Uncle Jian Cried for Troops 1

Zuo's Extended Version of Spring-Fall

    Mr. Qi 2 sent a messenger from the State of Zheng to deliver the following message to the State of Qin. It said, "The King of the State of Zheng appointed me to be the guard in charge of the key to the northern gate of Zheng's capital. If you send troops here secretly, you can capture the State of Zheng."

    King Mu of Qin asked Uncle Jian for his advice. Uncle Jian said, "I do not think it is appropriate to exhaust our army in attacking a distant state. While our troops would be fatigued, the distant defending army would still be fresh. We would have little chance to win the war. In addition, Zheng's intelligence agents would detect our army's activities. Efforts in the absence of rewards would cause soldiers to disobey. Furthermore, if an army were to travel several hundred miles, it would be difficult to keep its action secret."

    Ignoring Uncle Jian's advice, the king summoned Generals Ming Meng, Qi Xi, Yi Bai to lead troops and set out on a campaign from the eastern gate. Uncle Jian cried and said, "Mr. Meng, I see the troops as they go out, but I do not expect to see them return."

    King Mu sent someone to tell Uncle Jian, "What do you know? If you had died at sixty, the trees beside your tomb would have grown so large that one would need both arms to stretch around the girth of the trunk. 3"

    The son of Uncle Jian was also among the troops. Uncle Jian tearfully sent him off by saying, "The defending force of the State of Jin will surely ambush our troops at Yao Mountain. There are two mounds on Yao Mountain. The southern one is the tomb of Emperor Gao 4 of the Xia dynasty. The northern one was the place where Emperor Wen of the Zhou dynasty took shelter from the wind and rain. You will die between those two mounds. I will gather your bones there." Then Qin's troops set out eastward to battle.

1 In the 30th year of the reign of King Xi of the State of Lu, the State of Zheng and the State of Chu formed an alliance. King Wen of the State of Jin and King Mu of the State of Qin besieged Zheng. Later, Qin secretly negotiated peace with Zheng. Consequently, Jin withdrew its troops. In the 32nd year of the reign of King Xi of Lu, King Wen of Jin died. King Mu thought the State of Jin would have no time to attend to foreign affairs, so he took advantage of this opportunity to try to destroy Zheng. Unexpectedly, while Qin's troops were on their way to Zheng, Jin's army ambushed them and annihilated them.

2 Mr. Qi was a spy for the State of Qin.

3 This sentence means that Uncle Jian was too old to give wise advice.

4 Emperor Gao, the fifteenth emperor of the Xia dynasty, was the grandfather of Emperor Jie. Emperor Gao had reigned for eleven years.