Two Monarchs Facing Death

Zhu Wen-Gong was the monarch of Zhu State in the Spring-Autumn Period. In 614 BC, he planed to move the capital to the city Yi, and he let a historiographer divine the future. The historiographer got a divinatory sign from an oracle tortoise plastron, and he told the monarch, “The move of the capital will benefit people, but it will be detrimental to the monarch.” Zhu Wen-Gong said, “If the move can benefit people, it is my honor. The Heaven let people live here and designate a monarch for benefiting them. If people can benefit from the move of the capital, I must do so.” Ministers said, “If you don’t move the capital, you will have a longer life. Why not to cancel the plan?” Zhu Wen-Gong said, “My life is for bringing benefit to people. No matter how long life a man has, he will suffer death in the end. Since the move will benefit people, then do it. No one thing is more auspicious than it!” Then the capital of Zhu State was moved to the city Yi. In that summer, Zhu Wen-Gong died.

In 489 BC, in Chu State, there was a peculiar phenomenon in the sky. A cloud looked like a flock of red birds, and enclosed the sun. The peculiar phenomenon lasted three days. Chu Zhao-King, the king of Chu State, felt amazed, and asked the historiographer of the royal family of Zhou Kingdom. The historiographer told the king, “It is an inauspicious sign for the king. If you offer sacrifices to the Heaven, the inauspiciousness will be moved to the prime minister and the military minister.” Chu Zhao-King said, “If I avoid the bad fate but my right-hand ministers have the fate, what is my benefit? I have no big faults, will the Heaven really send down the bad fate to me? If I have faults and the Heaven wants to punish me, can the fate be permitted to move?” So the king refused to offer sacrifices to the Heaven. In that autumn, Chu Zhao-King died.

In ancient times, since the Qin Dynasty, many emperors tried to seek elixirs of life or other ways for long life. Those extravagant men didn’t worry about wasting money and harassing people. I admire the monarchs of the Pre-Qin Period, because these gentlemen really knew how to be a qualified ruler.

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