The strongest Avenger in history: is he a hero or an evil god?

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His life is full of contradictions and legends.

For 2500 years, he is famous for his double label of revenge and loyalty to the emperor. Whether it is revenge or loyalty, he expresses his attitude in an extreme way: Revenge ends with whipping the corpse to vent his anger, and loyalty ends with remonstrance.

But in him, revenge and loyalty to the emperor are left to future generations to comment in an extremely contradictory way, sometimes regarded as a typical example of disloyalty and filial piety, and sometimes regarded as a model of loyalty and filial piety.

The dispute over him has not been settled.

He is a hero and an evil god. He is a rebel and a hero.

Those who judge him may not care about the historical truth at all, but only about the actual needs of their own times.

Later generations have added a lot of legend to his story. The history created by layers has made his true colors increasingly blurred.

However, even after 2500 years, we can still anchor a clear and tragic main line from the true and false history and legends attached to him:

His father and brother were killed because of their loyalty. In order to revenge, he endured for half his life and implemented a revenge plan for fifteen or six years. However, he could not escape the same fate as his father and brother. He was still killed because of his loyalty.

This fatalistic ending is just a knot that is difficult to open in history, a cycle of sadness and destruction.

Mr. AI is going to tell the story of Wuzixu (– 484 BC). In fact, what he wants to tell most is the tragic cycle of history.



? statue of Wuzixu. Image source / network



The starting point of Wuzixu’s revenge story is a king, a beautiful woman and a treacherous minister. In the following twothousand years of Chinese history, the opposition between loyalty and treachery occurred repeatedly, which almost became the three standard configurations for historians to narrate the troubled times.

Wang is the king of Chu, the beautiful woman is the woman of Qin, and the treacherous minister is Fei Wuji, the teacher of Prince Jian.

King Ping of Chu asked Fei Wuji to take charge of the wedding ceremony of Prince Jian. When Fei Wuji saw the bride, a woman from the state of Qin was “absolutely beautiful”. He turned around and reported to King Ping of Chu, urging him to marry the Qin woman himself and marry the prince again.

In this way, Fei Wuji pleased King Ping of Chu, but offended Prince Jian. In order to make room for himself, Fei Wuji started the model of discrediting the prince. First, he encouraged King Ping of Chu to transfer Prince Jian to Chengfu (now the southeast border of Qiaocheng District in Bozhou, Anhui Province), and then slandered him, saying that Prince Jian would betray him if he worked hard at Chengfu and made friends with princes.

King Ping of Chu believed and recalled Wu she for torture.

Wu she was another teacher of the prince Jian. The Wu family is a political family with high status in the state of Chu. Wu she’s grandfather, Wu Shen, once played a trick in the war between Jin and Chu to help the Chu army win a great victory. Wu Ju, the son of Wu Shen and the father of Wu she, was also an important Minister of King Zhuang of Chu. Seeing that King Zhuang of Chu ignored government affairs and was obsessed with his voice, he gave a riddle to King Zhuang of Chu: there was a bird in the south that did not spread its wings for three years and did not sing for three years. What kind of bird is it? King Zhuang of Chu knew that Wu Ju was turning around and scolding himself for being a bad bird. He was immediately inspired to say, what do you mean? I know. Although he has not spread his wings for three years, he will soar into the sky once he flies. Although he has not chirped for three years, he will be amazing once he chirps. Later, King Zhuang of Chu finally achieved his hegemony in the spring and Autumn period, and was called “a late bloomer”.

According to the records of the historical records, in the face of Fei Wuji’s entrapment of the crown prince Jian, Wu she bluntly exhorted King Ping of Chu: “why did Wang dunai slander a thief, a little minister, and a few relatives?” However, the Zuo Zhuan records that Wu she admonished King Ping of Chu as follows: “if you have too many, why do you believe in slander?” It means, your majesty, it is already a mistake for you to marry the prince’s wife. Why should you make mistakes again and again, listen to the slander of villains and alienate your closest relatives?

Wu she has the gene of honest advice flowing in the blood of the Wu family, but king Ping of Chu is not King Zhuang of Chu after all. He was moved to kill.

Fei Wuji continues to slander that Wu she has two sons and that if she doesn’t kill them, it will become a worry for the state of Chu in the future. Her father Wu she can be taken hostage and call them back and catch them all.

King Ping of Chu “obeyed his words” and sent people to hunt down Prince Jian and catch Wu she’s two sons.

That’s the problem. In history, why do kings often fail to listen to the honest words of loyal ministers, but listen to the slander of treacherous ministers? In addition to the harsh sounding words of loyal ministers, is it possible that the treacherous ministers are better at understanding and pandering, and speak out what the king wants to say but is not convenient to say? Treacherous ministers are bad, but they are only the spokesman of the king. The worst person is the king himself.

When the arrest emissary sent by King Ping of Chu arrived, Wu she’s two sons, Wu Shang and Wu Zixu, had a final dialogue. Both brothers knew that their father’s imprisonment was just a bargaining chip for King Ping of Chu to coerce their brother to return to the Chu palace, so as to eradicate the root causes and eradicate future troubles. However, Wu Shang was kind, so he entrusted Wu Zixu with the task of revenge, and he chose to return to the Chu palace to die with his father. In the records of Zuo Zhuan, Wu Shang finally said to Wu Zixu: “the father must not be abandoned, the name must not be abolished, and you should encourage him!”

In the impression of his father and brother, Wuzixu was tough, cruel and tolerant, and could achieve great things. When the family was facing the disaster of extinction, he finally made the choice of “going to another country and using his strength to snow the shame of his father”. However, it should be emphasized that in the critical moment of life and death, it is the common choice of the two brothers to stay and die.

In history, the choice of life and death is accompanied by various meanings such as loyalty, filial piety, benevolence and righteousness, which is an old dilemma for the two. More than twothousand years later, after the failure of the reform and reform, tansitong of the late Qing Dynasty decided to stay and die. He wrote a poem saying “go and stay in the two Kunlun Mountains”, placing the dead and those who ran for their lives in a high position, because any choice has a different mission and is not easy.

Wushang was arrested, waiting for him to die for his father. However, Wuzixu drew his bow and took an arrow at the messenger. The messenger did not dare to come forward, so Wuzixu ran away.

When his father Wu she and his brother Wu Shang were killed, Wuzixu had fled to neighboring countries. A great revenge kicked off.



? statue of Wuzixu. Image source / photographing network



In Zuozhuan, the most authoritative historical book of the pre Qin period, there are only three simple words about Wuzixu’s escape route, “members are like Wu” — Wuyuan (that is, Wuzixu) went to the state of Wu.

What happened during the escape is supplemented by other historical books and novels. More and more imagination and legends are superimposed in later generations.

Sima Qian’s “historical records” said that in order to avoid being chased and killed, Wuzixu first fled to the state of song, joined Prince Jian who had previously fled, then went to the state of Zheng together, and finally to the state of Jin. Soon, Prince Jian returned to the state of Zheng at the instigation of Duke Qingjin. The people of the state of Zheng soon found that Prince Jian might have been bribed by Duke Qingjin as an insider, so they killed him. Terrified, Wuzixu fled to the state of Wu overnight with Prince Jian’s son.

In Wuzixu’s last escape, he even risked great danger to cross the Zhaoguan pass of Chu state (now Hanshan County, Anhui Province), rather than choose to arrive in Wu state from other countries. This has become a mystery.

Zhaoguan, located in the head of Wu and the tail of Chu, is a heavily guarded place of Chu. According to the thinking of normal people, the risk of being arrested is so great that Wuzixu could not enter Wu by this route. However, according to the preference of ancient historical narration, only when the protagonist is placed in great danger can a wonderful plot be produced. Wuzixu passed through the Zhaoguan pass, so he was more inclined to fiction and legend. In fact, it is precisely because of the setting of Wuzixu’s passing the Zhaoguan pass that later generations can continue to add legendary plots to it.

For example, in Hanfeizi, the representative work of Legalists in the Warring States period, Wu Zixu’s wisdom in crossing the Zhaoguan pass was demonstrated:

When Zixu left, he was granted by the marquis. Confucius said, “if you ask me, I have a beautiful pearl. Now I am dead, and I say you take it and swallow it.”

It means that Wuzixu was caught by the person in charge of guarding the pass and wanted to take him to King Ping of Chu for a reward. Wuzixu asked the guards, do you know why the king of Chu wanted to arrest me? Because I have a valuable pearl, but I have lost it. I can only say in front of the king of Chu that you took my pearl and swallowed it. At that time, there was no B-ultrasound, X-ray or anything. The customs keeper was afraid and quickly let Wuzixu go.

Sima Qian’s “historical records” focuses on Wuzixu being chased by customs guards and running to the river, when a fisherman happened to come boating to cross the river. Wuzixu was very grateful. He untied his sword and gave it to the fisherman as a reward. The fisherman refused. He said that the reward order of the king of Chu stipulated that the man who caught Wu Zixu was granted the title of nobility and 50000 stone. These are not in my eyes. How could I want your sword?

Just as the legalist school emphasized Wuzixu’s strategy, Sima Qian emphasized the people of the world. In the historical records, there are many unknown experts, such as fishermen, butchers and cultivators. They are humble and stand aloof from the world, but they are noble in character. They always act on behalf of justice and help the victims at critical moments.

In the Eastern Han Dynasty, the popular miscellaneous history at that time further added a new plot, saying that after crossing the river, Wuzixu specially told the fisherman not to divulge it. When Wuzixu looked back because he was worried, the fisherman had sunk his boat into the river. The suspicion of a fugitive and the nobility of a hermit are greatly strengthened in this strange detail. But this has nothing to do with real history.

In addition, Wuzixu, who is familiar to people today, was not made up until the Yuan Dynasty. Authenticity is even less worthy of refutation.

According to Sima Qian’s narration, after passing the Zhaoguan pass, Wuzixu fell ill and made a living by begging. However, it is not difficult for us to find that in the historical records, except for Wuzixu, bailixi, Chong’er, Han Xin and others have become beggars. This may also be a preference of Historical Narration: pushing the frustrated bull man into the end of the mountain and turning him into a beggar with nothing is actually paving the way for him to finally surmount the difficulties and achieve great things. This is the same as the current game settings. The greater the difficulty, the greater the meaning and pleasure of victory.

In a word, behind the three words “members are like Wu” in Zuo Zhuan, historians and novelists of all ages have put forward many legendary stories about Wuzixu’s escape and breakthrough. Only in this way, can a tragic figure complete his great cause of revenge. Because, in the orthodox concept, the success of any outcome is not random, and it must go through the “9981” difficulty.



? Wuzixu. Picture source / TV stills



From the analysis of the vassal situation at that time, it is reasonable for Wuzixu to escape to the state of Wu after thousands of hardships.

In the middle and early spring and Autumn period, it was mainly the struggle between Jin and Chu for hegemony, which could threaten and intimidate Chu, except Jin. At that time, the fugitives from the state of Chu would generally run to the neutral states of song and Zheng, and then to the state of Jin, seeking the opportunity to revenge their own country from the state of Jin. The idiom “Chu’s talents are used for the present” reflects the historical facts of the conflict between the monarch and the Minister of the state of Chu, which made the talents flee to the state of Jin and used by the state of Jin.

However, in the late spring and Autumn period when Wuzixu lived, the Jin clan was rampant and civil strife continued. He had no intention to compete for hegemony with the Chu state. It would be unrealistic for the fugitives from the state of Chu to carry the mission of revenge and rely on the state of Jin to attack the state of Chu for revenge. They can only continue to look for a country that has the ability and ambition to fight against Chu, which is the newly rising state of Wu. Both Wu Zixu and Bo Chu, a fugitive who had the same experience with Wu Zixu and whose father was also killed by the state of Chu, chose to run to Wu.

However, Wuzixu’s plan to enter Wu state to beg for troops to attack Chu was not smooth.

Although Wu and Chu were feuds and fought on the border all the year round, when Wuzixu offered his advice to King Liao of Wu to break the state of Chu at one fell swoop, childe Guang stood up and stopped King Liao of Wu. He made it clear that Wuzixu just wanted to avenge himself and “can’t follow”.

This is a mind reading contest. Gongziguang saw that Wuzixu only considered personal revenge, not the state of Wu. However, Wuzixu saw from the obstruction of the prince Guang that he had a different ambition and did not want the king Liao of Wu to monopolize the work of breaking Chu.

Wuzixu decided to retreat to the second place, recommended an assassin named Zhuanzhu to gongziguang, and retired to the countryside to farm.

Wu she said that her son was tough and fierce, but he could bear it. He really knew that his son was like his father. After his revenge plan was blocked, Wuzixu chose to slow down and spend time gambling that his son Guangneng would become the new king of Wu, and then use his needs to make contributions and consolidate his authority to lobby him to break the state of Chu. And this is destined to be a long wait.

Five years later, Wuzixu introduced Zhuanzhu to Prince Guang and assassinated King Liao of Wu. Young master Guang established himself as king for King Helu of Wu. As soon as he got to the top, he sure enough called Wuzixu back from the mountains and appointed him as a “pedestrian” official to participate in the national politics.

Nine years later, King Helu of Wu’s desire to destroy Chu for hegemony was much stronger than Wuzixu’s desire to destroy Chu for revenge. Wuzixu then offered his advice to Helu. With the tired Chu policy of harassing the three armies separately, he opened the prelude to a large-scale attack on the state of Chu.

In 506 BC, a classic battle in the late spring and Autumn Period – the battle of Baiju, 30000 troops of the state of Wu went deep into the territory of the state of Chu and defeated 200000 main forces of the state of Chu in Baiju (now Macheng, Hubei). The army of the state of Wu then invaded Yingdu, the capital of the state of Chu.

At this moment, Wuzixu had been waiting for fifteen or sixteen years. But at that time, his revenge object, King Ping of Chu, had died for ten years. King Zhao of Chu, the son of King Ping of Chu and a woman of the state of Qin, reigned. Yingdu fell, and King Zhao of Chu fled into the mountains. According to Sima Qian’s historical records, Wuzixu, who had been harbouring a deep blood feud for more than ten years, could not find King Zhao of Chu everywhere, but was still unable to vent his anger, so he dug up the tomb of King Ping of Chu and whipped the body. However, another place in the historical records records that Wuzixu only castigated the tomb of King Ping of Chu.

Whether it is “whipping corpses” or “lashing tombs” is inconclusive. However, this extremely insulting act of Wuzixu has seriously challenged the social ethics at that time. Shen Baoxu, Wu Zixu’s good friend in those days, sent a message after hearing the news, angrily denouncing Wu Zixu: “it’s too much for you to take revenge like this! It’s not the end of the world!”

Wuzixu said to the visitor, “thank you for me. Bao Xu said that I can’t go far. So I went backwards and acted against it.” Apologize to Shen Baoxu for me. Say that I am eager for revenge because I am old. It is like seeing the sun set, but I still have a long way to go. That’s why I did this kind of perverse thing.

However, this is also in line with Wuzixu’s fierce and extreme character. If he takes revenge, he must vent his anger severely.

At first, before Wuzixu fled to the state of Chu, he told Shen Baoxu that he (King Ping of Chu) killed my father and brother, and I must destroy his state of Chu. According to Zuo Zhuan, Shen Baoxu “encouraged” Wu Zixu and respected his decision to cheer him on. But Shen Baoxu also expressed his attitude: “if a son can recover, I will be able to prosper.” You can destroy Chu, and I can revive Chu. Two people, one is revenge and the other is loyal to the king. They are both reasonable demands. There is no right or wrong, so they cherish each other.

We all know what happened later. After the fall of Yingdu, Shen Baoxu went to the state of Qin to help the soldiers. It is said that he cried in the Qin palace for seven days and nights, and finally moved Qin Ai. The state of Qin sent troops to rescue the state of Chu, forcing the state of Wu to withdraw and return home.

Wuzixu’s revenge story ended with the almost annihilation of the state of Chu. In those days, a pair of good friends realized their promises.



? the memorial hall of Wu Xiang at Nanhu, Jiaxing, has a plaque titled “the great righteousness of the spring and Autumn Period”. The couplets on both sides are “filial piety should be the best, loyalty should be the best; born as a prime minister, dead as a god of Tao”. Image source / photographing network



Interestingly, Shen Baoxu became a loyal minister of the state of Chu, while Wuzixu eventually became a loyal minister of the state of Wu.

After Wuzixu completed his great cause of revenge, he did not succeed in retiring, but continued to serve King Helu of Wu and became an important think tank of the state of Wu. When he Lu was alive, Wuzixu was highly valued and helped the state of Wu lay the foundation for hegemony. According to historical records, “Wu, with the help of Wu Zixu and Sun Wu, defeated Chu in the west, weiqi and Jin in the north, and subdued Yue people in the South”.

However, after the death of Helu, Wuzixu became estranged from his successor fuchai, the king of Wu. Bo Chu, the avenger who was in sympathy with him, began to replace Wuzixu and became the most trusted official of fuchai, the king of Wu.

In response to Wu’s foreign strategy, whether it was the northern expedition or the southern expedition, Wuzixu and Bo Chu formed a struggle of two lines. Especially after the battle between Wu and Yue in 494 BC, the army of Wu defeated the remnant of Gou Jian, the king of Yue, and retreated to Kuaiji mountain. Yue was on the verge of subjugation. The strategic differences between Wu Zixu and Bo Chu reached an unprecedented stage.

Wuzixu advised fuchai many times, repeatedly stressing that Gou Jian, the king of Yue, would not die, and that “Wu must suffer from the disease of Wu” and “today, there is Yue in Wu, and people in Judah have the disease of stomach and heart”. He strongly advocated that the state of Wu should kill Gou Jian, exterminate the state of Yue, and remove the disease of stomach and stomach, before it can move north to dominate the Central Plains. Bo Chu accepted a bribe from Gou Jian, the king of Yue, and strongly encouraged fuchai to strike out in an alliance with the state of Yue, so as to put the main force into the Northern Expedition and dominate the world as soon as possible, which could also give the state of Yue a breathing space.

Fuchai finally stood on Bo Chu’s side and only punished Gou Jian in a enslaved way, leaving him a life and not destroying his country, which gave Gou Jian a chance to turn over later. Wuzixu warned fuchai that heaven would destroy the state of Yue. If the state of Wu did not accept it, it would suffer. However, fuchai had already started to use his troops in the north, and was dazzled by the short-term victory.

About ten years later, when Wu Zixu reached the peak of military power, he had foreseen the fall of Wu.

Although the Confucianists in the pre Qin Dynasty repeatedly advised that loyalty to the monarch should be measured, the monarch could choose to leave if he did not listen to the advice. However, maybe Wuzixu’s family loyal admonition gene flowed in his blood. Maybe he still had nostalgia for his status and current situation. He did not choose to leave the state of Wu as he left the state of Chu when he was young. The most decisive thing he did was to leave his son in the state of Qi to avoid disaster when he was an envoy to the state of Qi. He returned to the state of Wu. Bo Chu immediately grasped that he was a “naked official” and slandered Fu Chai again.

Fuchai was completely enraged and killed Wuzixu with a sword. Wuzixu left his last words before he committed suicide. Hang my head at the head of the city. I will see the destruction of the state of Yue and the state of Wu. When fuchai heard Wuzixu’s last words, he became even more angry and ordered people to wrap his body in leathers and float in the river. A generation of loyal souls slept in the vast mist.

When Wuzixu was dying, I wonder if there was a moment when he felt a strange trance? At that moment, his father’s fate was repeated on him: at that moment, fuchai, the king of Wu, was the king of Chu Ping, Bo Chu was Fei Wuji, and Wu Zixu was his father Wu she. The same tragedy has been replicated in two generations.

Hundreds of years later, Sima Qian must have realized the cycle of tragedy when he wrote a biography to Wuzixu. The whole narration of “historical records · biographies of Wuzixu” is the story cycle of being framed by a treacherous minister – forbearing to take revenge – and then being murdered by a treacherous minister. In Sima Qian’s sad narration, there is a profound sociological principle, that is:

In the same cultural ecology, the same people and things will always be copied out.

In a sense, the timeline of Chinese history is circular. Throughout the spring and Autumn period, many heroes in troubled times were caught in the whirlpool of princes competing for hegemony and could not escape. Perhaps Fan Li was the only one who really retired and landed safely. This makes Fan Li an ideal personality image that the Chinese dream of but are very difficult to copy. Wuzixu, on the other hand, is a more universal prototype of tragic personality, which has been constantly copied in the history at that time and in the future.

Almost all heroes in history can not escape Wuzixu’s fate.



? xumen, Suzhou. It is said that Wuzixu died here. Image source / image worm creativity



About twohundred years later, Qu Yuan of the state of Chu took Wuzixu as his mirror image, from which he saw his own destiny.

Quyuan praised Wuzixu many times in his songs of Chu, and felt sorry for his tragic ending:

“Loyalty doesn’t need to be used, and virtue doesn’t need to be used. When Wu Zi meets with misfortune, he will be compared to others” — loyal officials and sages may not necessarily be put in high position, but may die miserably, just as Wu Zixu died of slander and Bigan was chopped into meat sauce;

“Wu believed in slander, but he was worried after Zixu died” — Fu Chai, king of Wu, listened to slander and was fatuous. After Wu Zixu died, he knew that it was too late to regret;

“Floating in the Huaihe River and into the sea, adapting from Zixu” — I Quyuan really wanted to follow Wuzixu as an example and go with him (later, Quyuan really drowned himself and went with Wuzixu);

Why did Qu Yuan praise Wuzixu? He must have seen his own shadow from Wuzixu’s historical experience of “seeing doubt through faith and being slandered through loyalty”. He declared his grievances for Wuzixu. He took Wuzixu as his own example, and tortuously poured out his grief and indignation about being loyal to the country but being exiled to the wilderness twice by King Huai of Chu, as well as his pessimism about the future of Chu.

Here I quote Qu Yuan’s poem in praise of Wuzixu. In addition to expressing the cycle of historical tragedies in heroes, I also want to elaborate a historical common sense: in the pre-Qin period, is there a patriotic concept?

It is easy for modern people to use the concept of “rising later” to apply the previous historical situation, and even to demand historical figures in the past. In Wuzixu’s case, he has been known as a “traitor” in modern times. In order to avenge his personal revenge, he took refuge in foreign countries, did not hesitate to introduce foreign troops, and almost destroyed his own country. Isn’t this a typical traitor and traitor?

However, what I want to say is that any criticism of historical figures that deviates from the background of the times is a rogue.

Quyuan was regarded as a great patriot in modern times, but he expressed his respect, sympathy and love for Wuzixu more than once in his poems. If the concept of patriotism existed in the pre Qin period, would Qu Yuan still praise a traitor of the state of Chu so ardently?

Shen Baoxu was also regarded as a great restoration and patriot in modern times, but he did not dissuade Wuzixu from his revenge determination to overthrow the state of Chu, but also expressed his attitude of cheering; Even if Wuzixu’s plan came true and he became the leading Party for the state of Wu to invade the state of Chu, Shen Baoxu did not call him a traitor, but reprimanded him for his cruel act of whipping the body of King Ping of Chu. If the concept of patriotism existed in the pre Qin period, would Shen Baoxu encourage a traitor of the state of Chu?

In fact, patriotism is a very recent concept. It is obviously not applicable to judge the historical figures in the pre Qin period. What Qu Yuan and Shen Baoxu did seems patriotic to modern people. In fact, they are just loyal to the emperor. What Wuzixu did, in the eyes of modern people, was treason. In fact, he was just not loyal to the king of Chu.

The spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period were an era without a motherland. At that time, in order to realize their own life values and ideals, the scholar class swam among the vassal states and lobbied the monarchs to adopt their political ideas. Fan Li and Wen Zhong were born in the state of Chu, but they were used by the state of Yue. Lisi and Shang Yang, one from the state of Chu and the other from the state of Wei, were both used by the state of Qin. Similar phenomena were very common. At that time, they were known as “selecting talents for use”, without any color of moral judgment.

At that time, people believed in two concepts: filial piety and loyalty.

Filial piety is now the “Revenge of killing the father, never die together”, which is also the widely praised social concept basis of Wuzixu’s revenge story.

Loyalty, however, does not have to be as stupid and loyal as in the imperial era. The pre-Qin Confucianists respected the equal relationship between monarchs and officials. Confucius said that “when a monarch sends his officials with propriety, he is loyal to his officials”. Mencius said that “when a monarch looks at his officials like brothers and sisters, he looks at them like his heart; when a monarch looks at his officials like a dog and horse, he looks at them like a countryman; when a monarch looks at his officials like a mustard, he looks at them like an enemy”. Therefore, the society at that time advocated that if a monarch has a moral defect or refuses to listen to repeated persuasion, The minister can leave and choose another emperor. This is totally different from the idea that the officials in the imperial era must be consistent with the emperor.

When there was a conflict between filial piety and loyalty, the later imperial era advocated “shifting filial piety to loyalty”, and loyalty was greater than filial piety. However, in the pre Qin era, filial piety was greater than loyalty. According to the saying at that time, it was called “to cut off the monarch for the father, but not for the king”. You can cut off the relationship between the monarch and his subjects for the father, but not for the king.

Under this background, Wuzixu’s revenge on King Ping of Chu was natural and impeccable. This is his filial side. Later, he admonished Fu Chai, the king of Wu, which was the other side of his loyalty. Although diehard loyalty was not so popular with the ruling class as in later generations, Xunzi even called it “xiazhong”, people at that time generally held a sympathetic and respectful attitude towards it. At any time, things that are willing to stick to their beliefs with their lives will always make people sympathize and respect. Wuzixu to the king of Wu, Shen Baoxu and Quyuan to the king of Chu are essentially the same, both of which are the embodiment of diehard loyalty.

It can be seen that the reason why Wuzixu is regarded as a model of loyalty and filial piety is that his revenge and loyal admonition have the justice of the times. When the imperial era began to instill the concept of foolish loyalty into his subjects, Wuzixu was gradually criticized by some historical blindness: he betrayed the king of Chu for disloyalty, and it was unfilial not to die with his father.

Whenever I hear these harsh voices, I wonder, we believe that the times are always improving, but will people’s ideas really continue to improve? Will you be imprisoned by your thoughts and go backwards instead?

In any case, in the era of Sima Qian’s life, the concept of monarchy and ministers has begun to be rebuilt, but Sima Qian obviously misses and yearns for the happy era of gratitude and hatred in which Wuzixu lived 400 years ago. After writing Wu Zixu’s biography, he couldn’t help admiring Wu Zixu as a “fierce husband” and a great hero who “abandoned small righteousness, shed great shame and become famous in future generations”.

For thousands of years, the people have repeatedly told the story of Wuzixu’s revenge, which is just a kind of psychological compensation for their dissatisfaction with the tyrant but unable to retaliate?

The historical tragedies of heroes always occur in cycles, and the concept of the times to break this cycle is old and only exists in the story. This is perhaps the most sad place. Sigh!


[Han] Sima Qian: historical records, Zhonghua Book Company, 1982

[Han] Liu Xiang’s collection: Warring States policies, Shanghai Ancient Books Publishing House, 1998

[Qing Dynasty] liangyusheng: historical records and doubts, Zhonghua Book Company, 1981

Shangxuefeng et al. Translated note: Guoyu, Zhonghua Book Company, 2007

YangBoJun: notes to Zuozhuan in the spring and Autumn period, Zhonghua Book Company, 2009

Zhanglixin: Escape and care — Cultural Interpretation of Wuzixu’s tragic fate, JOURNAL OF YUNNAN UNIVERSITY FOR NATIONALITIES (PHILOSOPHY AND SOCIAL SCIENCES), 2010, issue 5

Yanghua and fengwenwen: text evolution of Wuzixu’s story and ancient Chinese values, Changjiang academy, 2013, issue 3

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