楚四 THE STRATAGEMS OF CHU IV

或謂楚王

Addressing 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 addressed the King of Chu[1], saying, "I have heard that the Vertical Alliance[2] 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[3] 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."

 

[1] I am not sure which King of Chu is indicated here.

[2] The Vertical Alliance consisted of repeated attempts by the other states to block Qin's expansion.

[3] 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. 

魏王遺楚王美人

The King of Wei Sends a Beauty 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。」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。

The King of Wei[1] sent a beauty 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 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.

[1] King Xiang of Wei.

[2] King Huai of Chu.

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

楚王后死

THe Queen of Chu Dies

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。」

The Queen of Chu[1] had died, and a new Queen had not yet been chosen. Someone addressed Zhao Yu[2] 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."

[1] I am not sure which Queen is indicated here.

[2] Zhao Yu was Chancellor of Chu.

莊辛謂楚襄王

Zhuang Xin Addresses King Xiang of Chu

莊辛謂楚襄王曰:「君王左州侯,右夏侯,輦從鄢陵君與壽陵君,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。」

Zhuang Xin[1] addressed King Xiang of Chu[2], saying, "To your Majesty's 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 scattered their resources with licentious living, paying no attention to the affairs of the state. Ying[7] 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."

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。」

Consequently Zhaung Xin went to Zhao, and stayed there for five months as Qin made Yan[8], Ying, Wu[9], Shangcai[10] and Chen[11] part of its own territories. King Xiang escaped to Chengyang[12]. Given the circumstances, he dispatched an envoy with a mounted guard to summon Zhuang Xin from Zhao.

Zhuang Xin said, "I will come." 

莊辛至,襄王曰:「寡人不能用先生之言,今事至於此,為之奈何?」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?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。夫雀其小者也,黃鵠因是以。游於江海,淹乎大沼,府噣鱔鯉,仰嚙蔆衡,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。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。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。」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 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[13] and Wu's[14] rule shone only a hundred li[15], while Jie[16] and Zhou[17] 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[18]  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[19]. 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[20]. Marquis Cai traveled South to Gaobei[21] and climbed Mount Wu[22] in the North, drinking from the Ruxi River[23] and eating fish from the Xiang River[24], 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[25], not taking care of the affairs of the nation. He did not know that Zifa[26] had already received his orders from King Xuan[27], and Marquis Ling would be brought before the King of Chu tied in vermilion ropes[28]. 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[29], not taking care of the affairs of the nation. You did not know that Marquis Rang[30] had received orders from the King of Qin[31] to make preparations beyond the Mian Pass[32] 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[33].

[1] Zhuang Xin was a Chu politician.

[2] King Qingxiang of Chu.

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

[4] I am not sure who Marquis Xia was.

[5] Lord Yanling may possibly have been from Wei.

[6] Lord Shouling is known principally via this story.

[7] Ying was near modern Jingzhou in Hubei.

[8] Yan was modern Yicheng, in Hubei.

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

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

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

[12] Chengyang is still called Chengyang, and is in modern Shandong. 

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

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

[15] 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.

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

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

[18] 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.

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

[20] 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.

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

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

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

[24] The Xiang River is in Hunan.

[25] Gaocai was near Xiangyang in Hunan.

[26] 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.

[27] King Xuan of Chu lived long after Marquis Ling and Zifa, so this too must be a mistake.

[28] Traditionally red was worn by prisoners.

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

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

[31] King Zhaoxiang of Qin.

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

[33] 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, 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[3]. 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.  

[1] I can find no other information on Qi Ming.

[2] Zhuo Hua was a Chu nobleman famous for his memory. 

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

或謂黃齊

Addressing 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 addressed Huang Qi[1], saying, "Everyone is talking about your dislike of Fu Zhi[2]. Have you never heard of the lesson on how to serve one's lord given by Master Lao Lai[3] 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." 

[1] I can find no additional information about this person.

[2] I am also not sure who this was.

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

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 serving as a hostage to guarantee Chu's alliance with Qi. The King of Chu[3] died. Duke Xue[4] 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[5] said, "The best thing would be to have Qu Shu[5] 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[7] heard about it and was afraid. He ordered Mi Rong[8] to take a message to Chu, saying, "Do not give your eastern lands to Qi. I will send you troops."

[1] Changsha is still called Changsha, and is in Hunan. I assume this refers to the Qin invasion of Chu described in previous chapters.

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

[3] King Huai of Chu.

[4] 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.

[5] I can find no other information on Zhao Gai.

[6] Similar for Qu Shu.

[7] King Zhaoxiang of Qin.

[8] 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。

Someone offered the elixir of life[1] to the King of Jing[2]. 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. 

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

[2] 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.

客說春申君

A Visitor Persuades 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。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。」

A visitor persuaded 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 Xun[7] 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[8] left Xia[9] and went to Yin[10], and thus the King of Yin[11] destroyed Xia. Guan Zhong[12] 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."

於是使人請孫子於趙。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●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。」

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[13]. 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[14] 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[15] of Qi had a beautiful wife[16], and Duke Zhuang[17] 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[18] was made the new Duke.' More recent generations have witnessed it too: Li Dui[19] had control over Zhao and starved the King's father[20] at Shaqiu[21] for a hundred days, thus killing him. Nao Chi[22] had control over Qi and cut King Min's[23] 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[23], saying, "Oh to have the Marquis of Sui's pearl[24], 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[25] could not find matchmakers, but Momu[26] 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[27] says, "The gods' ways are 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 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 had a similar story to Cheng Tang, beginning as a feudal lord before overthrowing the Shang Dynasty.

[5] Hao was in Gaoyi County, Hebei.

[6] A li was about a third of a mile.

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

[8] Yi Yin was a former slave who helped Tang of Shang overthrow the Xia Dynasty, and then served as his Chancellor.

[9] The Xia Dynasty.

[10] The Shang Dynasty.

[11] Tang Cheng of Xia.

[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] The saying also appears in the Han Feizi, as does a close approximation of the rest of Xunzi's letter.

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

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

[17] Duke Zhuang of Qi.

[18] Duke Jing of Qi.

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

[20] 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.

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

[22] 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.

[23] King Min of Qi.

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

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

[26] Lü Shu (female) and Zi She (male) were famous beauties of the Warring States and Spring and Autumn periods respectively.

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

[28] 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 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。」

All-Under-Heaven formed an alliance. Zhao sent Wei Jia[1] as an envoy to seek an audience with Lord Chunshen[2] of Chu, saying, "Does Your Lordship have any plans?"

He replied, "I do. I wish to make Lord Linwu[3] 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[4] and the King of Wei[5] 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."

[1] Wei Jia is known principally via this story.

[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] Lord Linwu's personal name is unknown, and he is mainly remembered for having argued about military matters with Xunzi

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

[5] I am not sure which King of Wei is intended here.

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 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[3]?" 

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[4]?"

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.

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,解紵衣以冪之。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 thousand-li horse[5]? After its teeth grew too long, it was retired to pull a salt wagon in the Taihang Mountains[6]. 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[7] 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?" 

[1] Han Ming is known principally via this story.

[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 was a semi-legendary founding father of China.

[4] Shun was Yao's successor. Yao recruited him to take over the running of his government before abdicating.

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

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

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

楚考烈王無子

King Kaolie of Chu Had 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。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。

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 even though crowds of women were provided, it still did not result in a child. Li Yuan[3], 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. 

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。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。

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. 

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,臣請為君𠟍其胸殺之。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。

When Lord Chunshen had been the Chancellor of Chu for twenty-five years, King Kaolie grew ill. Zhu Ying[4] 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[5] or the Duke of Zhou[6] - until the King grows up and returns to government. Or you can turn to face South and assume the royal pronouns yourself[7], 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[9]. 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.

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。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。

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[8]. 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[10]. That year was the nineteenth year of Qin Shihuang's[11] reign. Lao Ai[12] 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[13] was dismissed. 

[1] King Kaolie of Chu.

[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] I can find no additional information on this. 

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

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

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

[8] The main entrance of the palace.

[9] 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.

[10] 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.

[12] King Zheng of Qin.

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

[13] 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.

虞卿謂春申君

Yu Qing Addresses 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。

Yu Qing[1] addressed Lord Chunshen[2], saying, "Your servant has read in the Spring and Autumn Annals[3] 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[4] gave Lord Shang[5] lands of his own, but after Duke Xiao died, Lord Shang could not escape being killed. King Hui of Qin[6] gave Master Ran[7] lands of his own, but after King Hui died, then the new King snatched them back[8]. 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[9]. Grand Duke Wang[10] received domains in Qi, Zhao Gongshi[11] received domains in Yan; both survived because they lived far from the King.

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。」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。」

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[12] for permission."

Lord Chunshen said, "How?"

Yu Qing replied, "I beg leave to go to Wei, and I will make him believe in 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 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[13] 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?"

[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.

[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] Actually, it was King Zhaoxiang who rewarded Wei Ran with land.

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

[8] I have seen some translations give "Queen" here.

[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] King Jingmin of Wei.

[13] A jun was thirty catties. The weight of a catty varied, but it was around 500-600g.