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Ke Jing 1

Tao, Yuan-ming (365-427 CE)

Crown Prince Dan of Yan provided well for his house guests.
His goal was to avenge his disgrace on the tyrant of Qin.
Consequently, he recruited brave and strong men.
At the end of the year, he found Ke Jing.
A gentleman will die for the one who values his talent.
Ke Jing carried a dagger and left for the State of Qin.
His white horse neighed on a boulevard.
The prince was agitated and wished Ke Jing bon voyage.
The latter bristled with indignation to Qin’s tyranny.
His bravery saturates the tassels of his hat.
Prince Dan held a farewell party by the Yi River.
The guests were all heroes.
Jian-li Gao played sad music.
Yi Song sang along loudly.
The autumn wind was soughing
And rippling the cold waters.
The D tune made people weep.
The A tune agitated heroic men.
Ke Jing knew that he could not return
And that he would be admired by later generations.
Once he entered his carriage,
He would not look back.
His carriage flew directly to the emperor of Qin’s court.
His valor followed him a thousand miles
As his carriage wound through a hundred cities.
As the map of Du-kang District was unrolled,
The dagger appeared.
The tyrant of Qin was shocked.
It was a pity that Ke Jing was not good at the art of fencing.
He failed to assassinate the tyrant.
Even though Ke Jing died a thousand years ago,
He is honored as a hero.


1 In this poem, Yuan-ming Tao expressed his sympathy for the weak and his opposition to tyranny. Ke Jing (?-227 BCE), a native of the State of Wei, loved to fence and read books. After the Qin army conquered Wei, Jing fled to the State of Yan. He befriended Jian-li Gao and Yi Song and frequently drank with them in a bar. In order to negotiate peace with Qin, King Xi of the State of Yan sent his son, Dan, to the State of Qin as a hostage. The King of Qin mistreated Dan, so the latter fled back to the State of Yan. In 228 BCE, General Jian Wang of Qin captured the King of the State of Zhao and Qin annexed all his land. Wang's troops moved north and reached the southern border of the State of Yan. Prince Dan worried that his state would be the next to be destroyed, so he consulted with Ke Jing. Dan's original plan was to kidnap the King of Qin and force him to return the lands Qin had captured from Yan. If Dan could not achieve this goal, then he just wanted to assassinate the King of Qin. Dan told Ke Jing, "Qin's troops will soon attack us, I may no longer be able to provide for you." Jing said, "Without your request I will kill the tyrant of Qin myself simply because of his tyranny. However, there is no way for me to approach the tyrant. General Yu-qi Fan defected from the State of Qin. The King of Qin offered a bounty of one hundred pounds of gold for his head. He now seeks refuge in our state. If you can give me his head and the map of Du-kang District [a piece of fertile farmland in Yan that Qin coveted] as the gifts to Qin, I may gain the tyrant's trust so that I can get close to him." Dan said, "General Fan sought refuge in our country. I cannot bear to hurt him because of my selfishness. Please find another way." Consequently, Ke Jing visited Yu-qi Fan by himself. Ke Jing told Fan, "The King of Qin killed your parents and all your relatives and offered a bounty of one hundred pounds of gold for your head. How do you feel?" Fan sighed, cried and said, "I wish to avenge myself on the King of Qin, but I do not know how." Jing said, "I have a way to save the State of Yan and give you revenge against the King of Qin, but I wonder if you like my plan." Fan asked, "How can you do it?" Ke Jing explained, "I want your head as my gift to the King of Qin. You head will make the latter trust me and love to see me. Then I will grab his sleeve and stab his chest. This action will give you revenge and will avenge Yan’s disgrace. What do you think?" Fan said, "Revenge is exactly what I want." Then he committed suicide. In 227 BCE, Ke Jing carried Fan's head and the map of Du-kang District and went to see the King of Qin. The latter quickly summoned him to Xian-yang Palace. As the map was unrolled, the dagger appeared. Ke Jing tried to stab the tyrant, but the latter ducked. Jing missed the target; his dagger fell because Wu-jü Xia, a physician of King of Qin, hit it with his medicine bag. Then the King of Qin drew his sword and killed Ke Jing.
    Three videos follow. In order their titles are "Hero: Overture", "For the world (Hero theme song)", and "Farewell, Hero":