Yu Rang, the First Famous Assassin of the Warring-States Period

Yu Rang was the most famous assassin in the early days of the Warring-States Period. He lived in Jin State. He once was the family-minister of Fan Jishe and Zhonghang Yin who were two of six influential ministers of Jin State. But Fan Jishe and Zhonghang Yin didn’t appreciate him, so he left the two families and became the family-minister of Zhi Yao who was respectfully called Zhi Bo and was in power. And Zhi Yao appreciated him very much. In the cruel political conflict, Fan Family and Zhonghang Family were defeated by four families Zhi, Zhao, Wei, Han. But Zhi Yao was greedy, and the other three families allied to eliminate Zhi Family and killed Zhi Yao. Because Zhao Xiangzi hated Zhi Yao deeply, He actually used the skull of Zhi Yao to make a winecup.

Yu Rang heard this news and said, “Alas! A man dies for a person who understands his heart, and a woman dolls herself up for a person who loves her. I must revenge Zhi Family!” So he changed his name and became a servant of the palace of Jin’s monarch. He lurked in a lavatory and waited for Zhao Xiangzi. When Zhao Xiangzi passed by the lavatory, he was disquieted. So he ordered his warriors to enter the lavatory and look round. The warriors brought out Yu Rang and found he took a dagger. Zhao Xiangzi pointed him by a sword and asked, “What do you want to do?” Yu Rang said, “I want to revenge Zhi Bo.” The warriors were ready for killed him, but Zhao Xiangzi said, “He is a morally courageous person. I only wish to cautiously keep away from him. Zhi Bo had no offsprings, and he wants revenge after the death of Zhi Bo. So he is a worthy person of the world.” Then he released Yu Rang.

Yu Rang knew Zhao Xiangzi could recognize him, so he disfigured himself. He became a beggar in a market, and his wife met him and said, “You don’t look like my husband, but your voice is like my husband’s very much.” Yu Rang had to make his voice hoarse by swallowing charcoal. His friend was worried and told him with tears, “You have abilities and you can be the minister of Zhao Family. Zhao must trust you. Then you can easily do what you want to do.” Yu Rang said, “Because I am the family-minister of Zhi Bo, I want to revenge him. It shows faithfulness. But if I am the family-minister of Zhao and I kill him, I am not a faithful person. Though my action is very difficult, I still try to do it, because I want to shame the persons who are not faithful.”

One day, Yu Rang lurked under a bridge. When Zhao Xiangzi came this bridge, his horses suddenly were startled. Zhao Xiangzi said, “It is Yu Rang.” His warriors brought Yu Rang. Xiangzi interrogated him, “You once were the family-minister of Fan and Zhonghang. Zhi Bo eliminated both of their families. You didn’t revenge them and became the family-minister of Zhi Bo. He died, but why do you want to revenge him so urgently?” Yu Rang said, “Yes, I once was the family-minister of Fan and Zhonghang. But they regarded me as a mediocre man, so I requited them as a mediocre man. But Zhi Bo regarded me as a state warrior, so I must requite him as a state warrior.” Zhao Xiangzi sighed with tears and said, “Alas, Yuzi! You have shown your faithfulness for Zhi Bo. And it is enough that I once have released you. Today I can’t release you any longer.” He ordered warriors to surround Yu Rang.

Yu Rang said, “I heard a wise lord didn’t cover others’ virtue, and a faithful minister didn’t fear death for his faithfulness. You once released me, and all people praise your virtue. Today I am ready to die. But I ask for cutting your dress and show my mind of revenge. Though I die, I have no eternal regret.” Zhao Xiangzi thought he was a great faithful man, and gave own dress to Yu Rang. Yu Rang cut the dress three times with crying to heaven. He sighed, “Now I can console Zhi Bo!” He killed himself by his sword.

In Zhao’s domain, all persons of fidelity and integrity wept for the death of Yu Rang. Morally courageous persons were encouraged by his words “A man dies for a person who understands his heart” from generation to generation.

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