Analects Book 14: Duke Wen of Jin spends twenty years in exile
A double regicide
When Duke Xian died four years later in 651 BCE, Li Ji was in such a rush to install her 15-year-old son Xiqi on the throne that she was blind to the threat posed by a senior minister called Li Ke. Considering Xiqi to be an imposter because his mother orchestrated the downfall of the rightful heir to the throne of Jin, Li Ke assassinated him less than a month after he had first assumed the throne.
Xiqi’s younger cousin Zhuozi suffered the same fate at the hands of Li Ke when Li Ji appointed him as her son’s successor. Li Ji herself was not able to escape Li Ke’s attentions either, also coming to a grizzly end at the hands of the murderous minister.
Yiwu chances it
Perhaps out of fear of becoming Li Ke’s next victim, Chonger is said to have declined an invitation from the minister to return to Jin and assume the throne. Yiwu, however, decided to chance it when Li Ke made a similar invitation to him, but just to be on the safe side showed his gratitude to Li by having him put to death for his double regicide!
During his thirteen-year reign, Yiwu became increasingly paranoid about the threat posed to his rule by Chonger and ordered a series of assassination attempts against his half-brother to resolve the problem once and for all.
Chonger and Duke Mu of Qi unite against a common enemy
To protect his own safety, Chonger had no choice but to move from state to state with his loyal band of followers until he finally got lucky when he reached the state of Qin and struck up a close relationship with its ruler Duke Mu that must have been inspired in part by the mutual enmity of the two men towards Yiwu.
Duke Mu had come close to killing Yiwu after taking him captive in a war he had launched against Jin for refusing to provide promised assistance to Qin during a famine. He only agreed to release him following frantic pleas from his wife Bo Ji, who also happened to Yiwu’s half-sister, to spare his life.
In return, Yiwu sent his eldest son Ji Yu and his wife Huai Ying to Qin as hostages to guarantee peace between the two states. When Yiwu fell seriously ill a couple of years later, however, the couple escaped back home without so much as a bye or leave to their host. Although their speedy exit enabled Ji Yu to succeed his father as the ruler of Jin, it also enraged Duke Mu so much that he provided Chonger with army to support his own bid for power.
Chonger makes up for lost time
Within a year of the death of Ji Yu, Chonger had become the undisputed ruler of Jin having killed his half-brother’s son and installed his own team of battle-hardened ministers and officials to clean up the mess caused by decades of misrule and neglect. After over twenty years on the road carrying a price on his head, he was determined to make up for lost time by transforming the weak and divided Jin into a state that would be respected in the Zhou Kingdom and beyond.
To be continued.
I took this image at the cemetery of Confucius.