The Sword of Yanling Jizi

Gongzi Zha was the youngest son of Shoumeng, the king of Wu State which was in modern-days Jiangsu Province. He was an erudite and judicious man, so his father wanted to give him the throne, but Gongzi Zha refused. He abandoned the comfortable life and made a living on the land. His father had no ideas, and he left dying words that his several sons became the king one after another. The elder brothers of Zha understood the heart of their father, and hoped Zha to ascend the throne. But Gongzi Zha still refused. His second brother enfeoffed him to Yanling, so he was called Yanling Jizi (“Ji” means youngest).

In that time, Wu State was a backward country. In the times of Shoumeng, Wu State built her first force of chariots with the guidance of a man of Chu State. Since then, Wu State started to study advanced culture and technology of Central Plains with unmatched enthusiasm. So this state became a strong country soon. Wu State had been closed in several hundred years. But when she wanted to rise, anyone couldn't stop her. In order to create relations with the advanced countries of Central Plains, Wu’s king let his young and wise brother Zha to visit the states of Central Plains.

When Yanling Jizi passed through Xu State on his way to Jin State, the old monarch of Xu State entertained the young man hospitably. Yanling Jizi had a treasured sword, and he showed it to Xu’s monarch. The old monarch liked it very much, and wished to get it. But he was diffident about saying so. Gongzi Zha knew the mind of Xu’s monarch. But because it is a ritual of state visit to gird a sword on and his mission wasn't fulfilled, he couldn't present his sword to the monarch. But he decided to present it to the old man after the mission.

When he finished his mission and returned Xu State, he heard Xu’s monarch died in Chu State. He unslung his sword and wanted to present it to the heir of old monarch. His attendants said, “This is our Wu’s treasure, and can't be presented.” Yanling Jizi said, “Formerly Xu’s monarch appreciated my sword and wished to get it, but he said nothing. I wanted to present it to him, but because of my mission, I couldn't do so. However, my heart promised. Now he died. If I don’t implement my promise, I cheat my heart. A sincere person can't be hypocritical for treasuring his sword.”

He presented his sword to the young monarch, but the monarch said, “Former monarch didn't leave any words, so I don’t dare to accept your sword.” Yanling Jizi said nothing, and he went to the tomb of the old monarch. With tears, he hung his sword on a tree in front of the tomb. Then he left Xu State.

The people of Xu State cherished this memory, and chanted, “Yanling Jizi didn't forget the former promise. He unslung the treasured sword and hung it at the tomb.”

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