Jin Wen Gong

Character Profile

Duke Wen of Jin (697 BC-628 BC) was the 22nd ruler of the state of Jin during the Spring and Autumn Period of China, reigning from 636 to 628 BC. He was the second of the Five Hegemons of the Spring and Autumn Period and one of the Five Ancient Hegemons.


Youthful period

Full-length portrait of Duke Wen of Jin
According to the Records of the Grand Historian, Chong Er was born in the 19th year of Duke Wu of Jin (697 BC), the son of Duke Xian of Jin and Xu Ji. By the age of 17, he had five friends of high moral character and outstanding talent: Zhao Fei, Xu Yan, Jia Tuo, Xian Si and Wei Xun.

When Duke Xian of Jin was still a prince, Chong Er had already grown up. In the thirty-ninth year of Duke Wu of Jin (677 BC), Duke Wu of Jin died and Duke Xian of Jin succeeded to the throne, when Chong Er was already twenty-one years old (virtual age).

In the eleventh year of Duke Xian of Jin (666 BC, twelfth and thirteenth years in the Records of the Grand Historian), Lixi was favored and wanted to make her son the heir, so she sent people to persuade Duke Xian to let Shen Sheng, Chong Er and others leave the capital. In the summer of that year, Duke Xian let the prince live in Quwo, Chong Er in Pu Di, and Yi Wu in Qu Di, while Li Ji and her sister’s sons Xi Qi and Zhuo Zi remained in the state capital.

In the twenty-first year of Duke Xian of Jin (656 BC), LIXI further framed Prince SHENSheng, who killed himself. After learning the news, Chong Er fled to Pu Cheng and Yi Wu fled to Qu Cheng.

In the 22nd year of Duke Xian of Jin (655 BC), Duke Xian of Jin was furious that Chong Er and Yi Wu had left without saying goodbye. Chong Er said, “The order of the ruling father cannot be disobeyed.” So he informed the people, “He who disobeys the king’s order is my enemy.” Chong Er fled over the wall and Bo Di caught up with him and cut off his cuffs.

Life in Exile

Chong Er went into exile in the state of Zhai together with Xu Yan, Zhao Yao, Beng Jie, Wei Xun and Xuchen, among whom Xu Yan was Chong Er’s uncle and Zhai was also the ancestral state of Xu Yan. Chong Er married one of them, Ji Kui, who gave birth to Bo Minu and Shu Liu, and the other one was given to Zhao Fei.

In the ninth month of 651 BC (the twenty-sixth year of Duke Xian of Jin), Duke Xian of Jin died and Duke Xi Qi succeeded to the throne, with Lixi as the mother of the state and Xun Xi as the orphan. They sent Fox Mao, the brother of Fox Yan, to meet Duke Chong Er in the state of Zhai with the intention of appointing him. Choner resigned, saying, “I have fled from Jin against my father’s orders, and after his death I cannot attend to the funeral according to my son’s rituals, how dare I return to my country to take the throne? Please, Your Highness, please appoint someone else.” So Rik sent his men to Liang to meet Yiwu. Lu Shen and Yu Rui, the advisors of Yiwu, thought that Rik would not be convinced if he did not make his son the king of Jin, but looked for Yiwu, who was in exile, so they agreed to exchange the land in the west of the river for Qin’s support of Yiwu’s return to Jin, and promised to give Rik the eup of Fenyang after Yiwu became the king.

In the first year of the reign of Duke Hui of Jin (650 BC), Yiwu assumed the throne, known as Duke Hui of Jin.

After the reign of Duke Hui of Jin, he broke the promise to Qin and Riker, and killed Pi Zhengfu and seven other great officials.

In the eighth year of Duke Hui of Jin (643 BC), the Duke sent Bo Di to hunt down Chong Er, who had lived in Zhai for twelve years, and consulted with Zhao Xiao and others, saying, “I fled to Zhai not because it could help me, but because it was close to Jin and easy to reach, so I rested here for the time being. After a long time, I hope to go to a big country. Duke Huan of Qi was fond of good deeds, aspired to domination, and was compassionate to the vassals. Now I hear that Guan Zhong and Xi Peng have passed away, and Qi also wants to find wise men to assist him, so why don’t we go there?” So Chong Er set out again on his way to Qi.

The picture of Chong Er in exile

When Chong Er left Zhai, Chong Er said to his wife, “When I don’t return in twenty-five years, you will remarry.” His wife replied with a smile, “When I wait for twenty-five years, the cypresses on my grave will have grown up. In spite of that, I will still wait for you.”

Chong Er and his party first came to Wei, and when Duke Wen of Wei saw that he was down and out and did not entertain them properly, they left Wei. When they arrived at Wulu (southeast of Puyang, Henan Province), Chong Er was so hungry that he asked the villagers along the way for something to eat, and when they saw his despondent appearance, they gave him a piece of earth to eat. When Chong Er was furious, Zhao Zhan comforted him by saying, “The earth, symbolizing the land, is a sign of submission to you, and you should bow and accept it.” Chong Er thanked the villagers and loaded the lump of earth on a cart to go to Qi.

When Chong Er arrived at Qi, the Duke of Qi Huan entertained him generously and married a maiden of the same family, Qi Jiang, to Chong Er and accompanied her with twenty team carriages, where Chong Er felt content and lived a comfortable life in Qi.

In the eighth year of Duke Hui of Jin (643 BC), Duke Huan of Qi died, vertical Diao and others started a civil rebellion, and then Duke Xiaogong of Qi came to the throne, and the armies of the vassals came to invade many times, and the internal and external hegemony of Qi was gone. Chong Er lived in Qi for five years, loved the wife he married in Qi, slowly forgot his great ambition, and had no intention to leave Qi.

One day Zhao Fei and Xu Yan were discussing how to leave Qi under a mulberry tree, and Qi Jiang’s maid overheard their secret talk and went back to the house to tell Qi Jiang secretly. Qi Jiang killed the maid and advised Chong Er to leave Qi quickly. Chong Er said, “I am born to seek comfort and happiness, why should I care about other things? Qi Jiang said, “You are the son of a country and you have come here because you are desperate, and your followers treat you as their life. I am ashamed of you for not hurrying back to your country and repaying your laboring subjects, but lusting after women. Besides, if you do not pursue it now, when will you succeed?” So she and Zhao Fei and the others got Chong Er drunk by trickery and drove him away from Qi in a car. It took a long walk for Chong Er to wake up, and once he found out the truth of the matter, Chong Er was furious and took up his sword to kill his uncle Xu Yan. Fox Yan said, “If killing me will make you happy, I would rather die.” Choner said, “If things don’t work out, I will eat your flesh.” Fox Yan laughed and said, “If things don’t work out, my flesh is fishy and smelly, how can it be worth eating!” So Chong Er calmed down his anger and went on his way.

When Chong Er arrived at Cao, the Gong Gong of Cao was rude and wanted to peek at Chong Er’s ekphrasis. The great official of Cao, Xi Negu, said, “The Duke of Jin is wise and capable, and he is of the same Ji surname as us, and he is passing through our country in poverty. The Duke of Cao did not listen to his advice. So he sent food to Chong Er in private and put a piece of jade under the food. Chong Er accepted the food and returned the jade to Xi Nu Cao.

Chong Er left Cao and came to Song. The Duke of Song Xiang had just been defeated by Chu’s army and was wounded at Hong Shui, but hearing of Chong Er’s wisdom, he received him according to the state rites. Gongsun Gu, the Secretary of Song, who was very close to Fox Yan, said to the Duke of Jin and his group, “Song is a small country and has just been defeated, so it is not enough to help you return to your country, so you should go to a big country.” So Chong Er and his group left Song.

When Chong Er passed by Zheng, the Duke of Zheng did not receive them according to protocol, and Shu Zhan, a great official of Zheng, advised him, “The Duke of Jin is wise, and his followers are all pillars of talent, and they share our Ji surname; Zheng comes from King Li of Zhou, and Jin from King Wu of Zhou.” Duke Wen of Zheng retorted, “There are so many eunuchs who have escaped from the vassal states, how can they all be received according to etiquette!” Shuzhan said, “If you do not treat him with courtesy, you might as well kill him, lest he become a problem for us in the future.” Duke Wen of Zheng ignored Shuzhan’s advice.

When Chong Er left Zheng and went to Chu, King Cheng of Chu treated him with the same courtesy as a vassal, but Chong Er refused to accept. Zhao Zhan said, “You have been a fugitive for more than ten years, and even small countries despise you, let alone big ones. Today, Chu is a great power insisting on treating you generously, so don’t resign, this is heaven’s way to make you rise up.” Chong Er then met with King Cheng of Chu according to the etiquette of the vassals. King Cheng of Chu entertained Chong Er very well, and Chong Er was very humble. At the banquet, King Cheng of Chu said, “If you can return to Jin in the future, what will you repay me with?” Chong Er said, “The king is rich in rare birds and beasts, jade and silk, so I don’t know what gift to repay him with.” King Cheng of Chu said, “Even so, what exactly should you repay me with?” Chong Er said, “If I have to, I will retreat for you in case I meet you in war in the plains and lakes.” Hearing this, the great general of Chu, Zi Yu, became angry and said to King Cheng of Chu, “Your Majesty, you have been too kind to the Prince of Jin, and today Chong Er has spoken out of turn, so please kill him.” King Cheng of Chu said, “The Duke of Jin is of noble character, he has been in distress outside for a long time, and his attendants are all wise men of the state; this is the arrangement of heaven, how can I kill him? Besides, what is there to refute his words?”

After Chong Er had stayed in Chu for a few months, Prince Gou of Jin, who was a hostage in Qin, learned that Duke Hui of Jin was seriously ill and had left from Qin without saying goodbye. Qin was particularly angry, and when he heard that Chong Er was living in Chu, he wanted to invite Chong Er to Qin. King Cheng of Chu said, “Chu is too far away from Jin and has to pass through several countries to reach it. Qin borders with Jin, and the king of Qin is very wise, so you go well!” King Cheng presented many gifts to Chong Er.

In the autumn of the 14th year of Duke Hui of Jin (637 BC), Chong Er arrived in Qin, and Duke Mu of Qin married five women of the same clan to Chong Er, among them was the wife of Prince Nian (Huai Ying / Wen Ying). When Chong Er did not intend to accept the wife of Prince Gao, Xuchen said: “We are going to attack Gao’s country, let alone his wife! Besides, you accepted this woman in order to form a marriage with Qin so that you could return to Jin, but aren’t you sticking to small formalities and forgetting the big shame?” Chong Er then accepted the wife of Prince Groom. Duke Mu of Qin was very happy and personally feasted with Chong Er. Zhao Fei recited the poem “Millet Mow”. Duke Mu of Qin said, “I know you want to return to Jin as soon as possible.” Zhao Dec and Chong Er left their seats and once again paid their respects to Duke Qin Mu, saying, “We isolated and helpless subjects look up to you, just as a hundred grains look forward to good rain that knows the season.”

Reigning Period

Chong Er’s Restoration

In the ninth month of the 14th year of the reign of Duke Hui of Jin (637 BC), Duke Hui of Jin died and was succeeded by Prince Gou, who became Duke Huai of Jin. After his accession, Duke Huai of Jin, fearing a crusade by Qin, ordered all those who had fled with Chong Er to return to Jin on schedule, and to kill the whole family if they overstayed. In November, Jin buried Duke Huai of Jin in peace.

The picture of Chong Er’s expedition

In December, when Luan Zhi and Yu Gu, the great officials of Jin, heard that Chong Er was in Qin, they secretly came to persuade Chong Er and Zhao Xiao to return to Jin, and there were many people who acted as inside agents. So Duke Mu of Qin sent an army to escort Chong Er back to Jin. When Duke Huai of Jin heard that the Qin army was coming, he sent an army to resist, but the people did not want to resist when they knew that Chong Er was coming back, except for Lu Shen and Yu Rui, the old ministers of Duke Hui of Jin, who did not want Chong Er to take the throne.

In the spring of the first year of the reign of Duke Wen of Jin (636 BC), Qin escorted Chong Er to the bank of the Yellow River. Faced with the imminent ascension of Chong Er to the throne, Xu Yan said, “I have followed you around the world and have made too many mistakes that I know myself, so I ask to leave now.” Chong Er said, “If I return to Jin and have not been of one mind with you, please ask Hebo to testify!” So, Chong Er threw the jade into the Yellow River and swore explicitly with Fox Yan. At that time, Jie Zitui, who was also an attendant and was in the boat, laughed and said, “It is true that heaven is supporting the rise of the duke, but it is shameless for Fox Yan to think that it is his own merit and claim it from the king in this way. I do not want to be in the same line with him.” After saying this, he took cover and crossed the Yellow River. The Qin army surrounded Linghu, and the Jin army was stationed at Luliu.

On the day of Xinchou in February, Fox Yan made an alliance with the Qin and Jin greats at Luyu. On the day of Nongyin, Chong Er entered the Jin army. On the day of Cwu, Chong Er arrived at Quwo. On Ding Wei day, Chong Er went to Wu Gong to make a pilgrimage to assume the throne as Duke Wen of Jin. The ministers all went to Quwo to make a pilgrimage. Duke Huai of Jin fled to Gaoliang. On E Shen day, Chong Er sent his men to kill Duke Huai of Jin. In the evening of Hexu, Lv Shen and Yu Rui intended to set fire to Chong Er, but they were informed by Bo Di, and Lv Shen and Yu Rui fled to the Yellow River, where they were entrapped and killed by Duke Mu of Qin.

Attendance of King Zhou

In the first year of the reign of the Duke of Jin (636 BC), King Xiang of Zhou’s younger brother, Prince Tie, was involved in the theft of his sister-in-law and had a war with him. King Xiang of Zhou fled to Bisi in the state of Zheng, and surrendered to the lords.

In the spring of the second year of Duke Wen of Jin (635 BC), Duke Mu of Qin received a letter of emergency from the son of Zhou and prepared his troops on the bank of the Yellow River to defend the king. Zhao declined to advise the Duke of Jin with the sense of a statesman, saying, “The best way to fight for hegemony is to support the Son of Zhou, the royal family of Zhou and Jin are both Ji surnames, if Jin does not escort the Son of Zhou back to the capital first and fall behind Qin, it will not be able to give orders in the world, respecting the King of Zhou today is the capital of Jin for hegemony.” In March, on the day of A-Chen, Jin’s army reached Yangfan (southwest of present-day Jiyuan, Henan Province) and surrounded Wen (west of present-day Wen County, Henan Province), escorting King Xiang of Zhou back to the Zhou capital of Luoyi. In April, they killed Prince Belt. King Xiang of Zhou was so impressed that he gave the lands of He’nei and Yangfan to Jin.

Trying to dominate the Central Plains

In the fourth year of Duke Wen of Jin (633 BC), King Cheng of Chu and his allied lords surrounded Song, and Duke Sun Gu of Song rushed to Jin to ask for assistance. Xianzhi said, “The day to repay the benefactor to decide the hegemon lies today.” Fox Yan said, “Chu has just taken possession of Cao and has intermarried with Wei for the first time, if they attack Cao and Wei, Chu will surely rescue them, then Song will be relieved.” Duke Wen of Jin prepared three armies to crush Chu’s allies, Cao and Wei. In December, the Jin army captured the east of the Taihang Mountains, and the Duke of Jin gave the original eunuch to Zhao Fei.

In the spring of the fifth year of Duke Wen of Jin (632 BC), Duke Wen of Jin took Xun Linfu as the imperial general and Wei Xun as the right hand of the car, and led a Jin army of 800 troops southward to crush Cao when they borrowed the road from Wei, but Duke Cheng of Wei refused. The Jin army had to take a detour and cross the Yellow River from the south to attack Cao and crush Wei. In the first month, Jin’s army captured Wulu. In February, Duke Wen of Jin and Duke Xiao of Qi made an alliance at Ziyou.

Seeing that Jin’s army was overwhelming and Jin and Qi were allied, Duke of Wei requested to join the alliance, but Duke of Jin refused. The Duke of Wei wanted to make an alliance with Chu, but the people of Wei opposed it, and as a result, Wei drove out the Duke of Wei to ingratiate himself with Jin. Duke Wei Cheng lived in Xiangniu and Duke Buy defended in Wei. Chu rescued Wei and failed to win, and Jin army won Wei without fighting.

In March, Jin’s army attacked Cao in the south. On the day of Cingwu, Jin’s army invaded Cao’s capital (now Dingtao in Shandong Province) and listed the sins of Cao Gong Gong, who disobeyed Xi Negu’s words and let 300 beautiful women pull his gorgeous car. The Duke of Jin ordered his army not to enter the house of the same clan of Xi Nao Jiu in return for his kindness.

The Jin army attacked Cao and Wei, hoping to lure the Chu army northward and receive the advantage of waiting for the enemy. However, the Chu army did not take the bait and attacked Song, which once again told the Jin army that it was in trouble. The Duke of Jin wanted to rescue Song by attacking Chu because Chu had been kind to him, so he did not want to attack Chu and give up the rescue of Song. Xian-shi advised, “Capture Cao Bo and give the land of Cao and Wei to Song, Chu will be anxious about it, then Chu will definitely give up attacking Song.” So Duke Wen listened to the advice of Xianzhi, and King Cheng of Chu really led his army away from Song.

Duke Wen of Jin’s full body picture

The Chu general Ziyu, proud and conceited, opposed the withdrawal of King Cheng of Chu’s army and insisted on a battle with Jin. King Cheng of Chu said, “The Marquis of Jin has fled away for nineteen years and has been trapped for too long, and finally returned to Jin. He is able to treat the people rightly because he has tasted hardships and dangers; heaven has opened the way for him, and he is unstoppable.” Zi Yu still asked for troops, saying, “I dare not necessarily build up my career, but only to block the slanderous and defamatory speech.” The king of Chu was angry and gave him only a small army.

At this time, Duke Mu of Qin and Duke Zhao of Qi were again disposed to cooperate negatively with Jin, and Jin was faced with the situation of a duel with Chu alone. The Duke of Jin used the suggestion of Xianzhi to ask Song to bribe Qin and Qi with land and ask them to beg Chu to retreat and tell Chu about it, creating conflicts between Qin and Qi and Chu, while dividing the land of Cao and Wei with Song to strengthen its determination to resist Chu. Chu was unwilling to give up Cao and Wei, and Qi and Qin were unwilling to make an alliance with Chu in order to get the land of Song, so they finally had no choice but to form an alliance with Jin and point their troops at Chu.

Battle of Cheng Pu

In the summer of the fifth year of Duke Wen of Jin (632 BC), Zi Yu sent Wan Chun to negotiate with Jin: if Jin promised to let Cao and Wei recover their state, Chu would relieve the siege of Song. If Jin agreed to his request, Cao, Wei and Song would all be grateful to Chu. If Jin did not agree to his request, then Cao, Wei and Song would resent Jin. Jin’s governor Fox Yan immediately fell into Zi Yu’s trap and said, “Zi Yu is very rude, my king only gets one share while their subjects get two, so I cannot agree.” But Xian-shen recognized Zi Yu’s trap and said, “To settle the hearts of people is called courtesy. Chu has settled three countries with one word, and you have destroyed them with one word, we are the ones who are rude. If we don’t agree to Chu, we are giving up Song. Why not promise to restore Cao and Wei in private in order to lure Chu, and detain Wanchun to anger Chu, and then come up with a plan depending on how the war is won or lost?” The Duke of Jin adopted the suggestion of Xianzhi to secretly promise the restoration of Cao and Wei and persuade them to break off diplomatic relations with Chu, while detaining the Chu ambassador to provoke Zi Yu.

Chu general Ziyu was angry and led his army north to attack the Jin army and forced Taoqiu. In order to tire the Chu army, the Duke of Jin induced Ziyu to go deeper and lighter in order to fight Chu on the predetermined battlefield, and the Chu officer asked, “Why did you retreat?” Fox Yan said, “In the past, when we were in Chu, we had made a covenant that we would retreat three times in the event of a battle.” The Duke of Jin retreated three times both to repay the courtesy given by King Cheng of Chu in the past and to entice the enemy deeper. The Chu army also wanted to retreat, but Zi Yu did not agree.

On the eighth day of the fourth month, Duke Wen of Jin, Duke Cheng of Song, Duke Guifu of Qi, Cui Yao, and Kid Xue of Qin led their troops to station at Cheng Pu (south of Fan County, Shandong Province). Zi Yu led Chu to advance rapidly, and camped by the danger of Qieling, with the help of Zheng, Chen and Cai. Zi Yu sent Dou Bo to ask Jin for war, and the Duke of Jin promised to start the war the next morning. The Duke then inspected his army at Youxin, which was fully equipped with 700 chariots and horses, and had cut down trees to replenish their equipment.

In April, the Jin army took up a position north of Youxin. The Chu general Zi Yu led 600 soldiers as the middle army, saying, “Today we will definitely destroy Jin!” Zi Xi led the left army of Chu and Zi Shang led the right army of Chu. Xuchen led the lower army of Jin and covered the war horses with tiger skins to attack the allied army of Chen and Cai, the allied army of Chu. Chen and Cai’s army was scared out of their wits when they saw the Jin war horses clad in tiger skins from afar and the soldiers fled everywhere and the right army of Chu was routed. Fox Mao led the upper army of Jin to put up two big banners pretending to retreat, Luan Zhi led the lower army of Jin to make chariots dragging branches to pretend to be a big army pretending to run away, the Chu army was deceived to chase them, Yuan Zhi and Qie Qin led the middle army of Jin to charge at the Chu army, Fox Mao and Fox Yan commanded the upper army to pinch Zi Xi from both sides, the left army of Chu was defeated, as a result, the Chu army failed, Zi Yu fled back home with the remnants of his army and committed suicide. Duke of Zheng Wen, an ally of Chu, asked for peace with Jin, and Duke of Jin and Zheng Wen entered into a covenant at Hengyong. The Jin army stayed in the Chu camp for three days, ate captured military rations, rested for three days and then marched out victoriously. In April, the Jin army arrived at Hengyong and built a palace for King Xiang of Zhou in the trampled earth.

Reigning over the lords

In the fifth year of the reign of the Duke of Jin (632 B.C.), the Duke of Jin presented the captives of Chu to King Xiang of Zhou in the fifth month of Dingwei, and the Duke of Zheng officiated the ceremony for him. King Xiang of Zhou treated Duke Wen of Jin with sweet wine and urged him to enter the wine. King Xiang of Zhou ordered Prince Hu to appoint Duke Wen of Jin as the head of the vassals and rewarded him with a great chariot, one red bow, one hundred red arrows, ten black bows, one thousand black arrows, one wine container of fragrant wine, Guizan and three hundred warriors. The Marquis of Jin thanked him many times, but finally accepted with a bow. King Xiang of Zhou wrote “The Order of the Marquis of Jin”, so the Duke of Jin claimed hegemony, and on the day of the declination, Prince Hu made an alliance with the lords at the palace of the king. In June, Duke Wen of Jin restored the status of Marquis of Wei, and when the lords besieged Xu, Duke Wen of Jin restored the status of Cao Bo.

In the winter of the fifth year of his reign (632 BC), the Duke of Jin summoned the lords by order of the Son of Zhou to an alliance with the Duke of Qi, the Duke of Song, the Duke of Lu, the Duke of Cai, the Duke of Zheng, the Duke of Wei, and the Ju subordinate at Trample Earth (now Yuan Yang, Henan Province).

In the summer of the sixth year of the Duke of Jin (631 B.C.), the Duke of Jin met with Prince Hu, Duke Sungu of Song, Guifu of Qi, Yuantaotu of Chen, and Qin Kid Han to consolidate the alliance at Zhaiquan (present-day Mengjin, Henan Province) and to plan for the invasion of Zheng.

Qin and Jin invade Zheng

In the seventh year of Duke Wen of Jin (630 BC), in order to stop the northward advance of Chu, Duke Wen of Jin and Duke Mu of Qin surrounded Zheng with their troops and tried to get Shuzhan, a benefactor of Duke Wen of Jin during his exile in Zheng, who committed suicide after hearing about it. The people of Zheng brought Shuzhan’s body to the Duke of Jin, but the Duke of Jin said, “I must get the king of Zheng before I am willing to do so.” The Duke of Zheng was afraid, so he sent Candlewood to provoke the Duke of Qin, who eventually withdrew his army and Jin’s army afterwards.

Although Jin did not destroy Zheng, the Duke of Zheng no longer dared to be rude to Jin. In the ninth year (628 BC), Duke Wen of Jin died, and Duke Lan became Duke Mu of Zheng. During his reign, Duke Zheng Mu was always an important follower of Jin.

The end of his life

In the ninth year of the reign of Duke Wen of Jin (628 BC), Duke Wen of Jin died in the twelfth month of the year, and Duke Huan was crowned as Duke Xiang of Jin.

Governmental Initiatives


He appointed the best and the most talented people: he made Xu Yan the minister and Xianshi the commander; he made Zhao Fei, Xuchen, Luan Zhi and Ji Yao to assist him in ruling the country; he made Yu Qin and Huo Bo to lead the army; he made Jia Tuo and Yang Zi to make rituals; he made Wei Xun and Xun Bo to defend against the northern clans. He made rules and regulations for officials, followed the law, established names and cultivated virtues. He rewarded the people who fled with him and all the meritorious officials, and granted city and town titles to those with great merit and titles to those with little merit.

Duke Wen of Jin and the Five Sages
He preached virtue and education to cultivate the people’s virtue and simplicity, and set things right by employing a large number of people from the old clans who were persecuted during the time of Duke Hui and Duke Huai of Jin, and by appointing virtuous people from the Ji surname as internal officials and talented people from different surnames as officials in remote areas. The princes enjoyed the tribute, the dafu received the rent of the caiyang, and the fields were given to the clansmen, while the common people fed themselves, the industrial and commercial officials received their salaries, the servants received rations according to their positions, and the vassals received food from the dafu’s extra fields.


With the expansion of Jin’s power and political needs, Duke Wen of Jin constantly reformed his military: first, he expanded Jin’s two armies into three armies, with Yu Gu in charge of the middle army, Fox Yan in charge of the upper army, and Luan Zhi in charge of the lower army. He also set up three armies because of the nomads’ encroachment on Jin. In 629 BC (the eighth year of Duke Wen of Jin), Duke Wen of Jin abolished the three lines and added two new armies, namely, the new upper army and the new lower army, making five armies.

In the military aspect, Duke Wen of Jin first killed the prince to serve the king, and during his nine years of rule, he successively conquered Cao, attacked Wei, defeated Chu, saved Song, subdued Zheng, and defeated Qin, and in 632, he held an alliance in the trampled earth, which established his position as the hegemon of Spring and Autumn Period.


He reduced taxes, gave favors, abandoned prohibitions, distributed wealth to the widowed and the poor, and supported those who had no property. He reduced tariffs, repaired roads, facilitated commerce, and exempted peasants from labor. It encouraged the development of agriculture, promoted mutual help, and saved expenses to make the capital sufficient. In production, he called for the improvement of tools, gave benefits to the people and rewarded reclamation; in trade, he reduced taxes and actively sought the entry of neighboring merchants into Jin.


Qingming Cold Eclipse

Duke Wen of Jin paying tribute to Jiezitui
When Duke Wen of Jin was in exile, he often had no food or clothing to wear. One year, when the Duke was about to faint from hunger, Jie Zitui cut a piece of meat from his leg and cooked it with wild vegetables to give him soup. When the Duke of Jin returned to his kingdom, he forgot to give the title to his ministers. When the Duke of Jin’s men set fire to the mountain to force him to show himself, he was burned to death under a large willow tree with his mother in his arms. To commemorate this loyal and righteous man, the Duke of Jin ordered that on the day of his death, he would not cook and would eat cold food, called the Cold Food Festival. The next year, Duke Wen of Jin led all his ministers to climb the mountain to pay respects, and found the old willow tree had come back from the dead, so he gave the old willow tree as “Qingming Willow”, and announced to the world that the day after the Cold Food Festival would be designated as Qingming Festival.

Duke Wen expels the elk

After the reign of Duke Wen of Jin, he once chased an elk but lost it, so he asked Lao Gu, a farmer on the roadside, “Have you seen my elk?” Old Gu knelt down and pointed the way with his feet, saying, “It’s going that way.” Duke Wen of Jin said, “I ask you, sir, but you point the way with your feet, why is that?” Lao Gu shook his clothes and stood up and said, “I can’t believe that our king is so stupid. The tiger and leopard were hunted because they left their remote places to be near human beings; the fish and turtle were caught because they left the deep water; the vassal left his people and went out to travel far away, that’s why he lost his kingdom. It is said in the Book of Psalms: ‘Magpies build their nests, and turtledoves dwell.’ If you, the king, do not return from your journey, someone else will be the king.” So Duke Wen of Jin became afraid. He went back and met Luan Zhi. Luan Zhi asked, “Have you hunted the beast, and I see that you have a happy look on your face?” Duke Wen of Jin said, “I lost it, but I got the advice, so I am happy.” Luan Zhi said, “Where is the man who advised you?” Duke Wen of Jin said, “I did not invite him to come along.” Luan Zhi said, “It is arrogant to be a king but not to be compassionate to his subordinates; it is tyrannical to be slow in giving orders and swift in punishing; it is thievery to take the advice of others but leave them behind.” The Duke of Jin then went back to carry Lao Gu and returned with him.

Chong Er to Qin Guest

After the death of Duke Xian of Jin, Duke Mu of Qin sent Zi Xian to condole with Chong Er: “I have heard that it is often at this time to lose a country and often at this time to gain a country. Although you are respectful and serious, you should not stay in mourning for too long, and you should not lose the time.

When Chong Er told his uncle Fox Yan about this, Fox Yan said, “You’d better resign. A mourner has nothing valuable, but only love and affection. How important is it that my father died? If we use it for profit, who in the world can say that we are innocent?” Then Chong Er said to the guests of Qin, “Your majesty is kind enough to condole with me, Chong Er, who is in exile, and I am not able to attend the mourning ceremony when my father is dead, and I let you worry about it. How important is it that my father died? How could I have any other plans to disappoint you?” Chong Er bowed to the Qin guests but did not thank them, and got up crying, and after he got up, he did not talk to them in private.

Zi Xian resumed the order to tell Duke Mu of Qin what had happened. Duke Mu of Qin said, “O benevolent man, Duke Chong’er! He bowed down but did not pay his respects because he did not take himself as the successor of Duke Xian of Jin, so he did not pay his respects. If he cries and rises, he shows his respect for his father. If he rises but does not talk privately, it means that he is far from personal interests.”

Chongyu’s parallelism

The general authentic history emphasizes Chonghu’s parallel coercion, and the Records of the Grand Historian says: “When he passed Cao, Cao Gong Gong was rude and wanted to observe Chonghu’s parallel coercion.” There is a folk legend that Chong Er was a heavy pupil.

Leave a Comment