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Analysis of Sir Xin-ling's rescue of the State of Zhao 1

Tang, Shun-zhi 2 (1507 A.D.-1560 A.D.)

    Critics claim that it was wrong of Sir Xin-ling 3 to steal the commander's tally 4. In my opinion, this act was not sufficient to charge him with a crime. The State of Qin was a superpower and Qin's tyranny was at its height. They had deployed all their troops to besiege the State of Zhao. Under these circumstances, Zhao would surely have been destroyed. Zhao was a protective screen for the State of Wei. If Zhao had been destroyed, Wei would have been next. Zhao and Wei were protective screens for the States of Chu, Yan and Qi. If Zhao and Wei had been destroyed, Chu, Yan and Qi would have been next. During that period, there was no situation in China more precarious than this crisis. Therefore, rescuing Zhao was equivalent to rescuing Wei. Rescuing one state also protected all six states. Was it not proper to relieve Wei's trouble by stealing the tally of the commander of Wei? Was it not proper to prevent disaster for the six states by borrowing the army of one state?

    However, can we say that Sir Xing-ling was innocent? The answer is no. I blame Sir Xin-ling for his problematic thinking. Failing to consider the authority of his king and the security of Wei, Sir Xin-ling responded only to the personal plea of his brother-in-law, Sir Ping-yuan 5. Ignoring the King of Wei, Sir Ping-yuan, the Prime Minister of Zhao, earnestly and tirelessly sought help from his brother-in-law, Sir Xin-ling. Sir Ping-yuan used his relationship by marriage to goad Sir Xin-ling into rescuing Zhao. Sir Xin-ling was anxious to rescue Zhao simply because he considered his duty to his brother-in-law more important than his duty to the King of Wei. Sir Xin-ling stole the commanderís tally neither for the State of Wei nor for the Six States. Did he steal the tally for the State of Zhao? No. He did so solely for Sir Ping-yuan. If the disaster had occurred outside Zhao, Sir Xin-ling would not have come to the rescue even though the disaster would have removed the protective screen of Wei and the protective screens of the Six States. If the State of Zhao had not had Sir Ping-yuan, or Sir Ping-yuan had not been the brother-in-law of Sir Xin-ling, then Sir Xin-ling would not have rescued Zhao even though Zhao would have been imperiled. Thus, in the eyes of Sir Xin-ling, the combined value of the King of Wei and his country could not match that of a single man, Sir Ping-yuan. The entire army of Wei upon which the state's security relied was improperly given over to the personal use of Sir Xin-ling's brother-in-law. If Weiís troops were to win the war, everything would be O.K. However, if Wei's troops were not so fortunate, were to lose the war, and become Qin's captives, then Sir Xin-ling would be sacrificing his entire country, established for several hundreds of years, for his brother-in-law. I wonder what excuse Sir Xin-ling could then use for his apology to the King of Wei.

    The plan for stealing the commander's tally was designed by Mr. Hou 6 and accomplished by Lady Ru 7. Mr. Hou advised Sir Xin-ling to steal the tally and then Lady Ru stole it for Sir Xin-ling from the bedroom of the King of Wei. These two people acted out of loyalty to Sir Xin-ling without consulting the King of Wei. In my opinion, Sir Xin-ling should have persuaded the King of Wei to rescue Zhao by comparing the close relationship between Zhao and Wei to that between lips and teeth. If the king did not listen to his advice, Sir Xin-ling should have bravely killed himself in front of the king using his willingness to risk his life to fight against Qin's army. Then the King of Wei would surely have come to understand the necessity of rescuing Zhao. If Mr. Hou wanted to help Sir Xin-ling work out a plan, Mr. Hou should have directly persuaded the King of Wei. If the king did not listen, Mr. Hou should have bravely killed himself in front of the king using his willingness to sacrifice himself for Sir Xin-ling. Then the king would surely have come to understand the importance of rescuing Zhao. If Lady Ru was willing to repay Sir Xin-ling for his assistance, she should have gone to the King of Wei whenever he had free time and tried to persuade him to rescue Zhao. If he did not listen to her advice, she should have bravely killed herself in front of the king using her willingness to sacrifice herself for Sir Xin-ling. Then the king would surely have come to understand the necessity of rescuing Zhao. If these three people have done so, they would have been faithful to both Wei and Zhao. Mr. Hou and Lady Ru would have been faithful to both their king and Sir Xin-ling. Why didn't they design such a plot? Sir Xin-ling acknowledged his brother-in-law at Zhao, but failed to acknowledge his king. Not only the peoples of the states outside Wei like Sir Ping-yuan of the neighboring state of Zhao, but even the nobility like Lady Ru, and common people like Mr. Hou, inside Wei, acknowledged Sir Xin-ling, but failed to acknowledge the King of Wei. This shows that the King of Wei had little support.

    As the morals of the world decays, people are becoming used to ganging together for clandestine and illegal activities, and forgetting to be law-abiding, and to act with integrity. Consequently, there are powerful prime ministers, but no dignified kings. There are personal enmities, but no moral indignations. People of the State of Qin acknowledged their prime minister, Marquis Rang, but failed to acknowledge their king. Official Yu acknowledged his friend, but failed to acknowledge the King of the State of Zhao. It has been a long time since a king was considered merely a figurehead.

    From this viewpoint, Sir Xin-lingís fault was not solely based on his stealing of the commander's tally. If his motive had been to help Wei or the Six States, then he would still have been innocent despite having stolen the commanderís tally. If his motive had been for Zhao, or his brother-in-law, he would have been guilty even if he had acquired the commanderís tally openly from the King of Wei. Conversely, the King of Wei also had faults. The commanderís tally was hidden in his bedroom; how was Sir Xin-ling able to steal it? Sir Xin-ling did not care about the King of Wei and directly sought help from Lady Ru because he saw that the king was always negligent. Lady Ru did not care about the King of Wei and dared to steal the commander's tally. This was because she was emboldened by the favoritism she had been shown by the King of Wei. It is only after wood becomes rotten that wood-eating insects multiply. In ancient times, when a monarch held power in his court, no one inside or outside dared to slacken in fulfilling their duties. If everyone had acted like this, how could Sir Xin-ling have established a personal relationship with Zhao? How could the prime minister of Zhao have sought secret help from Sir Xin-ling? If Lady Ru could have avenged her father through law, how could Sir Xin-ling have had the chance to kill her enemy and ask her a favor in return? When one steps on frost, one realizes that the season of solid ice will come soon. Could the problem of Wei have arisen in a single day or evening? No, the problem came because people in Wei did not acknowledge their king, and also because the king made himself a figurehead. Consequently, those who form political cliques to increase their influence should be alert to the example of Sir Xin-ling. A king who is losing power should be alert to the example of the King of Wei. Spring-fall talks about burying Yuan-zhong 8 and Hui leading an army 9. It can be said that Confucius considered this issue carefully.




1 To gain the understanding of this essay, please read Because the King of Qin Lacked Virtue, Lu Did Not Agree That He Should Become the Emperor.

2 Shun-zhi Tang was a native of Wu-jin City in Jiangsu Province during the Ming dynasty. Ying-de and Yu-xiu were his other first names. He passed the Advanced Exam in 1525 A.D. At the peak of his political career, he was a governor. He argued that an essay should maintain its natural color. That is, an essay should emphasize its content, goal, energy, and poetic tone. He opposed the opinion of Jing-ming He and Meng-yang Li. They claimed, ďAn essay should follow the model of the Qin and Han dynasties and a poem should follow the model of the early Tang dynasty.Ē Shun-zhi Tang was one of the most important Chinese writers in the middle Ming dynasty.

3 Sir Xin-ling, Wu-ji, was the youngest son of King Zhao of the State of Wei. After King An-li inherited the throne, he conferred the title, Sir Xin-ling on Wu-ji. Sir Xin-ling had 3,000 house guests. He, Sir Meng-chang of the State of Qi, Sir Chun-shen of the State of Chu, and Sir Ping-yuan of the State of Zhao, together are called the Four Princes of the Warring States Period.

4 A commander's tally was divided into two pieces. The commander kept one half; the king kept the other. In ancient China, a military commander in the battlefield possessed sole authority over his troops. When a king sent an order to the battlefield, the commander required the other half of the tally for proof of the order's authenticity. Thus, a commander's tally is a symbol for authority.
    Qin besieged the capital of Zhao. Sir Ping-yuan, Zhao's prime minister, sent an envoy to Wei and asked for military assistance. The King of Wei feared Qin. He first sent General Bi Jin to rescue Zhao. Later, he changed his mind and asked his troops to station themselves at Bi-ye City and move no further. Sir Xin-ling, a prince of Wei and the brother-in-law of Sir Ping-yuan, was anxious to rescue Zhao, but he could not obtain the commander's tally. Mr. Hou, the security guard of a city gate, advised Sir Xing-ling to ask Lady Ru, the favorite concubine of the King of Wei, to steal the commander's tally from the king's bedroom. This plan was successful. With the commander's tally in hand, Sir Xin-ling captured Bi Jin's army and used it to rescue Zhao from Qin's besiege. See "The Biography of Sir Xin-ling" in Chinese History.

5 Sir Ping-yuan, Sheng, was the son of King Wu-ling of the State of Zhao and the younger brother of King Hui-wen. Sheng was given feudal land in Ping-yuan (flat land). Consequently, he called himself Sir Ping-yuan. Sir Ping-yuan's wife was the elder sister of Sir Xin-ling. When Qin besieged Zhao's capital, Han-dan City, Sir Ping-yuan was Zhaoís Prime Minister. He asked the State of Wei for military assistance. At first, the King of Wei sent General Bi Jin to rescue Zhao, but later he changed his mind. He ordered his troops to station themselves at Bi-ye City and move no further. Therefore, Sir Ping-yuan sent the following message to Sir Xin-ling, "I married your sister because you are a virtuous man who will offer timely assistance to someone in trouble."

6 Mr. Hou was seventy years old when Qin besieged Zhao. He was the security guard of the eastern gate of the capital of Wei. Sir Xin-ling treated him as an honored guest.

7 Lady Ru was the favorite concubine of King An-li of the State of Wei. Lady Ru's father was murdered by someone. Lady Ru wanted to avenge her father and had tried several times to no avail. Sir Xin-ling sent people to assassinate her enemy, cut off his head, and then send it to Lady Ru. She greatly appreciated this favor by Sir Xin-ling.

8 Spring-fall says, "In the Fall of the twenty-seventh year during the reign of King Zhuang of the State of Lu, Prince You went to the State of Chen without his king's permission to bury Yuan-zhong, an official of Chen." Confucius considered this visit inappropriate and recorded this event to warn that an official should not build political influence without the approval of his king.

9 Spring-fall says, "In the Fall of the fourth year during the reign of King Yin of the State of Lu, Hui led the army." Hui was Prince Yu-fu. Later, Hui murdered King Yin. The reason Confucius recorded this event is to warn kings not to abdicate power.