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Qin Summons the King of Yan



The King of Qin[1] had summoned the King of Yan[2], and the King of Yan intended to go. Su Dai[3] stopped him, saying, "Chu took Zhi[4] and thereby precipitated its own doom, Qi took Song and and thereby precipitated its own doom[5]. By acquiring Zhi and Song, they could not help but serve Qin's interests. Why is this? Because the meritorious are Qin's greatest enemies, Qin being set on bringing All-Under-Heaven under its rule through violence rather than correct conduct[6].



"Qin's violence is spreading throughout All-Under-Heaven. It told Chu openly of its plans[7], saying, 'Our men-at-arms in the lands of Shu can take to their boats and ride the current down the Min River[8]; travelling with the summer flood waters[9] down the Yangtze. They will be in Ying[10] in five days. Our men-at-arms in Hanzhong[11] can take to their boats, departing via Ba[12] and travelling with the summer floods down the Han River[13]. They will be at Wufu[14] in four days. We are gathering troops in Wan[15] and they will shortly be sent eastwards. Your thinkers will have no time to make plans, and your fighters will have no time to summon up their martial fury. For us this will like shooting a falcon[16]. You are waiting on the relief forces sent by the lords of All-Under-Heaven to counterattack at Hangu[17]; are they not rather far away[18]?' On account of this, the King of Chu[19] remained at Qin's service for the next seventeen years.




"Qin told Han openly of its plans, saying, 'If I depart from Shaoqiu[20], within one day I will have severed your access to Taihang[21]. If I set out from Yiyang[20] and cut through Pingyang[22], within two days nothing in your state will be off-limits to me. If I start out via the two Zhou and cut through Zheng, within five days I will have united your state with mine.' The House of Han agreed with this assessment, and thus placed itself at Qin's service.


"Qin told Wei openly of its plans, saying, 'If I unify Anyi[23] with my own territories and block the Nüji Pass[24], the House of Han will be cut off[25] from Taiyuan[26]. If I[27] head down the Carriage Road[28] through Nanyang[29], Feng[30] and Ji[31], the two Zhou will be surrounded and annexed[32]. With our boats we can ride down on the summer flood waters, heavy crossbows in front and sharp halberds behind[33]. We will break the levees at the Xing River Mouth[34] and Daliang[35] will no longer be Wei's.  We will break the levees at the Baima River Mouth[36] and Jiyang[37] will no longer be Wei's. We will break the levees at the Suxu River Mouth[38] and Xu[39] and Dunqiu[40] will no longer be Wei's. Our land forces will strike at your lands by the Yellow River, and our marine forces will attack and raze Daliang.' The House of Wei felt that this was an accurate assessment, and therefore it placed itself at Qin's service.



Qin thus intended to attack Anyi, but was afraid that Qi relieve the siege[41], so it sacrificed Song to Qi[42], saying, 'The King of Song[43] has strayed from the true path. He has had a wooden image made and painted to look like me[44], and likes to shoot it in the face. Our lands share no border with theirs and our troops are far away, so we cannot to attack them. If Your Majesty can break Song and take possession of it, we will be as contented as if we had taken it ourselves.' If Qin eventually took Anyi and blocked the Nüji Pass, it was because it seized the oppotunity to tempt Qi into a wanton attack on Song.



Qin intended attack Han, but was afraid that All-Under-Heaven would come to its aid, and so it sacrificed Qi to All-Under-Heaven[45], saying, 'Qi's people[46] made four treaties with us, and four times they betrayed us. Three times they felt the need to lead All-Under-Heaven in attacks against us. Whoever has Qi on his side will not have Qin. Whoever does not have Qi on his side will have Qin. We must attack Qi[47] and we must destroy it!' If Qin eventually took Yiyang[48] and Shaoqiu, extending its reach as far as Lin[49] and Shi[50], it was because it seized the oppotunity to tempt All-Under-Heaven into a wanton attack on Qi." 



"Qin intended to attack Wei, and Chu's attitude was vital in this affair, so it sacrificed Nanyang to Chu, saying, 'Our state has resolved to sever its relations with Han. If you destroy Junling[51] and block the Meng'e Pass[52], then even if all the benefit goes to Chu, we will be as contented as if it were our own.' If Wei abandoned all other states and made an accord with Qin, it was because Qin seized the opportunity to tempt Chu into wantonly bloccading the Meng'e Pass[53]. 




"Qin's troops were encircled in Linzhong[54], and the influence of Yan and Zhao was vital to their survival, so Qin sacrificed Jiaodong[55] to Yan and the west bank of the Ji River[56] to Zhao. Qin finally concluded peace negotiations with Wei, and sent its Crown Prince to serve as a hostage in the court of Wei[57] and seized its chance to have the Xishou General[58] attack Zhao[59]. The armies of Wei suffered reversals at Qiaoshi[60] and met with defeat at Maling[61], and but its attitude was vital to Qin, so Qin committed to hand over Ye[62] and Cai. Qin eventually concluded peace negotiations with Zhao, and so turned to threaten Wei, but Wei would not hand over any land. When the King of Qin[63] was pinned down, he employed the Queen Dowager[64] and Marquis Rang[65] to sue for peace, but in victory he[66] betrayed both his uncle and his mother[67]. He then fulminated, complaining that Yan had taken Jiaodong, that Zhao had taken the land west of the Ji River, that Wei had taken Ye and Cai, that Chu had taken the Meng'e Pass[68] and that Qi had taken Song. His arguments are certainly consistent. His troops advance and retreat like an embroidery needle[69]. His mother cannot control him[70] and his uncle cannot restrain him. During Long Jia's[71] battles and the battles of Anmen[72], Fengling[73], Gaoshang[74] and Zhaozhuang[75], Qin killed millions of the Three Jins'[76] citizens, and those alive now are the orphans of those who died in the course of Qin's expansion[77]. Beyond the west bank of the Yellow River, in the lands of Shangluo[78] and Sanchuan[79], the states of Jin met with tragedy, losing half of their territory. Qin being capable of inflicting such disasters, Yan and Zhao approached it[80], vying with one another in their efforts to serve Qin's interests and please its sovereign[81]. Your servant regards this as a catastrophe."




The King of Yan did not go to Qin, and Su Dai regained his influence in Yan. Yan reversed its policy and made accords and alliances with the sovereign lords, just as in the time of Su Qin[82]. Some joined, some did not[83], but All-Under-Heaven was once more under the sway of the Su family's treaties and alliances. Dai and Li[84] both died of old age, their names a beacon among sovereigns.  

[1] It is not clear which King of Qin is indicated here. 

[2] It is not clear which King of Yan is indicated here.

[3] Su Dai was a brother of Su Qin and shared his anti-Qin sentiments. 

[4] Zhi was in Fuling County, in modern Chongqing.

[5] This story is implied to be taking place in the years immediately preceding unification in 221 BCE.

[6] That is so say, that if states with a more Confucian ethos - such as (apparently) Song and Zhi - survive, it reminds people that an alternative to Qin's legalist regime is possible. 

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

[8] The Min River is still called the Min, but different characters are used. It flows through Sichuan into the Yangtze.

[9] Produced by the thawing of snow in the mountains.

[10] Ying was in modern Jingzhou, Hubei.

[11] Hanzhong is still called Hanzhong, and is in Shaanxi.

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

[13] The Han River flows through Hubei and is a tributary of the Yangtze.

[14] This seems to have been near Lake Dongting.

[15] A hunter who shoots a falcon is getting rid of a competitor. 

[16] Wan seems to refer to Nanyang in Henan.

[17] Hangu was the gateway to Qin, in modern Shaanxi.

[18] This is a summary of speech given by Zhang Yi to King Huai of Chu in the Chu stratagems, however, this text implies that it took place a lot later, possibly under King Kaolie. 

[19] Shaoqiu was in modern Mengzhou, Henan.

[20] The Taihang Mountains cover parts of Henan, Shanxi and Hebei.

[21] Yiyang is still called Yiyang, and it is in modern Henan.

[22] Pingyang was in modern Ci County, Hebei.

[23] Anyi is modern Yuncheng, in Shanxi.

[24] Nüji was in the western Taihang Mountains. 

[25] Reading 絕 for 卷 here, per the commentaries.

[26] Taiyuan is still called Taiyuan, and it is in Shanxi, in this case, however, it is probably being used to refer to the Taihang Mountains more generally. Han and Wei remained a complex interlaced network of territories at this time. 

[27] The commentaries suggest 我 here is superfluous. 

[28] Reading  下軹道道南陽 for 下枳,道南陽 per the commentaries. This may actually have been the name of a settlement (Zhidao) rather than a road. 

[29] Nanyang is still called Nanyang, and is in Henan.

[30] Feng was in modern Ruicheng County, in Shanxi.

[31] This was in modern Jishan County, Shanxi.

[32] Reading 兼包 for  包, per the commentaries. 

[33] The commentaries give 戟 for 戈 here. 

[34] Reading 滎 for 榮. This refers to Xingyang in Henan.

[35] Daliang was the capital of Wei, in modern Kaifeng in Henan. Qin did eventually redirect the river to flood Daliang.

[36] Baima was in Hua County, Henan. This seems to be the option taken by Qin during the conquest of Wei. 

[37] Jiyang was in modern Lankao County, Henan. 

[38] Suxu was in modern Xun County, Henan.

[39] This refers to Yinxu, the former capital of the Shang Dynasty in modern Anyang, Henan.

[40] Dunqiu was in modern Qingfeng County, Henan.

[41] The commentaries suggest 據 for 救 here. 

[42] Qin enouraged Qi to attack Song so that it would have no spare capacity to save Wei. 

[43] It is not clear which King of Song is indicated here. 

[44] The commentaries suggest 象 for 寫 here. 

[45] I.e. it refused to come to Qi's aid when it was in danger, thus causing the other states to take advantage of Qi's weakness and join the attack in the hope of acquiring some land. While they were distracted, Qin would attack Han. 

[46] Reading 齊人 for 齊王 here, per the commentaries.

[47] Yao suggests 代 for 伐 here. 

[48] Yiyang is still called Yiyang, and is in Henan. 

[49] Lin was in modern Liulin County, Shanxi.

[50] Reading 離石 for 石, per the commentaries. Lishi was in modern Lüliang, Shanxi

[51] Junling was near modern Suizhou, in Henan.

[52] Meng'e refers to the modern Pingjing Pass, near Suizhou in Henan.

[53] I.e. to prevent itself from being wiped out by Chu, Wei agreed to take a subordinate position in an alliance with Qin.

[54] It is not clear where this was. 

[55] Jiaodong was in modern Shandong.

[56] The Ji River occupied the channel currently occupied by the Yellow River.

[57] Reading  己得講於魏,質公子延 for 趙得講於魏,至公子延 per the commentaries. 

[58] Also known as Gongsun Yan, the Xishou General worked for both Qin and Wei at various points.

[59] The commentaries suggest that  屬行而 here is superfluous.  

[60] The commentaries suggest 譙石 for 離石 here. Qiaoshi was somewhere in Zhao. 

[61] Yao and Zeng suggest 陽馬 (Yangma) for 馬陵 (Maling) here. Maling was in modern Shen County, Henan.

[62] Ye is now Pingdingshan in Henan.

[63] Queen Dowager Xuan, the mother of King Zhaoxiang. With her family and the aid of King Wuling of Zhao she managed to ensure that her son took the throne following the unexpected death of his older brother, King Wu. With her brother, Marquis Rang, she ruled while Zhaoxiang was still underage, but he eventually succeeded in forcing both out after he attained maturity. 

[64] Wei Ran (Marquis Rang) was the half-brother of Queen Xuan of Qin and the uncle of King Zhaoxiang. Having backed Zhaoxiang in the struggle for succession that occurred following the death of King Wu, he subsequently became Chancellor.

[65] 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.

[66] Reading 贏 for 羸 following Bao. The Records of the Grand Historian give 嬴 instead, in which case the sentence reads "When the Ying family was pinned down, they employed the Queen Dowager and Marquis Rang to sue for peace, before betraying both the King's uncle and his mother."

[67] I.e. Queen Dowager Xuan and Wei Ran. 

[68] Reading 阨 for 隘 per the commentaries. 

[69] The commentaries disagree regarding the correct reading of this sentence; this is the version that seems most plausible. 

[70] Bao suggests 知 ("know") for 制 here.

[71] Long Jia was a Qin general, he defeated Wei in the Battle of Diaoyin (now Ganquan County, Shaanxi) in 333 BC.

[72] This took place in 339 BC in Xuchang County, Henan.

[73] This happened in 303 BC in Ruicheng County, Shanxi. 

[74] It is not clear when and where this happened, and Yao suggests that this and the Battle of Fengling may be superfluous. 

[75] This seems to have happened around 336 BC and was a fight between Qin and Zhao. 

[76] Han, Wei and Zhao. 

[77] That is to say, as captives used in slave labour projects by the Qin state.

[78] Shangluo is still called Shangluo and it is in Shaanxi.

[79] Sanchuan was an area near Luoyang in Henan. It was fought over regularly.

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

[81] Yao suggests 議 for 說 here. 

[82] Su Qin was Su Dai's brother. He worked for almost all of the states during a long and successful career as the principal proponent of the anti-Qin alliance. He was assassinated by political enemies in Qi. 

[83] Reading 否 for 不 here, per the commentaries. 

[84] Su Li was a brother of Su Dai and Su Qin.

Su Qin Speaks to Lord Fengyang in an Attempt to Persuade Yan to Join Zhao in an Attack on Qi



Su Qin[1] spoke[2] to Lord Fengyang[3] in an attempt to persuade Yan to join Zhao in an attack on Qi, but ​Lord Fengyang would not listen. Consequently he sent an envoy[4] to slander Zhao in Qi, seeking to provoke Qi to sever its relations with Zhao. This done, he[5] seized his chance to travel to Yan and speak to King Zhao[6], saying, "Han Wei spoke to your servant, saying, 'Someone reported on this to Lord Fengyang, saying, 'It was Master Su who destroyed Qi's trust in Zhao. It was Master Su who ensured[7] that the King of Qi[8] would summon Master Shu[9] and thus prevent him from attacking Song. It was Master Su who plotted with the King of Qi to find a way[10] to acquire Qin's support in its conspiracy against Zhao. It was also Master Su who had Qi deploy its troops in order that it may keep hold of its Zhao hostages. I would request that Master Gao[11] importune Qi on this subject. Otherwise, if Qi deploys its troops in order that it may keep hold of its Zhao hostages, I will deploy my troops in order that I may keep hold of you[12].' His speech was a vicious one; nevertheless, Your Majesty should not worry[13]. I knew when I crossed Qi's border that this would irk Zhao. I set out anyway, to accomplish your desires. If I die and Qi is consequently enflamed with hatred for Zhao, then it will be as though I were still alive - once relations between Qi and Zhao have been severed[14] it is likely that chaos will ensue. Your humble servant[15] may not be Zhang Mengtan[16], but if you have me take on his role then Qi and Zhao will be forced to adopt that of Zhi Bo[17]."



"Lord Fengyang[18] has reported this to Zhu Huan[19] and Zhao Zu[20], saying, 'The King of Qi[21] sent Gong Yudan[22] to order me[23] to prevent Han Min[24] from returning to Qi at all costs, who has now been summoned back. He refused outright to accord any responsibility for affairs of state to Master Su, who has now been given a domain and made Chancellor. He would allow no accord to be made with Yan, and Yan is now Qi's closest friend. I used to be able to rely on Shun[25], but now his speeches are even more volatile than his father's. Shun was originally one of Master Su's enemies, but now we see them acting as though there were no points of divergence between them[26] - they think the world of each other. It is over for me. I have lost Qi's backing.'



"Lord Fengyang was profoundly angry. If the King of Qi[27] refuses to trust Zhao, it is because Lord Fengyang is a venal peasant, and it is on account of this that Qi will betray Zhao. If we do not take advantage of the present chaos to dissolve and renew our accords, then afterwards it will be too late to do anything. If I could bring Qi and Zhao into your orbit[28], then I would account death no affliction and exile no shame. To be made a feudal lord would be no greater honour, and to have my head shaved and my face tattooed would be no humiliation. It would, however, trouble me if I were to die before Qi and Zhao have fallen in behind you, and their relations - now bitter and divided on my account - are later repaired. This would worry me such that if, by my death, I could ensure that they would turn and attack one another, then I would make every effort to seek such a death. Yao[29] and Shun[30] were sages and still they died. Yu[31] and Tang[32] were wise and still they died. Meng Ben[33] was brave and still he died. Wu Hao[34] was strong and still he died. Has there ever been a creature born that did not die? If by accepting the inevitable I can obtain your desires, why would Your Majesty hesitate?



"I believe that the best way to achieve this would be for Your Servant to be exiled and flee[35]. If I arrive in Qi via Han and Wei, I can then work on Qi's behalf to secure Qin's backing, while also forming deep ties with Zhao, thus stiffening its sinews[36]. In this way I can drive them into conflict with one another[37]. Though I will not trouble Yan in the course of doing this[37], Lord Fengyang will report it to Zhu Huan, saying, 'Master Su is angry because - thanks to my schemes - the King of Yan has not appointed him Chancellor or even made him a high-ranking official, and he is in danger of losing Yan's support[38].' Yan's suspicions of me will grow so plain that it will never be implicated in anything I do, and nothing will be demanded of you[39]. Yi Yin[40] twice fled Tang[41] for Jie[42], and twice he fled Jie for Tang. As a result of this, the two fought at Mingtiao[43] and Tang was named Son of Heaven. Wu Zixu[44] fled Chu for Wu, and as a result of this the two fought at Baiju[45] and Wu Zixu was able to avenge himself upon his father's enemies. Your servant, once exiled, will also spread such chaos in Qi and Zhao that it will be recorded in the historical annals. Who would not endure exile to accomplish such things? During Duke Huan's[46] insurrection Guan Zhong[47] fled into exile in Lu. During Yang Hu's[48] insurrection Confucius[49] fled into exile in Wey. Zhang Yi[50] fled into exile in Chu, and Bai Gui[51] fled into exile in Qin. When Wangzhu was Chancellor in Zhongshan[52] he was sent as an envoy to Zhao, which seized him and demanded land in return, but Wangzhu stormed the border checkpoint and fled[53]. During his grandson's[54] insurrection, Duke Xue[55] abandoned his carriage and escaped across the border[56], and the Three Jin called him a good man[57]. Therefore, in undertaking such a great affair, flight is no shame."


He finally managed to sever Qi from Zhao. Zhao made an alliance with Yan and they attacked Qi, which was defeated.

[1] Reading 秦 for 代, per the commentaries. Su Qin worked for almost all of the states during a long and successful career as the principal proponent of the anti-Qin alliance.

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

[3] Lord Fengyang was also known as Li Dui, and served as Prime Minister under King Huiwen of Zhao.

[4] According to the commentaries this was Su Dai. Su Dai was a brother of Su Qin and shared his anti-Qin sentiments. 

[5] The commentaries and Crump assume this refers to Su Dai, modern Chinese translations, to Su Qin. 

[6] King Zhao of Yan (311 - 279 BC) took power following an internal power struggle that resulted when the previous ruler, King Kuai, attempted to pass the throne to his Chancellor, and provoked an invasion by Qi. 

[7] Reading 令 for 今, per the commentaries. 

[8] 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.

[9] Master Shu was a general in Qi. 

[10] Reading 遁 for 道 here, per the commentaries. 

[11] It is not clear who this was, or even whether it is a reference to a third person or to the interlocutor.

[12] The commentaries disagree regarding the precise meaning of this sentence, and it is not clear to what events or which people it may refer. 

[13] On Su Qin or Su Dai's account.

[14] Reading 今 for 令 here, per the commentaries. 

[15] The commentaries suggest 特 for 持 here. 

[16] Zhang Mengtan was a retainer for the Zhao family, who persuaded the Han and Wei clans to join them in wiping out the Zhi clan.

[17] Zhi Bo (also known as Zhi Yao, Zhi Boyao, Xun Yao and Zhi Xiangzi) was the last Chancellor of Jin, and a representative of the Zhi clan, which cooperated with the Han, Wei and Zhao clans to break up the state of Jin before being wiped out by them in turn.

[18] This may, in fact, be a separate chapter. 

[19] A politician in Zhao.

[20] Another politician in Zhao.

[21] 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.

[22] Reading 公玉丹 for 共王曰, per the commentaries. Gong Yudan was a politician in Qi. 

[23] Reading 兌 for 說 here, per the commentaries.

[24] Han Min was a politician from Han. 

[25] Shun was Gong Yudan's father. 

[26] Reading 如 for 知 per the commentaries. 

[27] Omitting one 王 here per the commentaries. 

[28] Yao suggests 脩 for 循 here. 

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

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

[31] Yu the Great (c. 2123–2025 BCE) was another semi-legendary early sovereign.

[32] Tang (c. 1600-1587 BCE) overthrew the Xia Dynasty to found the Shang Dynasty.

[33] Meng Ben was a celebrated strongman in Qin. 

[34] Wu Hao was another Qin strongman. 

[35] The commentaries suggest that the 為 here may be superfluous.

[36] This sentence is very confusingly written and modern translators struggle to interpret it. A best-guess interpretation would be that Su Qin is going to pretend to have been exiled to Han or Wei, and then claim to be working on their behalf to encourage Qi to form an alliance with Qin and Zhao to form one with Han and/or Wei, consequently driving the two sides to war. 

[37] The commentaries suggest 不累 for 累 here.

[38] The commentaries suggest 子 for 予 here.

[39] Another confusing sentence. The idea seems to be that Fengyang will be so angry with the Qin family that no one will believe them to be working with the King of Yan in secret, and neither side - both of which believe the Qins to be on their side - will request the King of Yan for help. 

[40] Yi Yin (c. 1600 BC – 1549 BC) helped Tang of Shang, the founder of the Shang dynasty, to defeat King Jie of Xia. 

[41] Tang of Shang (c. 1675 – 1646 BC) overthrew King Jie of Xia to become the first ruler of the Shang Dynasty.

[42] King Jie (c. 1728 – 1675 BC) was the tyrannical last ruler of the Xia Dynasty.

[43] Mingtiao was in Xia County, Shanxi.

[44] Wu Zixu​ was a minister in Wu in the early fifth century BC. Early in his life he was faced with the choice of dying with his father, who had been wrongly accused of treason, or staying alive to attempt to avenge him, a dilemma which became something of a Confucian equivalent of the trolley problem. After various escapades he was obliged to commit suicide on a false charge, and was held up as a model of loyalty.

[45] Bao suggests 柏 for 伯 here. Baiju was in modern Macheng County, Hubei. The battle took place in 506 BC.

[46] Duke Huan was a famously successful ruler of Qi during the Spring and Autumn period. He fled into exile at a young age as a result of domestic political strife, and returned to Qi later to fight his brother for the throne. Guan Zhong originally supported the brother, Prince Jiu, and in a fracas between the two sides fired an arrow that came close to killing Duke Huan. He was later captured and was sentenced to death, but his friends begged for his life, and Duke Huan eventually appointed him as Chancellor.

[47] Guan Zhong served as Chancellor of Qi under Duke Huan. 

[48] Yang Hu was a politician in Lu. 

[49] Confucius (551 - 479 BC) was the founding father of Chinese philosophy.

[50] Zhang Yi​ was a politician and general in Qin, and the principal proponent of Qin's Horizontal Alliance, the aim of which was to prevent the other states from unifying against Qin.

[51] Bai Gui was a politician and engineer in Wei. 

[52] Lord Wangzhu was also known as Yue Yi, and was a politician and general in Zhongshan and then, following its fall, in Zhao.

[53] The commentaries suggest that 逃 here is superfluous. 

[54] It is not clear who this was. 

[55] Lord Mengchang, or Tian Wen/Duke Xue, was one of the most famous strategists of the era. A member of the Qi royal house, he worked for Qi for most of his career, only spending a few years in Wei in protest against King Min's human resources policy.

[56] Reading 載 for 戴 per the commentaries.

[57] Reading 好士 for 士 here, per the commentaries. 


Su Dai Goes to Persuade Qi on Behalf of Yan


Su Dai[1] went to persuade Qi on behalf of Yan, but before he sought an audience with the King of Qi[2] he first persuaded Chunyu Kun[3], saying, "There was a person who wanted to sell a quality horse, so he went to the market three mornings in a row but no one recognised its quality. He went and sought an audience with Bo Le[4] and said, 'I have a quality horse and wish to sell it, so I went to the market three mornings in a row but none of the people there have come to speak to me about it. I would like you to return with me and look at it. Then leave, but glance backwards as you do so. I beg to offer you one day's expenses for this.' Accordingly, Bo Le returned with him and looked at the horse. Then he left, glancing backwards as he did so. The next morning, the horse's price was ten times higher. Now I have a quality horse that I wish to show to the King, but I have no one to serve as my go-between. Would you consider being your servant's Bo Le? I beg permission to offer a pair of jade disks and ten thousand yi[5] of gold to cover your travel expenses.'

Chunyu Kun said, "I will listen attentively to your instructions." He went to the court, spoke to the King and secured an audience for Su Dai. The King of Qi was overjoyed with Master Su.  

[1] Su Dai was Su Qin's younger brother and shared his anti-Qin position. 

[2] 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.

[3] Chunyu Kun was a Confucian scholar at the Jixia Academy, who also advised the Qi government. He was famous for his wit and clever arguments.

[4] Bo Le was a celebrated judge and tamer of horses.

[5] A yi was a measure specifically for weighing gold, but it varied widely over time and place. However it is calculated, ten thousand yi is a fairytale amount.

Su Qin Sends an Envoy from Qi to Speak to King Zhao of Yan



Su Qin[1] sent an envoy from Qi to speak to King Zhao[2] of Yan, saying, "Your servant has provoked a split between Qi and Zhao, and both are now isolated[3]. Why does Your Majesty not dispatch troops to attack Qi? I beg permission to further weaken them for you." Consequently Yan attacked Jin[4] in Qi.



Su Qin sent one of his people to speak to King Min[5], saying, "Yan attacked Qi driven by a desire to regain its former territories[6], but Yan's troops are now stalled at Jin and do not advance on account of their military weakness and strategic vacillations. Why does Your Majesty not make Master Su a general and retaliate? If, with Master Su's wisdom at your disposal, you launch a counterattack on puny Yan, then Yan's destruction is inevitable. Once Yan has been destroyed, then Zhao will not dare to ignore you. Thus you will have destroyed Yan and gained Zhao's submission."

King Min said, "Very well."

Consequently he spoke to Master Su, saying, "Yan's troops are in Jin, and we wish now to dispatch our own army in a counter-offensive. We want you to serve as our general."

Su Qin replied, "How could your servant's military skills be adequate to such a task? Your Majesty must reconsider this offer. If you send me, then not only will your troops be defeated, but you will have have made a gift of me to Yan. If I do not win the battle there will be no one left to save you." 

The King said, "Proceed. We are aware of your capabilities."



Accordingly Master Su was made a general and joined battle against Qi's partisans beneath the walls of Jin. Qi's army was defeated and Yan took the heads of twenty thousand men-at-arms. Master Su gathered his remaining troops[7], garrisoned them at Yangcheng[8], and reported back to King Min, saying, "Your Majesty erred in appointing me, and in sending me to retaliate against Yan. Now the army has been defeated and sustained twenty thousand casualties. I have committed a crime meriting the death penalty. I beg permission to return and submit myself to the appropriate authorities for execution."

King Min said, "This was our mistake. You did no wrong."



The following day, Yan launched another attack on Yangcheng and Li[9]. Once again Su Qin sent one of his people to speak to King Min, saying, "Yesterday Qi could not prevail beneath the walls of Jin. This was not due to any mistake on our troops' part, but because Qi was unlucky and Yan enjoyed Heaven's favour. Now Yan is once again attacking Yangcheng and Li, and it is doing so because it has taken Heaven's blessings for the product of self-made success. If you renew your order that Master Su retaliate, then - having previously overseen the defeat of your troops - he will now strive to secure victory and your revenge."

The King said, "Very well." Accordingly the order was dispatched to Master Su by return messenger. He was insistent in his demurrals, but the King refused to listen. Consequently he resumed the position of general and met Yan in battle at Yangcheng. Yan's partisans secured a great victory and took thirty thousand heads. This drove a wedge between Qi's leaders and their followers, the hearts of the hundred clans having been alienated. Yan seized the opportunity to send Yue Yi[10] to conduct a great levee of troops and attack Qi. Qi was destroyed. 

[1] Su Qin worked for almost all of the states during a long and successful career as the principal proponent of the anti-Qin alliance.

[2] King Zhao of Yan (311 - 279 BC) took power following an internal power struggle that resulted when the previous ruler, King Kuai, attempted to pass the throne to his Chancellor, and provoked an invasion by Qi. 

[3] The commentaries give 間 for 聞 here.

[4] The commentaries disagree whether this implies the participation of troops from Han or Wei, or an unidentified town in Qi. The latter seems more plausible, and has been adopted by both modern English and Chinese translations.

[5] 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.

[6] Qi had previously taken advantage of internal disorder in Yan to invade.

[7] Bao suggests 以 for 收 here.

[8] There was more than one place called Yangcheng, but none of the known examples seem to fit this context.

[9] The commentaries disagree regarding the location of Li. It may possibly be Renqiu in Hebei.

[10] Yue Yi was a politician and general in Zhongshan and, following its fall, in Zhao.


Su Dai Travels from Qi to Offer a Memorial to the King of Yan


Su Dai[1] sent a memorial to the King of Yan[2] from Qi, saying, "When I set out on my travels I was well aware that there would be malicious gossip. Therefore I submitted a memorial via one of your great officers of state before leaving. It said: 'If I am honoured in Qi, Yan's counselors will no longer trust me. If I am insulted, they will disregard me. If I am employed, they will denounce me. If Qi grows no friendlier, they will blame me. If the states of All-Under-Heaven do not attack Qi, they will say that I have been deploying all my best strategies on Qi's behalf. If the states of All-Under-Heaven do attack Qi, they will deliver both Qi and myself over to the enemy[3]. I am walking on eggshells[4].' Your Majesty spoke to me, saying, 'I will certainly not listen to the slanderous talk of the masses. I trust you implicitly[5]. Your priority should be to obtain employment in Qi, then to secure the trust of your subordinates. Death aside, you should stop at nothing to convince them.' You then said, 'If you are able to make it to Qi, then it will only be a matter of time before you succeed[6].' Your servant accepted these orders and secured a position in Qi. I have been here for five years now and Qi has engaged in multiple military expeditions, but it has never yet plotted against Yan. Relations between Qi and Zhao, once close, are now distant, and if Yan did not then take the chance to plot with Qi against Zhao[7], it must be because you are plotting with Zhao against Qi[8]. Qi's trust in Yan was such that it left its northern border unguarded and sent its troops elsewhere, but you have now put your faith in the speeches of Tian Fa[9] and San Quji[10] and attacked Qi[11], such that not even its underlings will have anything to do with Yan[12]. Now you have once more sent Qing[13] here with your orders, saying, 'I am seeking a position for a friend[14].' If this is what Your Majesty wants[15], then allow me to assist. If you are willing to release me and give all my responsibilities to your friend[16], then I beg permission to return to Yan and relinquish this affair. If I can simply obtain an audience with you upon my return, that is all I want."       

[1] Su Dai was Su Qin's younger brother and shared his anti-Qin position. 

[2] King Zhao of Yan (311 - 279 BC) took power following an internal power struggle that resulted when the previous ruler, King Kuai, attempted to pass the throne to his Chancellor, and provoked an invasion by Qi. 

[3] Reading 貿 for 鄮, per the commentaries. That is to say, Yan's elite will decide to abandon Su's attempts to form an alliance with Qi and join the attackers, leaving Su trapped in an enemy state currently under attack.

[4] There is some confusion regarding this sentence, but commentaries concur on the general sense. 

[5] Again, this sentence is not entirely clear, but the general sense is agreed upon. Some of the commentaries suggest 列眉 for 剗刈 here.

[6] The commentaries disagree regarding this sentence, but the general sense is clear.

[7] The commentaries disagree regarding this sentence, but the general sense is clear.

[8] The commentaries disagree regarding this sentence, but the general sense is clear.

[9] This person is not otherwise well-known. He may have been a member of the Qi ruling house.

[10] Modern Chinese translations give 缲 (Qiao or Sao) for 參. It is not clear who this was. 

[11] The commentaries suggest that this is a reference to three different people and should read "speeches of Tian Fa, San and Qu Ji", while modern translations read it as only two names.

[12] The commentaries suggest that 馬戔 here is superfluous.

[13] This seems to refer to Sheng Qing (盛慶), a politician in Yan.

[14] Presumably he is angling for a job for one of his clients in Qi.

[15] The commentaries suggest that 王苟欲用之 here may be superfluous.

[16] The commentaries suggest 專 for 剸 here.

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