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Wu Tsu Hsü

In the second year of King P'ing (527 B.C.), Fei Wu-chi was sent to go to Ch'in to accept a bride for Chien, the Heir. The girl was becoming. When she had set out for Ch'u, but before she had arrived, Wu-chi returned and advised King P'ing, saying, "The girl from Ch'in is becoming. Your Majesty can marry her yourself, and seek another bride for the Heir." King P'ing listened to him and in the end married the girl from Ch'in himself, and married another woman to the Heir.

At this time Wu She was the Grand Mentor of the Heir, Wu-chi was the Lesser Mentor. Wu-chi was not favored by the heir, and he often spoke ill of Ch'ien, the Heir. Chien at this time was fifteen years old. His mother was a woman from Ts'ai and was not favoured by the king. The King gradually became more and more estranged from Chien.

In the sixth year (523 B.C.), Chien, the heir, was sent to reside at Cheng-fu to guard the border. Wu-chi again day and night slandered Chien, the Heir, before the king, "Since I, Wu-chi, brought in the girl from Ch'in, the Heir harbours resentment. He also must have harboured a grudge against Your Majesty, should somehow prepare yourself for that. Furthermore, the Heir resides at Ch'eng-fu. He usurps military power and in contact with the feudal lords abroad, intending to enter the capital soon." King P'ing summoned his Mentor, Wu She, to reprimand him. Wu She knew that Wu-chi had slandered the Heir, thus he said, "Why does Your Majesty estrange yourself from your own flesh and blood because of a petty vassal?" Wu-chi said, "If no restraint today, later will come regret." At this the king consequently imprisoned Wu She. He then ordered Marshal Feng Yang to summon Chien, the Heir, intending to execute him. When the Heir heard about it, he fled to sung.

Wu-chi said, "Wu She has two sons. If we do not kill them, they will become the dismay of the state of Ch'u. Why don't we summon them by pretending to exempt their father? They will surelly come." At this the king sent an envoy to say to Wu She, "If you can make your two sons come, you will live; if you cannot, you will die." Wu She said, "Shang will come, Hsü will not come." The king said, "Why?" Wu She said "Shang as a person is uncorrupted and would die for standards of conduct. He is kind, fillial and benevolent. When he hears that his summons will exempt his father, he will surely come, without concern for his own death. Hsü as person is intelligent and fond of scheming. He is brave and craves merit. He understands that if he comes he will surely die; Surely he will not come. However, the person from Ch'u should worry about is surely this son." At this the king sent a man to summon them, saying, "Come, and I will exempt your father." Wu Shang said to Wu Hsü, "When we hear father is slain and none of us revenge him, this is to be without a plan. It is wise to assume tasks by measuring ability. You should go and I should return and die." Wu Shang then returned. Wu Hsü. bending his bow and nocking an arrow, went out to see the envoy and said, "If a father has an offense, for what reason do you summon his sons?" He was about to shoot when the envoy turned and ran. Wu Hsü then went out of Ch'u and fled to Wu. When Wu She heard about that, he said, "Hsü has escaped. The state of Ch'u is in danger!" The people of Ch'u then killed Wu She and Wu Shang.

After Wu Hsü leaves Ch'u, he wanders from state to state trying to determine which state to serve. He ultimately decides to serve Wu, but must travel back through his native state of Ch'u, where he is a wanted man. He meets a fisherman in Ch'u who ferries him across the Yangtze. Wu Hsü wants to repay the fisherman for his help by giving him a treasured sword, but the fisherman refuses the gift and says that if he had wanted to obtain rewards, he could have acquired much more than the value of the sword simply by turning Wu Hsü over to the Ch'u authorities. Thereafter, every time Wu Hsü eats, he offers a sacrifice and a prayer on behalf of the benevolent fisherman.

Wu Hsü was constantly pursued by soldiers. King P'ing also ordered a very tight border control in hopes of catching Wu Hsü. As Wu Hsü approached Chao kuan, the last pass to state of Wu, he sought the help of the physician Tungkao Kung, who recognized him as Wu She's son. Tungkao Kung felt deep sympathy for Wu Hsü's plight and offered his help in escaping across the border. He gave refuge to Wu Hsü in his home for a week. Under enormous stress, Wu Hsü's hair turned completely white and his facial features aged greatly. The change was a blessing in disguise and Wu Hsü was able to escape and head to the state of Wu.

Wu Hsü, trying to gain a patron in the state of Wu, is introduced to Prince Kuang. However Kuang finds Wu Hsü so ugly that he refuses to listen to him. Wu Hsü agrees to speak to Kuang from behind a curtain, and Kuang is so impressed by Wu Hsü's wisdom that he accepts his service. Later, with Wu Hsü's assistance, Kuang become king of Wu and wins great military victory over Ch'u. At the time Wu's toops entered Ying, the capital of Ch'u, Wu Hsü sought for King Chao, but he could not find him. So he dug up the tomb of King P'ing of Ch'u, took out his corpse and beat it with three hundred strokes.

The Minister of State Ch'u, Shen Bao Hsü, had fled into the mountains. He sent someone to say to Wu Hsü: "How could your revenge against an enemy be so extreme! I have heard that when people are numerous, they can overcome heaven. But heaven, once determined, also can break a man. Now, you formerly were a subject of King P'ing. You faced the north and served him. Now you go so far as to insult a dead man! How could this not be the epitome of unrighteousness?"

Wu Hsü apologized to Shen Bao hsü, saying, "The day is late, and my road long. and so I act perversely!"

Thereupon, Shen Bao Hsü fled to Ch'in  and reporting the emergency, requested assistance from Ch'in. Ch'in  would not agree. Bao Hsü stood in the court of Ch'in  crying day and night. This went on for seven days and nights without ceasing. Duke Ai of Ch'in  pitied him and said, "Though Ch'u is without principles, if it has ministers like this, can we not preserved it?" He then sent five hundred chariots to save Ch'u.

King Fu Ch'ai of the state of Wu, is about to attack the state of Ch'i. Wu Hsü argues that the state of Yüe is the real threat. Ch'i is far away, and its language and customs differ from those of Wu, while Yüe shares a border with Wu, and the languages and customs of the two states are similar. To go to war with Ch'i instead of Yüe, says Wu Hsü, is like "fearing the tiger but stabbing at the three-year-old pig." Fu Ch'ai refuses to heed Wu Hsü's advice, finally, Wu Hsü loses hope, entrusts his son to a friend in Ch'i, and says, "I have remonstrated with the king several time, but it was no use. Now I see that Wu will fall!"

The King of Wu attacks Ch'i. He wins a great victory and, upon returning, is going to punish Wu Hsü. Wu Hsü commits suicide; but just before he dies, he says, "Would that I could have a single eye in order to see the people of Yüe enter Wu." Fu Ch'ai consequently gouges out the eyes of Wu Hsü's corpse, hangs them from the east gate, and says, "How will you see the people of Yüe enter my state!" King Fu Ch'ai then wraps Wu Hsü's remains in a lether bag and throws it into a river.

Yüe does, in fact, conquer Wu, and Fu Ch'ai is captured. Just before Fu Ch'ai dies, he says, "If the dead have consciousness, how will I have the face to look upon Wu Hsü in the world below!" To avoid this possibility, Fu Ch'ai "pulled a hood over his face and dies."
Wu Zixu



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