The Wife of A General of Gai State

This story took place in Gai State of the Spring-Autumn Period, a country in modern-days Shandong Province. A tribe of Rong Nationality captured this state, and killed the monarch. In order to take advantage of the ministers of Gai State, the chief of the tribe ordered, “If a man dare to kill himself, his wife and children will be all killed.”

Qiuzi was a general of Gai State. He attempted to kill himself, but others saved him. When he returned his home, his wife said, “I heard if a general was faithful and brave, and he didn’t cling to his life, soldiers and people would do all they can and weren’t afraid of death. So they can conquer, and their country can be kept and their monarch can be relieved. If a man doesn’t fight bravely, he isn’t dutiful. If his monarch dies and he doesn’t die, he isn’t loyal. Now the army was defeated and the monarch died, why do you live alone? You forget loyalty and filial piety, why do you have the heart to return home?” Qiuzi answered, “Gai is small and Rong is strong, I have spared no efforts. The monarch died unfortunately, and I once attempted to kill myself, but I didn’t die because of others’ saving.”

His wife said, “Formerly you can be saved, but now what will you do?” Qiuzi answered, “I don’t treasure my life. Because Rong orders to kill the wife and children of suicides, I can’t die. What’s the use of my death for our monarch?” His wife said, “I heard, if a monarch is concerned, his ministers will be ashamed; if a monarch is insulted, his ministers will die for him. Now the monarch died and you don’t die, can it be called righteousness? Many soldiers and people were killed, and the country can’t be kept but you live alone, can it be called benevolence? Be worried about own wife and forget benevolence and righteousness, betray the former monarch and serve the bully, can it be called faithfulness? A person doesn’t have the principle of faithfulness and the behavior of benevolence and righteousness, can it be called virtuousness? Zhou’s Book says, ‘The monarch first and the minister last, parents first and brothers last, brothers first and friends last, friends first but the wife and children last.’ The wife and children are only personal loves, but devoting himself heart and soul to the monarch is the common righteousness. Now because of your wife, you lost the moral integrity of a minister, the rituals of devoting yourself to the monarch and the common righteousness of a faithful minister. You only know the selfish love for your wife, and drag out an ignoble existence. As a woman I am shamed, but how about you? I can’t live with you dishonorably.” Then she killed herself.

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