楚四 THE STRATAGEMS OF CHU IV
Addressing the King of CHu
Someone addressed the King of Chu, saying, "I have heard that the Vertical Alliance members want to federate All-Under-Heaven in Your Majesty's court. I hope that you will listen to them. Retaining integrity in the face of humiliation and overcoming old wrongs to achieve success, this is the morality of heroes. Absorbing blows and turning them to your advantage, collecting a small group of supporters and turning it into a majority, that is how an intelligent official proceeds. When one report contradicts the last, and misfortune follows upon misfortune, only a great Lord has the ability to deal with this. Disaster and blessings are intertwined and life and death are neighbours. Without being willing to die and desperate to live, then it is impossible to win a name for oneself. With no enemy threat, it is impossible to build an alliance. Qin long ago abandoned all virtue and violated the natural order of things, but All-Under-Heaven was not aware of it. Now the partisans of the Horizontal Alliance are greedy for profit, capturing the hearts of their lords above them and the common people below, seeming to elevate the interests of their sovereign but grasping for private benefits. In such a situation, the state's power is as light as a goose feather, and mountains of heavy misfortunes pile up."
 I am not sure which King of Chu is indicated here.
 The Vertical Alliance consisted of repeated attempts by the other states to block Qin's expansion.
 A succession of attempts by Qin to build an alliance that would give it access to the Central Plains and cut Chu off from the northern states.
The King of Wei Sends a Beauty to the King of Chu
The King of Wei sent a beauty to the King of Chu, and the King of Chu was delighted with her. His principal wife, Zheng Xiu knew that the King was happy with the new girl, and so she showed deep affection towards her. Clothes and games were selected for her delight and sent to her, and a palace and furnishings was chosen to suit her tastes. Zheng Xiu showed even deeper affection for her than the King did.
The King said, "Beauty is a strategy used by wives to ensure that their husbands favour their interests, and jealousy is inherent in their natures. Now Zheng Xiu knows that we are pleased with the new girl, but she is even fonder of her than we are. This is the way a filial child demonstrates affection, and how a loyal minister serves his lord."
Zheng Xiu knew that the King believed that she was not jealous, so she addressed the new girl, saying, "The King loves your beauty, but he has criticised the shape of your nose. The next time you have an audience with the King, you should cover up your nose." Thus, when the new girl had an audience with the King, she covered up her nose.
The King addressed Zheng Xiu, saying, "The new girl had an audience with us, and 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."
The King said, "How insolent!" He gave the order to have the new girl's nose cut off, and could not be made to relent.
 King Xiang of Wei.
 King Huai of Chu.
 Zheng Xiu was King Huai's favourite wife, and known for her political skills.
THe Queen of Chu Dies
The Queen of Chu had died, and a new Queen had not yet been chosen. Someone addressed Zhao Yu saying, "Why not ask the King to designate a new Queen?"
Zhao Yu said, "If the King does not listen, then my capacities will be circumscribed and my relations with the new Queen will be severed from the start."
"In that case, why not buy five pairs of earrings, and order one that is more beautiful than the others. Offer them to the King, and the next day observe which of his wives is wearing the best pair, and take the opportunity to request that she be made Queen."
 I am not sure which Queen is indicated here.
 Zhao Yu was Chancellor of Chu.
Zhuang Xin Addresses King Xiang of Chu
Zhuang Xin addressed King Xiang of Chu, saying, "To your Majesty's left you have Marquis Zhou, and to your right Marquis Xia. Lord Yanling and Lord Shouling follow your carriage. They have given themselves over to degeneracy and scattered their resources with licentious living, paying no attention to the affairs of the state. Ying is in danger."
King Xiang said, "Have you gone senile, professor? Do you want your predictions of disaster to become self-fulfilling prophecies?"
Zhuang Xin said, "Your servant really did see it with his own eyes. I would not dare to invent ill omens for the state. If the favour you show these four does not decrease, then the state of Chu is doomed. I beg leave to depart for Zhao to await and observe."
Consequently Zhaung Xin went to Zhao, and stayed there for five months as Qin made Yan, Ying, Wu, Shangcai and Chen part of its own territories. King Xiang escaped to Chengyang. Given the circumstances, he dispatched an envoy with a mounted guard 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?"
Zhuang Xin replied, "Your servant has heard an old saying that goes, 'When you see the rabbit it is too late to call your dog; after your sheep are gone, it is too late to repair the pen.' I have heard that in the past the light of Tang and Wu's rule shone only a hundred li, while Jie and Zhou possessed All-Under-Heaven and perished. Even though Chu has been reduced in size, it is possible to maximise the positives and minimise the negatives, and who then could tell if it was a state of a thousand li or of a hundred? Has Your Majesty 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, self-sufficient and without cares, causing offence to no-one. It does not know that a young boy is busy making a glue trap from gummed threads, which will be hung many feet in the air to catch crickets and ants to eat. A dragonfly may be unimportant, but that is why they are prey for a siskin. A siskin looks down to peck at white grains or glances up for a perch in the trees, flapping its wings and struggling ever higher, self-sufficient and without cares, causing offence to no-one. 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, aiming high in the air with a siskin as his target. A bird that was in the bushes in daylight will be pickled in brine by evening, killed in a careless moment by a child. A siskin may be unimportant, but that is why they are prey for a huanghu. A huanghu crosses rivers and seas, settling on a lake to swallow up eels, pecking at water chestnuts and pondweed, stretching its wings and soaring in the clear air, riding the wind and rising ever higher, self-sufficient and without cares, causing offence to no-one. It does not know that an archer is preparing a flint arrow and attaching a cord to it, ready to shoot a hundred feet up, where the sharp arrow trailing its rope of raw silk will cut through the pure air and drag it down. A huanghu that flew between the Yangtze and the Yellow River in daylight will be boiled in a pot by evening. A huanghu may be unimportant, but that is why they were prey for Marquis Ling of Cai. Marquis Cai traveled South to Gaobei and climbed Mount Wu in the North, drinking from the Ruxi River and eating fish from the Xiang River, with his left arm around his concubines and their children, and his right around his male and female favourites. He gave himself over to horse racing in Gaocai, not taking care of the affairs of the nation. He did not know that Zifa had already received his orders from King Xuan, and Marquis Ling would be brought before the King of Chu tied in vermilion ropes. Marquis Ling of Cai may have been unimportant, but that was why he was prey for 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. They ate rice from the lands that they were given in reward for their service, wore the state's wealth, and raced their horses in Yunmeng, not taking care of the affairs of the nation. You did not know that Marquis Rang had received orders from the King of Qin to make preparations beyond the Mian Pass before crossing through." King Xiang listened to this, and his face flushed and he shuddered. Because of this he gave Zhuang Xin the insignia of office and awarded him the title Lord Yangling. He won back Chu's lands North of the Huai River.
 Zhuang Xin was a Chu politician.
 This is the second of who known Marquis Zhous. The previous one served King Xuan of Chu.
 I am not sure who Marquis Xia was.
 Lord Yanling may possibly have been from Wei.
 Lord Shouling is known principally via this story.
 Ying was near modern Jingzhou in Hubei.
 Yan was modern Yicheng, in Hubei.
 This refers to modern Wushan County, near Chongqing.
 Shangcai is still called Shangcai, and is in Henan.
 Chen had formerly been an independent state, but had been annexed by Chu.
 Chengyang is still called Chengyang, and is in modern Shandong.
 A li was around a third of a mile. Zhuang Xin is referring to their family domains before they took over the Empire, but China under the Shang and early Zhou Dynasties was indeed much smaller than the area occupied by the Warring States.
 The unit of length used here is the ren, which changed so often over time that I cannot translate it. I am not even sure whether the trap is being tied high in a tree or left to drift in the wind. The crickets and ants will be eaten by the child - they were a popular snack for children until relatively recently in much of China.
 A huanghu was a large mythological bird, but this passage seems to be referring to a real animal, possibly some kind of swan.
 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.
 Gaobei is still called Gaobei and is in Guangdong.
 Wushan is actually in Southeast China, near Chongqing.
 The Ruxi River was in Sichuan, near Mount Wu.
 The Xiang River is in Hunan.
 Gaocai was near Xiangyang in Hunan.
 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.
 King Xuan of Chu lived long after Marquis Ling and Zifa, so this too must be a mistake.
 Traditionally red was worn by prisoners.
 Yunmeng is still called Yunmeng, and is in Hubei.
 Wei Ran, Marquis Rang, was Prime Minister of Qin. Ironically, he was also a minor member of the Chu royal house.
 King Zhaoxiang of Qin.
 The Mian Pass is now known as the Pingjing Pass, and is not far from Suizhou, Hubei.
 The Huai River rises in Henan and flows through Jiangsu.
Qi Ming Tries to Persuade Zhuo Hua to Attack Qin
Qi Ming tried to persuade Zhuo Hua to attack Qin, but Hua did not listen. Qi Ming addressed Zhuo Hua, saying, "If I have come here, it was to get an idea of Chu-Qin relations on behalf of Chuli Ji. I tried to persuade Chu's Ministers of State to attack Qin, and they all received my persuasions well; only you refused. Your servant will report your words to Chuli Ji." Zhuo Hua took the opportunity to strengthen Qi Ming's position.
 I can find no other information on Qi Ming.
 Zhuo Hua was a Chu nobleman famous for his memory.
 Chuli Ji was a politician and general in Qin.
Addressing Huang Qi
Someone addressed Huang Qi, saying, "Everyone is talking about your dislike of Fu Zhi. Have you never heard of the lesson on how to serve one's lord given by Master Lao Lai to Confucius? He showed how his teeth had worn away, after having been ground together for sixty years. Now Fu Zhi is talented, so you do not rub well against one another, and 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.' This is such a situation. The King is fond of Fu Zhi, but you dislike him. This is not the proper way to serve as a minister."
 I can find no additional information about this person.
 I am also not sure who this was.
 Lao Lai was a hermit and paragon of filial piety. He lived in Chu in the Spring and Autumns period.
Trouble at Changsha
During the trouble at Changsha Crown Prince Heng of Chu was serving as a hostage to guarantee Chu's alliance with Qi. The King of Chu died. Duke Xue sent the Crown Prince back, and took the opportunity to raise troops from Han and Wei, and then travel with them to attack the East of the state of Chu. The Crown Prince was afraid. Zhao Gai said, "The best thing would be to have Qu Shu use the new lands in the East as a bribe to make peace with Qi in order to attack Qin. Qin is afraid of Qi taking the lands in the East from Chu, and will bring All-Under-Heaven together and march to help us."
The Crown Prince said, "Very well." He immediately ordered Qu Shu to offer the lands in the East to Qi in return for peace.
The King of Qin heard about it and was afraid. He ordered Mi Rong to take a message to Chu, saying, "Do not give your eastern lands to Qi. I will send you troops."
 Changsha is still called Changsha, and is in Hunan. I assume this refers to the Qin invasion of Chu described in previous chapters.
 Xiong Heng, later King Qingxiang of Chu.
 King Huai of Chu.
 Also known as Lord Mengchang, Duke Xue was a member of the Qi royal house and had a successful political career in Qi and Wei.
 I can find no other information on Zhao Gai.
 Similar for Qu Shu.
 Mi Rong was the brother of Queen Xuan of Qin and a minor member of the Chu royal house.
Offering The Elixir of Life to the King of Jing
Someone offered the elixir of life to the King of Jing. One of the attendants carried it into the palace. One of the guards said to him, "Is it edible?"
He replied, "Yes." The guard seized his chance, grabbed it and ate it. The King was annoyed, and ordered someone to execute the guard.
The guard sent someone to persuade the King, saying, "I asked the attendant about it, and the attendant said that it was edible, so I ate it. It was not that I wished to commit a crime. Rather, the crime was on the part of the attendant. The guest offered you the elixir of life and I ate it. If you succeed in having me killed, then it is not the elixir of life. If Your Majesty kills an innocent servant, then it is clear that someone has tricked you." As a result, the King did not kill him.
 As in Europe, China had a long alchemical tradition based around searching for the elixir of life.
 Jing was an alternative name for Chu. 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. It is not clear which King is implied here.
A Visitor Persuades Lord Chunshen
A visitor persuaded Lord Chunshen, saying, "Tang had Bo, and King Wu had Hao. Neither had more than a hundred li of land, but they used it to gain possession of All-Under-Heaven. Now Master Xun is the greatest sage in All-Under-Heaven, and Your Lordship is going to enlist him as a power within the state by giving him a hundred li of land. Your servant humbly suggests that this is will not end well for you. Is it not so?"
Lord Chunshen said, "Very well." This being so, Lord Chunshen thanked and dismissed Master Xun. Master Xun went to Zhao, and Zhao made him a high official.
Another visitor came to persuade Lord Chunshen, saying, "In ancient times Yi Yin left Xia and went to Yin, and thus the King of Yin destroyed Xia. Guan Zhong left Lu and went to Qi, and Lu was weakened and Qi was strengthened. Where a sage is, the Lord has never yet been lacking in respect, and the state has never yet lacked in glory. Now Master Xun is the greatest sage in All-Under-Heaven. Why did Your Lordship send him away?"
Lord Chunshen once again said, "Very well."
As a result of this, he sent and envoy to request that Master Xun return from Zhao. Master Xun sent a letter declining politely, saying, "Even a lepers pities a King. This is not a respectful saying. Nevertheless, one cannot but consider it thoroughly. This is because it talks of Lords who are killed or exiled by their ministers. When the Lord of Men is young and isolated by his rank, he lacks the methods or the skills to recognise a traitor, and so his ministers divide up the state according to their private interests, and to forestall their own executions they kill wise leaders and put weak children in their place. They discard appropriate rules and elevate injustice. The Spring and Autumn Annals gives a warning, saying, 'The Prince of Chu 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, in consequence, strangled the King with the ties of his cap, killing him and taking the opportunity to claim the throne himself. Cui Zhu of Qi had a beautiful wife, and Duke Zhuang had relations with her. Cui Zhu led his partisans in an attack, and the Duke offered to divide up the state with him, but Cui refused. Duke Zhuang asked that a means for him to kill himself be brought to him in his ancestral shrine, and Cui Zhu refused. Duke Zhuang fled, trying to climb over the wall. He was shot in the thigh and thus killed, and his younger brother Jing was made the new Duke.' More recent generations have witnessed it too: Li Dui had control over Zhao and starved the King's father at Shaqiu for a hundred days, thus killing him. Nao Chi had control over Qi and cut King Min's sinews, before hanging him from a beam in his ancestral shrine overnight until he died. However bitter the sores of illness may be, they should be compared to the fates of former generations' Kings - being strangled with cap ties or shot in the thigh with an arrow - or of those of our current generation - having one's tendons cut or starving to death. Lesions caused by disease cannot compare to the exhausted despair in the heart, the bitter helplessness of the Lord who is killed or exiled by his ministers. Thus it can be seen that a leper may well pity a King." He took the opportunity to attach a poem to his letter, saying, "Oh to have the Marquis of Sui's pearl, and not know how to fasten it to your belt! Ceremonial robes and raw silk, oh to see no difference between them! Oh Lü Shu and Zi She could not find matchmakers, but Momu was sought-for and 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 can you take these things to be the same?" As he Book of Poetry says, "The gods' ways are mysterious, so offer no hostages to fortune."
 Cheng Tang ruled a small feudal state under the Xia Dynasty. He conquered neighbouring states and finally overthrew the Xia.
 Bo was in modern Shangqiu, Henan.
 King Wu of Zhou had a similar story to Cheng Tang, beginning as a feudal lord before overthrowing the Shang Dynasty.
 Hao was in Gaoyi County, Hebei.
 A li was about a third of a mile.
 孫子 was an alternate form of 荀子. Xunzi was a Confucian philosopher.
 Yi Yin was a former slave who helped Tang of Shang overthrow the Xia Dynasty, and then served as his Chancellor.
 The Xia Dynasty.
 The Shang Dynasty.
 Tang Cheng of Xia.
 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.
 The saying also appears in the Han Feizi, as does a close approximation of the rest of Xunzi's letter.
 Cui Zhu was a minister in Qi in the sixth century BC.
 Tang Jiang was Cui Zhu's second wife.
 Duke Zhuang of Qi.
 Duke Jing of Qi.
 Li Dui was a politician in Zhao in the third century BC.
 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.
 Shaqiu was in modern Guangzong County, Hebei.
 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.
 King Min of Qi.
 This poem, or something very close to it, appears in the Xunzi.
 The Marquis of Sui's Pearl was a famous jewel in the Warring States era.
 Lü Shu (female) and Zi She (male) were famous beauties of the Warring States and Spring and Autumn periods respectively.
 Momu was the Yellow Emperor's fourth wife. She was famously ugly but hard-working and intelligent.
 The version that has come down to us gives the line as 上帝甚蹈、無自瘵焉.
All-Under-Heaven Forms an Alliance
All-Under-Heaven formed an alliance. Zhao sent Wei Jia as an envoy to seek an audience with Lord Chunshen of Chu, saying, "Does Your Lordship have any plans?"
He replied, "I do. I wish to make Lord Linwu our General."
Wei Jia said, "When I was young, I was a good archer, so I wish to draw an archery parallel, if that is permissible?"
Lord Chunshen said, "It is."
Jia said, "One day, Geng Lei and the King of Wei were standing below one of the towers of the capital, when they looked up and saw birds flying overhead. Geng Lei addressed the King of Wei, saying, 'Now I will draw my bow and bring down a bird for Your Majesty.' The King of Wei said, 'You think you can hit one then?' Geng Lei said, 'I can.' After a while, a wild goose came flying from the East, and Geng Lei immediately took an arrow and shot it down. The King of Wei said, 'How did you manage to hit it from such a distance?' Geng Lei said, 'It was sick.' The King said, 'How did you know?' Geng Lei replied, 'It was flying slowly, and its call was mournful. If a bird is flying slowly, it is because its injuries are causing it pain, and if its cry is mournful, it is because it long since lost its flock. Its wounds would eventually have killed it, and its mind was on the verge of panic. When it heard the sound of my bowstring being pulled back and the arrow about to fly, this pushed it over the edge and it fell.' Now Lord Linwu has experienced suffering at Qin's hands, and as a result will not be able to resist Qin's General."
 Wei Jia is known principally via this story.
 Lord Linwu's personal name is unknown, and he is mainly remembered for having argued about military matters with Xunzi.
 Geng Lei was a celebrated archer in Wei.
 I am not sure which King of Wei is intended here.
Han Ming Seeks an Audience with Lord Chunshen
Han Ming sought an audience with Lord Chunshen. After three months, he obtained one. After they finished talking, Lord Chunshen was overjoyed. Han Ming wished to return and speak to him again, but Lord Chunshen said, "I am already aware of your presence, professor, please relax."
Han Ming was not pleased with this, and said, "There was one thing I wish to hear Your Lordship enlighten me about, but I am afraid to ask. Is it not true that your wisdom is greater than that of Yao?"
Lord Chunshen said, "You are mistaken, 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?"
Lord Chunshen said, "You are the equal of Shun."
Han Ming said, "Not so. I beg your leave to finish my speech. Your wisdom is not the equal of Yao. My capacities are nowhere near 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 a brief time. This being so, your wisdom must be greater than that of Yao and my sagicity must 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.
Han Ming said, "Has Your Lordship heard about the thousand-li horse? After its teeth grew too long, it was retired to pull a salt wagon in the Taihang Mountains. Its hooves were overgrown and its knees crooked, its tail drooped and its hocks were ulcerated. Froth ran down and dripped to the ground, and mixed with its flowing sweat as it toiled up the slope, unable to drag the cart any higher. Bo Le encountered it on the road, jumped down from his carriage, took its reins and sobbed over it, undoing his ramie coat to cover it. When this happened, the thousand-li horse lowered it head and panted, and raised its head and whinnied, and the sound carried up to heaven, ringing out like metal on stone. Why? It saw that Bo Le understood its nature. Now I was a lowly individual, trapped in the toils of the bureaucracy, living in poverty in a dark alleyway, submerged among the vulgar masses for so long. Surely it could not be that your Lordship intends wash me clean and lift me up, and have me sing your praises to the rafters?"
 Han Ming is known principally via this story.
 Yao was a semi-legendary founding father of China.
 Shun was Yao's successor. Yao recruited him to take over the running of his government before abdicating.
 This was a semi-legendary horse that could travel a thousand li (a li was a third of a mile) without resting.
 The Taihang Mountains are in Shanxi and Hebei.
King Kaolie of Chu Had No Children
King Kaolie of Chu had no children, and Lord Chunshen was worried about it. He searched for women capable of bearing children and sent them to the King, but even though crowds of women were provided, it still did not result in a child. Li Yuan, a man 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 that the King would not value her. He requested a position as the manager of Lord Chunshen's household. Shortly after taking up 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 your servant's younger sister. I was drinking with the envoy, and that is why I was late."
Lord Chunshen said, "Is she betrothed and ready to enter the palace?"
He replied, "Not yet."
Lord Chunshen said, "Would it be possible for me to see her?"
He replied, "It would." This being so, Yuan fetched his sister, and she received Lord Chunshen's favour. When they realised she was pregnant, Yuan and his sister discussed their strategy together.
Yuan's sister had an opportunity to persuade Lord Chunshen, and said, "The King of Chu treasures and favours Your Lordship, which is not the case for my brother. Now you have served as the King of Chu's Chancellor for over twenty years, and the King has no child. As he gets older, he will wish to set his brother on the throne. If Chu gets a new King, he will want to reward those who are close to him. How long then will you retain your favoured position? You surely do not intend to become a subordinate in such circumstances? You have been employed to serve the King for many years, and have offended his brothers on many occasions. If one of them really becomes King, it will be a disaster for you personally. How will you keep hold of the Chancellor's seal and your domains East of the Yellow River? 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 see that he favours me likewise with his attentions. If Heaven wills it and I have a son, then Your Lordship's child will be King. You will be able to take the whole state of Chu as your fief. Who would come close to guessing that any crime had taken place?" Lord Chunshen agreed heartily. He sent Yuan's sister to stay in a secret place, and spoke to the King of Chu. The King of Chu summoned Yuan's sister to the palace, and favoured 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 rewarded Li Yuan, and Li Yuan worked in his service. Li Yuan had made his sister Queen and her son Crown Prince, but he was afraid that Lord Chunshen would let something slip to burnish his own ego, and so he secretly recruited assassins with the aim of killing Lord Chunshen and thus silencing him, but many people in the state came to learn of this.
When Lord Chunshen had been the Chancellor of Chu for twenty-five years, King Kaolie grew ill. Zhu Ying addressed Lord Chunshen, saying, "In this world there is random good fortune and random misfortune. Now Your Lordship is living in a world of randomness, and serving a sovereign who acts randomly. How can random encounters be avoided?"
Lord Chunshen said, "What do you mean by random good fortune?"
He replied, "You have served as Chancellor of Chu for over twenty years, even though you are Chancellor in name only, and the real power belongs to the King of Chu. Your five sons are all serving under the feudal lords. Now the King is in extremis, fading away and falling into decay, and the Crown Prince is weak and helpless. 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 or the Duke of Zhou - until the King grows up and returns to government. Or you can turn to face South and assume the royal pronouns yourself, seizing the opportunity to take possession of Chu. This can be described as random good fortune."
Lord Chunshen said, "What do you mean by random misfortune?"
He replied, "Li Yuan does not manage the state, but he will be the King's uncle. He does not lead troops as a general, but he has secretly been paying assassins for many a day. When the King dies, Li Yuan will certainly be the first to arrive at the palace, where he will control the means of issuing decrees and order that Your Lordship's life be cut short. He will seize power and kill you to ensure your silence. This can be described as random misfortune."
Lord Chunshen said, "What do you mean by random encounters?"
He replied, "Your Lordship previously appointed personal servants as official deputies. When the King dies and Li Yuan arrives at the palace, I will ask one of them on your behalf to hide a knife in his coat and kill him. This can be described as a random encounter."
Lord Chunshen said, "Let it go, professor. Do not speak of this again. Li Yuan is a weak man, and I have treated him well. How could things reach such a point?" Zhu Ying was afraid, and left.
Seventeen days later, King Kaolie of Chu died. Li Yuan was the first to arrive at the palace, and stationed his assassins inside the Halberd Gate. Lord Chunshen arrived later, and was stopped at the Halberd Gate. Yuan's assassins came and stabbed Lord Chunshen, beheaded him, and threw his body out through the gate. This having been done, officials were dispatched to completely wipe out Lord Chunshen's family. The child of Li Yuan's sister - 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. That year was the nineteenth year of Qin Shihuang's reign. Lao Ai 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 was dismissed.
 King Kaolie of Chu.
 Li Yuan is known principally via this story.
 I can find no additional information on this.
 Royal palaces traditionally faced South in China, and Kings used specific personal pronouns.
 The main entrance of the palace.
 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.
 King You of Chu. Some versions stop here. The following sentence also appears in the Records of the Grand Historian, apparently as a parallel intended to show how these things should be handled.
 King Zheng of Qin.
 Lü Buwei served as regent before King Zheng came of age. While he did not participate in Lao Ai's rebellion, he had been instrumental in introducing him to Queen Dowager Zhao.
Yu Qing Addresses Lord Chunshen
Yu Qing addressed Lord Chunshen, saying, "Your servant has read in the Spring and Autumn Annals that when you are safe you should think about dangers, and when you are in danger you should consider how to achieve security. Now the King of Chu is growing old, and you cannot put off thinking about getting a fief for yourself much longer. In considering potential fiefdoms for yourself, nothing would be better than land on the edges of Chu. Duke Xiao of Qin gave Lord Shang lands of his own, but after Duke Xiao died, Lord Shang could not escape being killed. King Hui of Qin gave Master Ran lands of his own, but after King Hui died, then the new King snatched them back. Gongsun Yang served faithfully and Master Ran was a relative by marriage. This notwithstanding, if they could not avoid being killed or dispossessed, it was because their lands were close to the centre of power. Grand Duke Wang received domains in Qi, Zhao Gongshi received domains in Yan; both survived because they lived far from the King.
Now Yan's crimes are great and Zhao is profoundly angry, so the best thing for Your Lordship to do would be to send troops North to pay respects to Zhao and stamp down upon Yan's disorders. This way you will definitely obtain a fief for yourself. Now is thus the time to found a lineage of a hundred generations."
Lord Chunshen said, "The road to attack Yan must pass through Wei if it does not go through Qi, and Qi currently holds a grudge against Chu. Even if the Lord of Chu wished to attack Yan, which road do you expect him to take?"
Yu Qing replied, "Ask the King of Wei for permission."
Lord Chunshen said, "How?"
Yu Qing replied, "I beg leave to go to Wei, and I will make him believe in us."
Thereupon he addressed 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 say you have no adversary in All-Under-Heaven, now you say that you will struggle to defeat Yan. Why?"
Yu Qing replied, "Now if I were to say that my horse is strong, that would be true, 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, and that is correct, but if it were to cross Zhao and Wei and then send its troops against Yan, then how could Chu bear the weight of that? If this is not a load that Chu is capable of bearing, but it attempts to do so, then Chu will be broken. If Chu is broken, then Wei will be strengthened. Which outcome would be better for Your Majesty?"
 Yu Qing was a writer and politician in Zhao.
 Duke Xiao of Qin.
 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.
 Actually, it was King Zhaoxiang who rewarded Wei Ran with land.
 Wei Ran served as Chancellor under King Zhaoxiang, before being forced out by Fan Ju.
 I have seen some translations give "Queen" here.
 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.
 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.
 King Jingmin of Wei.
 A jun was thirty catties. The weight of a catty varied, but it was around 500-600g.