而不起,而君相少主,因而代立當國,如伊尹、周公。王長而反政,不,即遂南面稱孤,因而有楚國。此所謂無妄之福也。」春申君曰:「何謂無妄之禍?」曰:「李園不治國,王之舅也。不為兵將,而陰養死士之日久矣。楚王崩,李園必先入,據本議制斷君命,秉權而殺君以滅口。此所謂無妄之禍也。」春申君曰:「何謂無妄之人?」曰:「君先仕臣為郎中,君王崩,李園先入,臣請為君童刀其胸殺之。此所謂無妄之人也。」春申君曰:「先生置之,勿復言已。李園,軟弱人也,僕又善之,又何至此?」朱英恐,乃亡去。

After Lord Chunshen had been the Chancellor of Chu for twenty-five years, King Kaolie grew ill. Zhu Ying[16] spoke to Lord Chunshen, saying, "In this world is one of unexpected blessings and unexpected misfortunes. Now Your Lordship is living in a world full of unexpected events, and serving a sovereign who acts in unexpected ways. Why should you not have an unexpected partisan?"

Lord Chunshen said, "What do you mean by unexpected blessings?"

He said, "Your Lordship has served as Chancellor of Chu for over twenty years, however while your title is that of Chancellor, in reality you are the King of Chu[17]. Your five sons are all serving under the feudal lords. Now the King is in extremis, soon he will have seen his last dawn and dusk and he will descend to the underworld. The Crown Prince is helpless, and if the King never gets up from his sick bed, you will be Chancellor under a young sovereign, so you can step in and take his place within the state - like Yi Yin[18] or the Duke of Zhou[19] - until the King grows up and you return the reins of government to him. Alternatively, you can turn to face South and assume the royal pronouns yourself[20], seizing the opportunity to take possession of Chu. This can be described as an unexpected blessing."

Lord Chunshen said, "What do you mean by unexpected misfortune?"

He said, "Li Yuan is not a member of the state government, but he will be the King's uncle. He does not lead troops as a general, but he has secretly been cultivating assassins for many a long day. When the King dies, Li Yuan will certainly be the first to arrive at the palace; he will take possession of the centre of power and the decree ordering your summary execution will be written using official stationery[21]. He will seize power and kill you to ensure your silence. This can be described as an unexpected misfortune."

Lord Chunshen said, "What do you mean by unexpected partisans?"

He said, "If Your Lordship appoints me as a royal bodyguard then when when the King descends to the underworld[22] and Li Yuan is the first to arrive at the palace, I beg permission to stab him in the chest with a naked blade and kill him on your behalf[23]. Thus I can be described as an unexpected partisan."

Lord Chunshen said, "Let it go, professor. Do not speak of this again[24]. Li Yuan is a weak man, and I have treated him well. How could things reach such a point?" Zhu Ying was afraid, and escaped while he still could.

後十七日,楚考烈王崩,李園果先入,置死士,止於棘門之內。春申君後入,止棘門。園死士夾刺春申君,斬其頭,投之棘門外。於是使吏盡滅春申君之家。而李園女弟,初幸春申君有身,而入之王所生子者,遂立為楚幽王也。

 

Seventeen days later, King Kaolie descended to the underworld[25]. Li Yuan was the first to arrive at the palace, and stationed his assassins at the Halberd Gate[26]. Lord Chunshen arrived later, and was stopped at the gate, where Yuan's assassins emerged and stabbed him, beheaded him, and threw his body out through the gate. This having been done, officials were dispatched to completely wipe out Lord Chunshen's household. The child of Li Yuan's sister - the woman who had first enjoyed Lord Chunshen's favours and then been sent to the King and given birth - was subsequently enthroned as King You of Chu[27].

是歲,秦始皇立九年矣。嫪毐亦為亂於秦。覺,夷三族,而呂不韋廢。

 

That year was the nineteenth year of Qin Shihuang's[28] reign. Lao Ai[29] was fomenting disorder in Qin, and when the King became aware of it Lao Ai's family was executed to the third generation, and Lü Buwei[30] was dismissed. 

[1] King Kaolie of Chu (262 - 238 BC) annexed the state of Lu. 

[2] Lord Chunshen, also known as Huang Xie,  was a successful politician and general in Chu. He may also have been the real father of King You of Chu.

[3] Li Yuan is known principally via this story.

[4] Yao suggests 久 for 又 here, in which case it would be "had long been worried". 

[5] Yao suggests that the 乃 here may be superfluous. 

[6] Yao suggests that the 其  here may be superfluous. 

[7] The same word is used here to describe the preferential treatment received by Lord Chunshen as was used in the previous paragraph to describe Li Yuan's sister's relations with Chunshen himself. It may be intended to imply a sexual relationship between Chunshen and the King, or it may simply be an ironic comparison between the work of a bureaucrat and that of a concubine or a prostitute - it would not be the first in the book.

[8] Yao suggests that the 王 here may be superfluous. 

[9] According to the commentaries, the 故 here may be superfluous. 

[10] Modern versions do not interpret this as a question.

[11] The commentaries disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear. 

[12] Yao suggests that 奈 may be superfluous here. 

[13] Yao suggests that the 盡 here may be superfluous.  

[14] I.e. as a pretext by the new King or his entourage to get rid of him.

[15] Assassination was assumed to be a suicide mission in ancient China, so recruiting an assassin was rather like recruiting a suicide bomber today, often involving promises of honour and money for the candidate's family after his death.

[16] Zhu Ying was a politician from Chu. 

[17] Yao suggests 實如 for 實 here.

[18] Yi Yin served as regent when King Tangjia of Shang was young, later exiling Taijia when his rule proved unsatisfactory.

[19] The Duke of Zhou served as a loyal regent for his nephew, King Cheng of Zhou.

[20] Royal palaces traditionally faced South in China, and Kings used specific personal pronouns.

[21] The commentaries and translations disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear. 

[22] The commentaries and translations disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear. 

[23] The commentaries and translations disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear. 

[24] Reading 也 for 已, per the commentaries. 

[25] Reading 考烈王 for 楚考烈王, per the commentaries. 

[26] The main entrance of the palace.

[27] King You of Chu. Some versions stop here. The following sentence also appears in the Records of the Grand Historian, apparently as a p8rallel intended to show how these things should be handled.

[29] King Zheng of Qin (247 – 210 BC) would later conquer the other states and rule the empire under the name of Qin Shihuang.

[30] Lao Ai was the lover of Queen Dowager Zhao, King Zheng's mother, and led a faction within the Qin court.

[31] Lü Buwei served as regent before King Zheng came of age and was Chancellor at the time. While he did not participate in Lao Ai's rebellion, he had been instrumental in introducing him to Queen Dowager Zhao.

虞卿謂春申君
Yu Qing Speaks to Lord Chunshen

虞卿謂春申君曰:「臣聞之春秋,於安思危,危則慮安。今楚王之春秋高矣,而君之封地,不可不早定也。為主君慮封者,莫如遠楚。秦孝公封商君,孝公死,而後不免殺之。秦惠王封冉子,惠王死,而後王奪之。公孫鞅,功臣也;冉子,親姻也。然而不免奪死者,封近故也。太公望封於齊,邵公奭封於燕,為其遠王室矣。今燕之罪大而趙怒深,故君不如北兵以德趙,踐亂燕,以定身封,此百代之一時也。」

 

Yu Qing[1] spoke to Lord Chunshen[2], saying, "Your servant has read in the Spring and Autumn Annals[3] that when you are safe you should anticipate danger, then when danger arises you will have a plan for making yourself safe. Now the King of Chu's springs and autumns are piling up, and when it comes to securing a domain for yourself, you cannot settle the matter too soon. In considering potential domains, nothing would be better than to acquire land far away. Duke Xiao of Qin[4] gave Lord Shang[5] a domain, but Duke Xiao died and[6] could not prevent Lord Shang from being killed. King Zhaoxiang of Qin[7] gave Master Ran[8] lands of his own, but King Zhaoxiang died, then the new King snatched them back. Gongsun Yang achieved great things in service and Master Ran was a relative of the King's by marriage. Nevertheless, they could not avoid dispossession and death because their lands were near the capital[9]. Grand Duke Wang[10] received domains in Qi and Zhao Gongshi[11] received domains in Yan; both kept their estates because they were far from their King. Now Yan's offenses are great and Zhao bears a deep grudge[12], therefore Your Lordship had better send troops north to pay tribute to Zhao and repress Yan's disorders, thereby securing a domain for yourself. This is a once-in-a-hundred-generations opportunity."

 

君曰:「所道攻燕,非齊則魏。魏、齊新怨楚,楚君雖欲攻燕,將道何哉?」對曰:「請令魏王可。」君曰:「何如?」對曰:「臣請到魏,而使所以信之。」

Lord Chunshen said, "Our route to attack Yan must pass through Wei if it does not go through Qi, and Qi currently holds a grudge against Chu. Even if Chu's armies[13] wished to attack Yan, which road do you expect them to take?"

Yu Qing replied, "I beg permission to have King of Wei[14] grant you permission."

Lord Chunshen said, "How?"

Yu Qing replied, "I beg leave to go to Wei, and I will give him a reason to believe us."

迺謂魏王曰:「夫楚亦強大矣,天下無敵,乃且攻燕。」魏王曰:「鄉也,子云天下無敵;今也,子云乃且攻燕者,何也?」對曰:「今為馬多力則有矣,若曰勝千鈞則不然者,何也?夫千鈞非馬之任也。今謂楚強大則有矣,若越趙、魏而鬥兵於燕,則豈楚之任也我?非楚之任而楚為之,是敝楚也。敝楚見強魏也,其於王孰便也?」

 

Thereupon he went and spoke to the King of Wei, saying, "Chu is large and strong, and has no equal in All-Under-Heaven, but it will struggle to defeat Yan."

The King of Wei said, "First you said you have no equal in All-Under-Heaven, now you say that you will struggle to defeat Yan. Why?"

Yu Qing replied, "Now if I were to say[15] that my horse is strong, I would be right, but if I were to say that it could carry over a thousand jun, that would be false. Why? Because a thousand jun is not a load for a single horse. Now when I say that Chu is large and strong, I am right, but if we were to cross Zhao and Wei and to launch a military attack on Yan, how could Chu bear the weight of that[16]? If this is not a load that Chu is capable of bearing, but it attempts to do so, then Chu will be destroyed. If Chu is destroyed, then Wei will be strengthened[17]. How would this suit Your Majesty?"

[1] Yu Qing was a writer and politician in Zhao.

[2] Lord Chunshen, also known as Huang Xie,  was a successful politician and general in Chu. He may also have been the real father of King You of Chu.

[3] Confucius' history of the state of Lu.

[4] Duke Xiao of Qin (361–338 BC) worked with Shang Yang to enact legal and military reforms in Qin, and won several significant victories against neighbouring states. 

[5] Shang Yang, also known as Gongsun Yang, served as Chancellor of Qin and introduced the political reforms that set it on the path to hegemony. After Duke Xiao died he was killed by Duke Hui, Xiao's successor. 

[6] Reading 後王 for 後, per the commentaries. 

[7] Reading 秦昭王 for 秦惠王, following modern interpretations. King Zhaoxiang of Qin (306–251 BC) began life as a relatively minor prince, and served as a child hostage in Zhao before being sneaked out by Queen Xuan (his mother), her brother Wei Ran, and King Wuling of Zhao to assume the throne following the premature death of his brother, King Wu. Upon coming of age, he exiled Queen Xuan and Wei Ran, and worked with a succession of important figures of the age (Gan Mao, Fan Ju, Bai Qi...) to expand Qin's territory during the course of a long and successful reign.

[8] Wei Ran served as Chancellor under King Zhaoxiang, before being forced out by Fan Ju. 

[9] Shang Yang's domain, Shang, was in modern Shangluo, which was indeed in the Qin heartlands. Wei Ran's fief was Rangyi, in modern Dengzhou, Henan, which was relatively far from central Qin. 

[10] Also known as Jiang Ziya, Grand Duke Wang helped to found the Zhou Dynasty and received a fief that later became Qi as a result.

[11] Zhao Gongshi also helped in the establishment of the Zhou Dynasty and was rewarded with territory centred on modern Beijing, which developed into the state of Yan.

[12] Reading 怨 for 怒, per the commentaries. 

[13] Reading 軍 for 君, per the commentaries. 

[14] King Jingmin of Wei (242–228 BC) created an anti-Qin alliance with Chu, Han, Yan and Zhao, but this collapsed when Han was annexed.

[15] Reading 謂 for 為, per the commentaries.  

[16] Reading 哉 for 我, per the commentaries. 

[17] The commentaries suggest  是 for 見 here.