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Dà yì miè qīn: Sacrifice ties of blood to uphold righteousness

The idiom Dà yì miè qīn

There are different translations of the idiom 大义灭亲 Dà yì miè qīn:

To uphold justice and righteousness even at the sacrifice of blood relations
Righteousness above family royalty
Sacrifice ties of blood to uphold righteousness
Sacrificing family loyalty for the benefit of the state
Placing Righteousness Above Kinship
To place righteousness before family (idiom);
Ready to punish one's own family if justice demands it

The origin

And below is the story of the origin of the idiom:

Shi Que has his own son put to death (Zuo Zhuan, Duke Yin, 4th year, 716 BC)

Duke Zhuang of Wei had married the sister of Dechen, the heirson of the marquis of Qi, known as Zhuang Jiang. She was beautiful but childless.

From left to right: Shi Que, Zhou Yu, Shi Hou
The duke then married a daughter of the House of Chen, called Li Gui, who had a son called Xiaobo that died early. Dai Gui, who had accompanied her to the harem, had a son, who was afterwards Duke Huan, and who was cherished by Zhuang Jiang as her own child.

There was also Zhouyu, another son of the duke by a favourite concubine, a favoured child, and fond of his weapons, not restrained by the duke, but hated by Zhuang Jiang.

Shi Que remonstrated with the duke, saying, "Your servant has heard that, when you love a son, you should teach him righteous ways, and not help him on in the course of depravity. There are pride, extravagance, lewdness, and dissipation, by which one depraves himself; but these four vices come from overindulgence and allowances. If you are going to make Zhouyu your successor, settle him in that position; if you have not yet decided on such a step, you are paving the way for him to create disorder. Few there are who can be favoured without getting arrogant; few arrogant who can submit themselves to others; few who can submit themselves without being indignant at their position; and few who can keep patient under such a feeling of indignancy. And moreover, there are what are called the six instances of insubordination, -when the mean stand in the way of the noble; or the young presume against their elders; or distant relatives cut out those who are near; or new friends alienate from the old; or a small Power attacks a great one; or lewdness defeats righteousness. The ruler righteous and the minister acting accordingly; the father kind and the son dutiful; the elder brother loving and the younger respectful:-these are what are called the six instances of what should be. To put away what should be and follow what should not be, is the way to accelerate calamity; and when a ruler of men accelerates the calamity which it should be his object to keep off, is not the case a deplorable one?"

The duke did not listen to this remonstrance; and Que's son, Hou, became a companion of Zhouyu. The father tried to restrain him, but in vain. When Duke Huan succeeded to his father, Que withdrew from public life on the plea of old age.

In the year 717 BC, Zhouyu of Wei had murdered duke Huan, and taken his place. This started the confusion in Wei.

Zhou Yu, finding himself unable to attach the people to himself, Shi Que's son Shi Hou asked his father how to establish the prince in the State. Shi Que said, "It may be done by his going and having an audience of the king."

"But how can this audience be obtained?"

"Duke Huan of Chen," replied the father, "is now in favor with the king, and Chen and Wei are on friendly terms. If the marquis go to the court of Chen and get the duke to ask an audience for him, it may be got."

At this, Hou went with Zhou Yu to Chen, but Shi Que sent information to Chen, saying, "The State of Wei is narrow and small, and I am aged and can do nothing. These two men are the real murderers of my prince, and I venture [to ask] that you will instantly take the [proper] measures with them."

The people of Chen made them prisoners and requested Wei to send and manage the rest. In the ninth month, the people of Wei sent Chou, the Superintendent of the Right, who put Zhou Yu to death at Pu, and Shi Que sent his steward, Nao Yang Jian, who put Shi Hou to death in the capital of Chen.

A superior man may say, "Shi Que was a minister without blemish. He hated Zhou Yu, with whom his own son Hou was art and part. And did he not thus afford an illustration of the saying that great righteousness is supreme over the affections?"


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