Duke Xian of Jin took a detour to annihilate the state of Guo-晋献公假途灭虢

Jin State, originally named Tang, was the fief granted to Shuyu, the younger brother of King Cheng of the Western Zhou Dynasty. Shuyu’s descendants later changed the name to Jin and successively relocated their capital to places like Quwo, Jiang, and Xintian. In the later years of the Western Zhou period, Duke Wen of Jin assisted King Ping of Zhou in relocating to the east, making a significant contribution to the establishment of the Eastern Zhou. After Duke Wu of Jin ascended to the throne, he captured the leader of the Rong and Di tribes, named Guizhu, alive. Later, he named his son after Guizhu. After the death of Duke Wu, Guizhu succeeded to the throne, known as Duke Xian of Jin.

When Duke Xian of Jin ascended to the throne, Jin was merely a “minor marquisate” with a small territory surrounded by larger states. However, Duke Xian played a crucial role in transforming Jin from a regional power to one of the Hegemons in the Spring and Autumn Period. He pursued a policy of respecting the Zhou kings, enhancing Jin’s prestige among the vassal states. Duke Xian implemented harsh measures against stubborn old aristocrats, weakening the influence of the old slave-owning aristocracy. Simultaneously, he vigorously cultivated progressive non-hereditary noble families, creating conditions for the growth of emerging feudal forces.

Duke Xian also actively expanded his power and territorial boundaries, deciding to move south to seize the strategic area of Xiaohan. To the south of Jin were the states of Yu (north of present-day Hulunbuir, Inner Mongolia) and Guo (within the boundaries of present-day Shan County, Henan). Yu and Guo were neighboring states with a good relationship. Whenever Duke Xian attacked one of them, the other would come to its aid, posing a formidable challenge to Jin.

Duke Xian consulted his ministers, and Xun Xi, a senior official, suggested borrowing a passage through Yu to attack Guo, isolating Yu and then seizing the opportunity to destroy it. Xun Xi said, “We should first create discord between the two states. The ruler of Yu has a short-sighted and greedy nature, fond of treasures and fine horses. We can use Guo’s frequent border violations as an excuse and offer him what he desires. He will surely agree to grant us passage.”

Duke Xian was reluctant to part with the precious treasures. Understanding his hesitation, Xun Xi persuaded him, saying, “Your Excellency, rest assured. These treasures will only be temporarily stored with the ruler of Yu. Once we eliminate Guo, they will naturally be yours again!” Duke Xian found the reasoning sound and accepted Xun Xi’s strategy.

Upon receiving the treasures from Jin, the ruler of Yu was delighted and readily agreed to grant passage. Despite the objections of Yu’s ministers, the ruler, lured by the benefits from Jin, insisted on allowing Jin to pass through. In the summer of that year, Jin attacked the strategic town of Xiayang, controlling the key passage between Guo and Yu. Subsequently, Jin intentionally created provocations along the border between Jin and Guo. Finally, finding a pretext to attack Guo, Jin once again sought passage through Yu and promised to share the spoils with them.

Upon hearing about the gifts from Jin, Duke Guo Zhi of Yu, infatuated with the treasures, agreed to grant passage to Jin despite the strong dissuasion from his ministers. Guo Zhi believed that Jin, being a branch of the same lineage, would not deceive them. Moreover, the precious gifts from Jin demonstrated their sincere intentions. He thought that Jin only wanted to pass through and wouldn’t harm Yu’s interests. Unhappy with the situation, Grand Minister Gong Zhiqi sighed repeatedly but realized that Yu was bound to be destroyed soon. Thus, he left Yu with his family.

In 656 B.C., Jin troops breached the capital of Guo, Xiayang, and Guo was annihilated. Later, Jin stationed its troops temporarily in Guo to recuperate. General Lick, pretending to be ill, delayed returning to Jin. Duke Guo Zhi, unaware of the impending danger, went hunting with Duke Xian outside the city. During this time, Jin’s troops stationed in Guo launched an attack on Yu’s capital. Duke Xian captured Duke Guo Zhi while he was away hunting, and thus, the state of Yu was effortlessly eliminated by Jin.