Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

The Ulcers of Duke Huan of Ch'i

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

The Ulcers of Duke Huan of Ch'i

Article excerpt

According to the Tso Chuan [Chinese Text Omitted], the following is said to have occurred in the year 657 B.C. (i.e., the third year of Duke Hsi of Lu [Chinese Text Omitted], and in the twenty-ninth year of Duke Huan of Ch'i [Chinese Text Omitted]):

The Lord of Ch'i (Duke Huan) went for a boat ride in the park with [the lady] Chi of Ts'ai [Chinese Text Omitted]. She rocked the [boat] and the duke became frightened, changed color and forbade her [to continue], but she persisted. The duke became angry and sent her back [to Ts'ai], without breaking off [his relationship with her] completely. The men of Ts'ai, [however,] married her off [to someone else].(1)

One year later, the combined forces of Ch'i [Chinese Text Omitted] and its allies made an incursion into the small state of Ts'ai [Chinese Text Omitted], a direct neighbor of Ch'u [Chinese Text Omitted]. Thereafter Ch'i also threatened the large state of Ch'u.(2)

Elsewhere the Tso chuan states (seventh year of Duke Hsi of Lu, 643 B.C.): "The Lord of Ch'i had three wives, [the lady] Chi of the Royal House [Chinese Text Omitted], Ying of Hsu [Chinese Text Omitted], and Chi of Ts'ai, [but] all were without sons." The text continues: "The Lord of Ch'i was fond of the inner chambers (hao nei [Chinese Text Omitted]) where [he kept] many favorites. Six of them were to him as wives. . . ." It then lists the names of these concubines and says they bore sons. The names of these sons are given, but they do not concern us here.(3)

The three elements contained in the above story - the boat tour and Lady Chi's return to Ts'ai (hereafter we shall refer to Lady Chi as Ts'ai Chi), the military campaign against Ts'ai, the remark on the duke's many wives and concubines - were also presented in later works, but the details vary and several points appear in a distorted form, as will be shown below. However, the dating of these later sources is a highly controversial matter and no attempt can be made in this short note to disentangle the correct sequence of these texts. By and large we shall follow the traditional views, assuming that such works as the Kuo yu [Chinese Text Omitted], Hsun-tzu [Chinese Text Omitted], and Han Fei-tzu [Chinese Text Omitted] were completed after the Tso chuan.

To begin with, it is important to note that Duke Huan of Ch'i (r. 685-641 B.C.), the first of the so-called five hegemons (wu pa [Chinese Text Omitted]), is generally depicted as a strong character in the "early" sources, neither necessarily negative nor exuberantly positive, but with some shortcomings. Kuan Chung [Chinese Text Omitted] (c. 730-645 B.C.), his famous advisor, is said to have described his master with the following words:

[Chiang] Hsiao-po [Chinese Text Omitted] (the duke's name) is not a man of petty intelligence and though he may be a little wild, he has great plans. I (i.e., Kuan) am the only one who can put Hsiao-po's [talents] to use.(4)

The above quotation is from the Kuan-tzu [Chinese Text Omitted], a work of uncertain date and origin. Parts of this work certainly go back to a stock of very old documents, while other segments seem to date to the Early Hun or even later periods. The Kuan-tzu version that is extant today provides the most extensive coverage of the duke's life. It also contains a brief reference to the boating episode, but in it the lady who rocks the boat is no longer identified as his wife. Moreover, the Kuan-tzu claims that she came from Sung [Chinese Text Omitted] and that when the duke sent her back, Sung married her off to the Lord of Ts'ai. This event is dated to the year 684 B.C. The text then states that, in the following year, the duke became angry and wished to attack the small state of Sung. Kuan Chung advised him to give up this idea, but the duke did not heed him and sent his troops against Sung. In the end, the feudal lords came to help Sung and severely defeated Ch'i. According to the Kuan-tzu, this occurred in 683 B. …

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