Because the King of Qin Lacked Virtue, Lu Did Not Agree That He Should Become the Emperor

Strategies During the Warring States Period (403-221 BCE)

    The troops of the State of Qin besieged Han-dan City 1, the capital of the State of Zhao. King An-xi-wang of the State of Wei sent General Bi Jin to rescue Zhao. Because General Jin feared Qin's forces, his troops stopped at Dang-yin City 2 and moved no further. The King of Wei secretly sent another general, Yuan-yan Xin, to Han-dan City by a small out-of-the-way path. General Xin asked Prince Ping-yuan 3 to send the following message to the King of Zhao 4: "The reason Qin besieged Zhao is that the King of Qin wants to be the Emperor of China. In 288 BCE, he competed for the emperorship 5 with King Min-wang 6 of the State of Qi. Later, King Ming-wang abandoned his position as emperor, so the King of Qi followed suit. Now Qi is weak and Qin is the strongest state in China. Qin has initiated this war not because the King of Qin is greedy to capture Han-dan City; what Qin wants is the emperorship. If you can send an envoy to Qin and honor the King of Qin as the emperor, then King Zhao-wang of Qin will be happy and will withdraw his troops that surround Han-dan City." Prince Ping-yuan hesitated to act and could not make his decision.

    At the time that Qin besieged Han-dan City, it just so happened that Zhong-lian Lu7 was visiting the State of Zhao. He heard that a general from Wei had ordered the King of Zhao to honor the King of Qin as the emperor. Consequently, he went to see Prince Ping-yuan. Lu asked him, "What are you going to do?" Prince Ping-yuan said, "What can I do? One million troops of our state have died on the battlefield 8 and we cannot repel Qin's army that threatens our capital. The King of Wei sent General Yuan-yan Xin to order Zhao to honor the King of Qin as the emperor. What can I do?" Lu said, "I thought you were wise. Now I know you are not. Where is your guest, Yuan-yan Xin from Wei? Let me rebuke him for you and ask him to go home." Prince Ping-yuan said, "Let me summon General Xin so you can meet him." Consequently, Prince Ping-yuan went to see General Xin and told him, "Zhong-lian Lu from the State of Qi is visiting my office. Let me introduce him to you." Yuan-yan Xin said, "Zhong-lian Lu is a virtuous man of Qi. I work for the King of Wei and am bound by my duty, so I do not want to see Zhong-lian Lu." Prince Ping-yuan said, "I have already told people that you would meet with Lu." In response, General Xin assented reluctantly.

    Upon meeting General Xin, Zhong-lian Lu said nothing. Yuan-yan Xin said, "I notice that people in this besieged city all have something to ask of Prince Ping-yuan. Based on your upstanding appearance, I know you are not one of those who seek favors from Prince Ping-yuan. Why have you stayed in this besieged city for so long? Why have you not yet left?" Zhong-lian Lu said, "Those who think that Jiao Bao 9 did not die in peace are wrong. This is because they are so selfish that they do not understand the significance of death. Qin is a state that abandons virtue and promotes the Shou-gong Policy 10. It abuses its power to yoke its officials and to enslave its people. If the King of Qin were to publicly declare himself emperor or even actually conquer China, I would rather jump into the Eastern Sea than become his citizen. I come to see you because I want to help the State of Zhao." Yuan-yan Xin asked, "How will you help Zhao?" Zhong-lian Lu said, "I will make the States of Wei and Yan help Zhao. The States of Qi and Chu have helped Zhao already." Yuan-yan Xin said, "I wonder if Yan will help Zhao. Suppose Yan will follow your request. As for Wei, I am a general from Wei. How can you make Wei help Zhao?" Lu replied, "Wei has not helped Zhao because it has not foreseen the harm that would result if the King of Qin were declared emperor. If it had, it would certainly help Zhao."

    Yuan-yan Xin asked, "What harm would result if the King of Qin were to declare himself emperor?" Lu said, "In the past, King Wei-wang 11 of the State of Qi promoted virtue by suggesting that all the kings in China pay homage to the Emperor of the Zhou dynasty. The emperor was poor and weak. All the kings refused to follow. It turned out that only the King of Qi paid homage to the emperor. After a little more than a year Emperor Lie-wang 12 of the Zhou dynasty died. All the kings attended his funeral. The King of Qi arrived last. The new emperor 13 was angry and sent the King of Qi a message. It said, 'The death of an emperor is like the falling of the sky and opening of the earth. Even the succeeding emperor has to observe a period of mourning. The King of the Eastern Vassal State, Ying-qi Tian, arrived last. He should be sentenced to death.' King Wei-wang flew into a rage and said, 'Bah! Bah! Your mother was a slave.' In the end, King Wei-wang became the laughingstock of China. When Emperor Lie-wang was alive, King Wei-wang paid homage to him. After Emperor Lie-wang died, King Wei-wang rebuked the new emperor. This was because King Wei-wang could not endure his excessive demand. In fact, the new emperor said what he should have: there was nothing wrong with his words. 14" Yuan-yan Xin said, "Don't you see those servants? The ten servants follow only one master. Is it because their strength is not as great as that of their master or is it because their wisdom is not as deep as his? No. It is because they fear him. 15 Zhong-lian Lu asked, "Then, is Wei Qin's servant?" Yuan-yan Xin replied, "Yes." Zhong-lian Lu said, "Then I will make the King of Qin chop the King of Wei into ground meat and then cook him." Yuan-yan Xin was displeased and said, "Now, you have gone too far. How can you make the King of Qin chop and cook our king?"

    Zhong-lian Lu said, "Of course, I will explain it to you. In the past, King Gui-hou, King E-hou, and King Wen-wang were the three advisors of Emperor Zhou-wang in the Shang dynasty. King of Gui-hou had a beautiful daughter. He married her to Emperor Zhou-wang, but the emperor did not like her. Therefore, the emperor chopped King Gui-hou and cooked him. King E-hou had argued desperately for him, so the emperor made King E-hou into jerky. After King Wen-wang heard the news, he heaved a deep sigh. Consequently, the emperor arrested him, imprisoned him in You-li City 16, and planned to kill him. Why did a man who was declared king descend to the plight of being minced and jerked? King Min-wang of the State of Qi was about to start his tour in the State of Lu. Yi-wei-zi 17 accompanied him, carrying a whip, and asking the people of Lu, 'How do you prepare to receive our king?' They said, 'We will offer ten cattle, ten sheep and ten pigs to welcome your king.' Yi-wei-zi said, 'That is not the proper way to receive our king. Our king is the Eastern Emperor of China 18. When an emperor makes an inspection tour, a king should leave his palace and let the emperor use it as his hotel. The king must hand over the keys to his treasury and serve the emperor like a servant serves his master: roll up his sleeves to help move furniture and wait on the emperor during his meals. Only after the emperor has finished his meal can the king withdraw and attend the briefing by his officials.' It turned out that the people of Lu all shut their doors and refused to receive the King of Qi. King Min-wang had to leave the State of Lu. Later, he planned to visit the State of Xue 19 by passing through the State of Zou 20. At that time, the King of Zou died. King Min-wang wanted to attend his funeral. Yi-wei-zi told the succeeding King of Zou, 'An emperor always faces south. When an emperor attends a funeral of a king, the host must reverse the direction of the coffin so that the emperor will face south while mourning.' The officials of Zou said, 'Rather than do so, we would prefer to die under our own swords. 21' Consequently, King Min-wang did not dare enter Zou. The officials of Zou and Lu were not well provided for when they lived and could not receive the Fan-han 22 protocol after they died. Nonetheless, when King Min-wang asked them to serve him as they would serve an emperor, they refused. Now Qin is a state that has 10,000 chariots, so is the State of Wei. The leaders of both states declared themselves kings. If the minister of the Three-Jins 23 agrees that the King of Qin should be the Emperor of China simply because the King of Wei sees that Qin has won one battle, then he has less backbone than the servants and concubines of Zou and Lu 24. In addition, the King of Qin is overweening in his ambitions. If he were to become the Emperor of China, he would replace every king's officials: he would dismiss those he considers foolish and appoint those he considers wise; he would dismiss those he dislikes and appoint those he likes. He would make his daughters or spies the wives of the kings. If these spies were to live in the palace of Wei, how could the King of Wei feel safe? How could you remain in the favor of your king?"

    In response, Yuan-yan Xin stood up, saluted again, and apologized by saying, "I first thought you were an ordinary person. Now I know you are one of the wisest men in China. I will return to Wei and stop advocating for the King of Qin to become the emperor." After Qin's generals heard this, they retreated seven miles. Meanwhile, the Prince Wu-ji 25 of Wei came to Zhao's rescue by seizing Bi Jin's army 26 and using it to attack Qin's troops. Consequently, Qin's army withdrew from the State of Zhao.

    Prince Ping-yuan wanted to reward Zhong-lian Lu with some land. Zhong-lian Lu refused it three times. Consequently, Prince Ping-yuan set wine before him. After Prince Ping-yuan drank his fill, he stood up, walked to Lu, and offered him 552 pounds of gold. Zhong-lian Lu smiled and said, "A virtuous man is highly respected because he helps people solve problems without accepting rewards. If he were to accept rewards, he would become a merchant. I cannot bear to be a merchant." Then he said farewell to Prince Ping-yuan and left. He never saw Prince Ping-yuan again.


1 Han-dan City was the capital of the State of Zhao during the Warring States Period. It was located in present day Han-dan-xian County in Hebei Province. In 258 BCE, General He Wang of the State of Qin led troops to besiege Han-dan City.

2 Dang-yin City was in the State of Wei and was located in present day Tang-yin-xian County in Henan Province.

3 Sheng was Prince Ping-yuan's first name. He was the son of King Wu-ling-wang of the State of Zhao and the younger brother of King Hui-wen-wang. Sheng was offered the Ping-yuan (plain) District as his feudal land. Consequently, he called himself Prince Ping-yuan. At the time that Qin besieged Han-dan City, Prince Ping-yuan was the prime minister of Zhao.

4 The King of Zhao refers to King Xiao-cheng-wang.

5 In 288 BCE, the King of Qin declared himself the Western Emperor and sent an envoy to establish King Min-wang of the State of Qi as the Eastern Emperor. Two days after King Min-wang declared himself emperor, he accepted Dai Su's advice to abolish the emperorship. After the Western Emperor heard this news, he did the same and declared himself a king again.

6 Sui was King Ming-wang's first name. He was the son of King Xuan-wang of Qi.

7 Zhong-lian Lu, a native of the State of Qi, was a generous man of high moral principle. He loved to help people solve problems and did so with humility.

8 In 260 BCE, General Qi Bai of the State of Qin defeated the troops of the State of Zhao at Chang-ping City (present day Wang-pao-cun Village, three miles northwest of Gao-ping-xian County in Shanxi Province) and buried 400,000 captive soldiers alive. Prince Ping-yuan's claim that one million troops of their state have died in the battlefield was an overstatement.

9 Jiao Bao, a recluse during the Zhou dynasty, was an honest man of principle. He was discontent with the existing state of affairs, so he embraced a tree and decided to die. See The Unofficial Stories of The Book of Poetry written by Ying Han (ca. 200-130 BCE).

10 "Shou" means "head" and "gong" means "merit or credit". The law of the State of Qin says, "A soldier will receive one rank in promotion for every enemy he kills in battle. The more enemies one kills, the more rewards one receives." Therefore, Qin was a state that promoted the Shou-gong Policy.

11 The first name of King Wei-wang, the son of King Xuan-gong, was Ying-qi.

12 The first name of Emperor Lie-wang, the son of Emperor Kao-wang, was Wu. Emperor Lie-wang had reigned over China for twenty-three years.

13 The first name of the new emperor, the younger brother of Emperor Lie-wang, was Bian.

14 Lu's story teaches a lesson: One should carry virtue through to the end. The story highlights the inconsistency of the King of Wei who tried to rescue Zhao at first, but changed his mind later.

15 Xin's words can be interpreted as follows: I understand your point of view, but this is our point of view: the State of Qin is powerful. We would rather become their servant than their enemy. This is because we fear them.

16 You-li City was located in present day You-cheng City, north of Tang-yin-xian County in Henan Province.

17 Yi-wei was the name of a city, located southwest of present day Gao-mi-xian County in Shangdong Province. "Zi" means "man". Yi-wei-zi was a man from Yi-wei City who uses his hometown as his surname.

18 See note 5.

19 The State of Xue was a State in the Zhou dynasty. It was located southeast of Teng-xian County in Shandong province.

20 The State of Zou was located at present day Zou-xian County in Shandong Province.

21 A king always faces south, so does his coffin after his death. Therefore, the officials could not endure the insult of reversing the coffin of their deceased king.

22 "Fan" means rice; "han" means "keep in the mouth". The Spring and Autumn Annals defines "Fan-han" in its glossary, "During a funeral, mourners put items into the mouth of the deceased. The type of item depends on the status of the deceased: A pearl for an emperor, jade for a king, jewelry for a duke, sea shells for an official, and rice for commoners." This sentence in the essay says that Zou and Lu were poor countries. They could not afford to feed dead people with rice. Therefore, the social status of the officials were low for China.

23 The founding kings of the states of Han, Zhao, and Wei were originally ministers of the State of Jin. Later, the State of Jin was divided into three states: Han, Zhao, and Wei. Here the minister of the Three Jins refers to the King of Wei.

24 The opinion of the officials of Zou represents the opinion of their people.

25 Wu-ju was Prince Xin-ling, the youngest son of King Zhao-wang.

26 Bi Jin led troops to rescue Zhao, but he stopped his troops at Dang-yin City and did not dare move them forward because he feared Qin's army. Wu-ji followed Ying Hou's advice and ordered Hai-zhui Zhu to kill Bi Jin, seize his army, and use it to defeat Qin's troops.