The Response of General Yi to the King of Country Qin 1

Tzuoo's Interpretation of Spring-Fall

    In October, 680 B.C., General Yi of Country Jin met the King of Country Qin at City W and they signed a peace treaty there. The King of Qin asked, "Are the people in Country Jin unified in their opinions of Country Qin?" General Yi replied, "No. The lower class feels ashamed because their king was captured 2 and laments the loss of their relatives during the war. Despite the difficulty they experienced in acquiring chariots and weapons, they crowned Prince Y as their new king. They said, 'We must avenge the capture of the old king. How can we possibly submit to our enemy?' The upper class loves the old king and admits that they made a mistake by denying food to Qin during its famine. Despite the difficulty they faced in strengthening their armed forces, they are now ready to wait for your order to release our king. They said, 'If you return our king, we will return your favor under any circumstance.' Consequently, the classes of people in Country Jin are not in harmony."

    The King of Qin asked, "What are your people's opinions about what should happen to your old king?" General Yi replied, "The lower class worries that the old king cannot avoid death. The upper class thinks that you are as forgiving as they are and will return the old king. The lower class says, 'We failed to provide food to help Qin when they suffered a famine. The King of Qin will not release our old king.' The upper class says, 'Now that we have already admitted our mistakes, the King of Qin will surely return our old king.' If a foreign king is disloyal to you, you should capture him. However, once the king submits to you, you should forgive him. This is both the greatest favor and the most severe punishment. If you were to do this, the one who submits to you would cherish your virtue. The one who is disloyal to you would fear your punishment. If you were to return the old king, the act would enable you to become the leader of China. You have accepted our old king as the official king of Country Jin. If you were to dethrone him, it would be like treating a virtuous person with hatred. I believe you will not do that."

    The King of Qin said, "This is exactly what I am thinking." Consequently, he moved the old King of Jin to a nice hotel and treated him like a guest of honor.

1 In 681 B.C., Country Qin suffered a famine. Country Jin had plenty of food, but did not provide aid to Qin. In September of 680 B.C., the King of Qin attacked Jin and captured King Hui. The generals in Qin's camp were divided into two factions. One wanted to kill King Hui and destroy Jin; the other wanted to return King Hui and sign a peace treaty that would benefit Qin. The King of Qin went to City W to meet General Yi of Country Jin to collect information to help him choose between these options. However, General Yi only talked about the opinions of people in Country Jin. He did not reveal any military secrets to Qin. Consequently, the only reasonable option for the King of Qin was peace.

2 The king of Jin was captured by the troops of Country Qin during the war between Country Qin and Country Jin.