The First Hegemon of the Spring Autumn Period, Qi Huan-Gong

In the Spring-Autumn Period, the power of Heaven-Son (the honorific title of the king of Zhou Dynasty) was weakening, and some strong states started to lead other states. In the early days of the Eastern Zhou, Zheng State clashed with the royal family of Zhou, and actually defeated Zhou Huan-King in the battle of Ruge in 707 BC Since then, King-Army (the respectful title of the army of Heaven-Son) lost prestige, and the armies of states acted main roles. Zheng Zhuang-Gong, the monarch of Zheng State, died with his incomplete ideal. But he set an example. As an ally of Zheng, Qi State became the first hegemonic country under Qi Huan-Gong.

Qi Xiang-Gong, the older brother of Gongzi Xiaobai, was killed in a civil strife in 686 BC In that time, Gongzi Xiaobai took refuge in Ju State, and his younger brother Gongzi Jiu took refuge in Lu State. When they heard the death of Xiang-Gong, they started to return Qi State with the support of the state where they took refuge in. In order to make Gongzi Jiu become the monarch, Guan Zhong, the teacher of Gongzi Jiu, shot at Gongzi Xiaobai. Xiaobai wasn't hurted because of the hook of his dress blocked the arrow, and Xiaobai simulated death, so he survived the shooting of Guan Zhong. Through a shortcut, Gongzi Xiaobai arrived at Qi State first. He ascended to the throne, and he was Qi Huan-Gong.

When Gongzi Jiu and the army of Lu State were on the way, they heard the news that a new monarch ascended to the throne. Later, the army of Qi required the army of Lu left Qi State. But Lu Zhuang-Gong, the monarch of Lu, wanted to support Gongzi Jiu to ascend the throne, so the armies of two states fighted. The army of Lu was defeated and returned Lu State. With the requisition of Qi Huan-Gong, Lu Zhuang-Gong had to kill Gongzi Jiu and deliver Guan Zhong to the envoys of Qi.

Guan Zhong was a wise person, and he was the friend of Bao Shuya who was the teacher of Qi Huan-Gong. So Bao Shuya persuaded Qi Huan-Gong to remit Guan Zhong and let Guan Zhong become the prime minister. Guan Zhong made the policies of attaching importance to military drill and trade, and the policies of helping poor persons and putting able persons in important positions. So soon Qi State became richer and stronger. And the people of Qi State all supported the government. The policies and thoughts of Guan Zhong influenced Qi State profoundly. Qi State gradually became a country with democracy and the pluralism of politics and academic thoughts.

In 681 BC, Qi Huan-Gong convened a conference of states in Beixing, and this was his first allied meeting. The monarchs of Song State, Chen State, Cai State and Zhu State attended. The monarch of Lu State and Sui State didn't attend, and the monarch of Song left without notice. Qi Huan-Gong commanded army to annex Sui State and attack Lu. The army of Qi captured some places of Lu State. Lu Zhuang-Gong sued for peace, and the two monarchs parleyed in Ke. By a dagger, Cao Mo, a minister of Lu State, coerced Qi Huan-Gong into promising to return captured land. When Qi Huan-Gong returned Qi State, he wanted to tear up the treaty, but Guan Zhong persuaded him to be faithful to his promise, and all captured places were returned to Lu State. Qi Huan-Gong’s toleration didn't make other states look down upon Qi State, and other states admired the faith of Qi Huan-Gong. So in the later meetings, many states were willing to attend.

In that time, other nations endangered Huaxia Nation. Qi Huan-Gong put forward a policy “Respecting Zhou King and repelling other nations”. In 664 BC, Shan-Rong, a tribe of Rong Nation, invaded Yan State. Yan State asked Qi State for military aid, and Qi Huan-Gong led army to support Yan State. He helped Yan State to not only repel Shan-Rong, but also extend Yan’s territory. So Yan State’s ruling stretched to the northeast area. The monarch of Yan State was very grateful to Qi Huan-Gong, and saw Huan-Gong off by himself. Unconsciously he followed Qi Huan-Gong to enter Qi State. According to rituals, a monarch saw other monarch off and couldn't enter other state. The monarch of Yan felt uneasy and sorry, but Qi Huan-Gong gave this place to Yan State at once. Since then, Yan State became the steadiest ally of Qi State.

In 661 BC, Di Nation attacked Xing State. Guan Zhong said to Qi Huan-Gong, "The nations of Rong and Di are as jackals and wolves, and they are never contented. All states of Huaxia are intimate, and every one should not be deserted. It is like the bird zhen's poison to seek momentary ease with no thought of the future, and this mind should not be kept." So the army of Qi rescued Xing State. The words of Guan Zhong expressed a great soul, Huaxia Soul. And this soul was also called the great principle of the Spring-Autumn Period.

In 660 BC, Di Nation defeated the army of Wei State and killed Wei Yi-Gong, the monarch of Wei State. The citizens of Wei State evacuated from the capital, and restored their state with the aid of other states. The great soul of the Huaxia people was shown. Sometimes these Huaxia states attacked each other, but when a state was invaded by other peoples, other states would aid the state at once. Qi Huan-Gong sent his oldest son to command three hundred chariots and three thousand troops to safeguard Wei State. Qi Sate gave Wei State many materials and supplies, so the people of Wei State lived in peace and enjoyed their work soon.

In the next year, Di Nation defeated the army of Xing State again, and the citizens of Xing ran to the armies of states for shelter. The armies of Qi State and other states expelled the invaders of Di’s tribes. The armies of states escorted Xing’s citizens and their belongings to move the capital of Xing State. These troops built an impregnable city wall for Xing’s people. The troops didn't get any benefits, and they did so only for the peace and well-being of Huaxia people.

In that time, Chu State, a south state, became strong and started to contend for hegemon. Zheng State controlled the thoroughfare of Central Plains, and was close with Qi State. So if Chu State wanted to get hegemon, he must subjugate Zheng State. From 659 BC to 657 BC, Chu State attacked Zheng State three times, and Zheng State was supported by Qi State and other state. In 657 BC, Qi Huan-Gong summoned a meeting in Yanggu for the plan to punish Chu State. In 656 BC, the largest scale of military action started. Qi Huan-Gong led the armies of eight states Qi, Lu, Song, Chen, Wei, Zheng, Xu and Cao defeated Cai State which was an allied country of Chu State and started to attack Chu State. Chu Cheng-King, the monarch of Chu State, sent Qu Wan to make peace with Qi State. Qi Huan-Gong knew Chu State was strong and the war must bring large exhaustion to both sides. So he thought it is proper to make place. But he still wanted to submit Chu State, so he showed eight states’ armies to Qu Wan in Shaoling. Qi Huan-Gong said to Qu Wan, “Is I willing to do so? I hope our countries to be friendly, and how about you?” Qu Wan said, “If Monarch brings blissful tidings to us, and let our monarch be Monarch’s friend. It is also the hope of our monarch.” Qi Huan-Gong said with smile, “If I do battle by these armies, and who is able to resist? If I attack cities by these armies, which city can't be conquered?” Qu Wan said, “If Monarch placates other states by virtue, and who dare not to obey? But if Monarch wants to do by forces, we have city wall and moat. Monarch’s armies are very many, but they are helpless.” Qi Huan-Gong admired Qu Wan, and concluded a treaty. Since then, Chu State didn't contend against Qi State any longer. This military parade was called the Armies of Shaoling. Thought there wasn't a violent war between allied armies and Chu’s army, the Armies of Shaoling was taken delight in talking about, because this event showed the foresight and sagacity of Qi Huan-Gong.

In the summer of 651 BC, at the 35th year of the ruling of Qi Huan-Gong, he summoned a meeting in Kuiqiu. This was the last one of his nine allied conferences. The monarchs of Lu, Song, Wei, Zheng, Xu and Cao attended. Zhou Xiang-King just ascended the throne, and sent his minister Kong to bestow sacrificial meat which had been used in the sacrificial rites for the ancestors of Heaven-Son on Qi Huan-Gong. This showed the royal family recognized the hegemony of Qi State. This meeting was the zenith of the rulership of Qi Huan-Gong. The covenant of Kuiqiu Meeting stipulated, “Punish unfilial persons. Don’t change the heir, and don’t let a concubine be a wife”, “Respect persons of virtue, and bring up persons of talent, for honoring virtuous persons”, “Respect old people, cherish children, and don’t slight guests and visitors”, “Common offices can't be hereditary, and public offices can't be held two or more concurrently. To appoint common offices must be suitable, and don’t kill officers arbitrarily”, “Don’t embank rivers everywhere, and don’t use neighbors' fields as drains”, “Don’t forbid selling food provisions to other states”, “All the allied states must be reconciled after this meeting.” The covenant really benefited the states of Huaxia Nation, and it was praised by later people.

In the reigning 43 years of Qi Huan-Gong, he married three wives successively. He was fond of beautiful women and loved six concubines dearly as his wives. His wives didn't bear sons for him, but the six concubines bore six sons for him. Every mother wanted his son to be the heir of the throne. Qi Huan-Gong loved every woman and every son, so he couldn't make a decision. His second son was named Zhao. Huan-Gong and Guan Zhong thought better of this young man, so they entrusted him to Song Xiang-Gong who was the monarch of Song State, and regarded Zhao as the future heir of the throne. But later Huan-Gong was captivated by another concubine, and he promised her to let her son be his heir.

In 643 BC, Guan Zhong died. Then the five sons of Huan-Gong wanted to get the future throne. Huan-Gong was seriously ill, but his women and sons were preoccupied solely with the future throne. In this winter, Qi Huan-Gong died solitarily and dismally. After his death, his sons fought for the throne, and Qi State was in disorders. The hegemony of Qi State ended.

Qi Huan-Gong was the first hegemon in the Spring Autumn Period. Though he died tragically, the people of other states still cherished the memory of his times. In the winter of 641 BC, with the proposal of the monarch of Chen State, many states held an allied meeting in Qi State, and vowed never to forget the virtue of Qi Huan-Gong. Many later monarchs regarded Qi Huan-Gong as a great example, and thirsted for realizing their hegemonic ideals. Successful monarchs became hegemons, and got honor. Jin Wen-Gong and Chu Zhuang-King became the other two hegemons who were generally acknowledged. Another king of Chu State, Chu Ling-King, didn't want to study Jin Wen-Gong and his grandfather Zhuang-King, and he only wanted to study Qi Huan-Gong. In his ruling times, Chu State became the ally of Qi State, and contended against their common enemy Jin State. But Chu Ling-King failed because of his peremptoriness, and at last he was deserted by his followers and died solitarily.

After the death of Qi Huan-Gong, his successors tried to regain the hegemony, but they were impatient for success, and wanted to attain the goal by wars. They attacked the states which didn't obey them, and these states became the enemies of Qi State. Since then, in the Central Nation, there were three blocs, which were led to contend for the hegemony by Jin State, Qi State and Chu State. Because Chu State and Qi State were defeated by Jin State successively, the two countries allied against Jin State. Though several monarchs became hegemons, they couldn't be placed on the par of Qi Huan-Gong. Why? Qi Huan-Gong had strong army, but his army really had many humanitarian deeds. His army repelled the invaders of other nations and safeguarded Huaxia Nation. Though he annexed some states in his ruling times, Huaxia people only knew his virtue. But later hegemons got hegemony by wars against the states which didn't obey them, and they did mainly for themselves, so people only knew their awesome prestige.

Qi Huan-Gong was respected by later people, and Guan Zhong was also respected. Confucius said, “If there wasn't Guan Zhong, I would be forced to keep the hair-style of other nations and be dressed in other nations’ costumes.” And he said, “Nowadays people still benefit from Guan Zhong, so we can see how great Guan Zhong was!” The Great Principle of Huaxia Nation will be remembered forever.

Oriental Style
Since February 6th, 2006
Copyright © Yike Jiang