Chu advises Queen Dowager Zhao-触说赵太后


In 266 BC, King Huiwen of Zhao passed away, and his son, King Xiaocheng, ascended to the throne of Zhao. With the transition of power in Zhao causing turmoil, the Qin state seized the opportunity to launch a massive military campaign against Zhao, capturing three of its cities. As King Xiaocheng was still young, his mother, Queen Dowager Zhao, took charge of the state affairs. Despite having ministers such as Lian Po, Lin Xiangru, and Pingyuan Jun assisting in governance, the political situation in Zhao remained unstable, placing the state in a precarious position.

Facing the difficulty of defending against Qin’s attacks alone, Queen Dowager Zhao reluctantly sought assistance from the powerful Qi state. Although Qi agreed to send troops to aid Zhao, as per custom, Zhao had to send a member of the royal family to Qi as a hostage. The King of Qi proposed that Queen Dowager Zhao send her youngest son, Prince Chang’an, to Qi as a condition for Qi’s military support.

Caught between the dilemma of national crisis and familial ties, Queen Dowager Zhao found herself in a difficult situation. Reluctant to send her beloved youngest son to Qi, she stubbornly refused to comply with Qi’s demands. However, incessant pleas from the ministers irritated Queen Dowager Zhao, who, disregarding Zhao’s imminent peril, insisted on protecting her son. She even threatened, “Anyone who dares to mention sending Prince Chang’an to Qi as a hostage, I will spit in their face!” Despite the urgent situation facing Zhao, the ministers, seeing Queen Dowager Zhao’s obstinacy, reluctantly ceased their remonstrations.

As tensions between Queen Dowager Zhao and the ministers escalated, neither side could persuade the other. With Qin’s forces advancing and Zhao on the brink of collapse, Left Minister Chu decided to visit the palace to meet the Queen Dowager. Upon hearing of Chu’s visit, Queen Dowager Zhao immediately understood his purpose – to discuss sending Prince Chang’an to Qi. Prepared for a confrontation, she awaited him with a formidable demeanor, ready to unleash a torrent of anger and contempt.

Queen Dowager Zhao, exuding an air of dominance, was confronted by Chu, who sought to avoid confrontation and opted to feign frailty due to old age. He shuffled into the palace, pretending to have difficulty walking, and apologized for his prolonged absence, attributing it to his poor health. Despite Queen Dowager Zhao’s stoic demeanor, Chu’s act of concern softened her stance, allowing him to proceed with his request.

Chu then artfully redirected the conversation, expressing concern for Queen Dowager Zhao’s well-being before broaching the subject of sending Prince Chang’an to Qi. Playing on her maternal instincts, he appealed to her by proposing to enlist his own son, Shu Qi, as a guard for the palace, thereby fulfilling his desire to contribute to the country’s defense. Sensing Queen Dowager Zhao’s receptiveness, Chu continued, subtly highlighting the importance of long-term planning for the welfare of her son and the stability of Zhao.

With Chu’s persuasive arguments, Queen Dowager Zhao relented, allowing Prince Chang’an to be sent to Qi. Qi subsequently mobilized its forces after receiving the hostage.

Upon learning of the incident, Zi Yi remarked, “If even the king’s own flesh and blood cannot avoid being unrewarded for their efforts, what hope is there for us, his subjects?”