Goujian Overthrows Wu-勾践灭吴


King Helu of Wu, with the assistance of Sun Wu and Wu Zixu, defeated the powerful state of Chu. Subsequently, he planned to attack the allied state of Yue after the death of King Yunchang of Yue in 496 BC, leaving the country unstable with his son Goujian ascending to the throne. Disregarding the advice of Sun Wu and others, King Helu hastily launched an attack on Yue without adequate preparation. Goujian organized his forces and cleverly outmaneuvered the Wu army, causing them to retreat in disarray. King Helu was severely wounded in the battle and soon passed away. His son Fuchai succeeded him and, following his father’s dying wish, vowed to avenge him.

Upon assuming the throne, Fuchai, with the assistance of Sun Wu and Wu Zixu, trained his army day and night to fulfill his father’s desire for revenge. Hearing of Fuchai’s preparations, Goujian decided to strike first and, despite the advice of Fan Li and others, initiated an attack on Wu. The two states clashed at Mount Fuyao, where, under the guidance of Sun Wu and Wu Zixu, Fuchai’s forces decisively defeated the Yue army. Goujian and his remaining troops retreated to a small city on Mount Kuaiji, surrounded by the Wu army.

Fuchai sought to annihilate Goujian, but to preserve his strength for a future comeback, Goujian adopted Fan Li’s strategy and personally submitted to Fuchai, offering to surrender. Initially hesitant, Fuchai eventually accepted after Fan Li advised Goujian to personally serve Fuchai, thereby alleviating his suspicions. Goujian’s envoys bribed Fuchai’s prime minister, Bo Pi, who then advocated for Goujian’s cause before Fuchai. Despite Wu Zixu’s strong opposition, Fuchai, swayed by Bo Pi’s persuasion and the bribes, agreed not to destroy Yue.

Feeling remorseful, Goujian acknowledged his own shortcomings and the suffering inflicted upon the people by his attempt to attack Wu. He then buried the dead, comforted the injured, and compensated the families of the deceased. Delegating the governance of the state to Wen Zhong and others, he departed for Wu with his wife and Fan Li. Both ministers and the people bid him farewell with tears.

Upon arrival in the capital of Wu, Fuchai deliberately humiliated Goujian and his wife by lodging them in a damp and cold stone chamber. Goujian personally served Fuchai as a charioteer, while his wife cleaned the palace daily. Despite enduring three years of humiliation, Goujian and his wife remained devoted and never uttered a word of complaint.

Ten years later, Goujian returned to Yue to find his country ravaged by war, its lands barren, and its population dwindling. Determined to restore his nation and seek revenge, he appointed Fan Li and Wen Zhong to implement reforms and encourage production and childbirth. He also implemented Fan Li’s plan to send beauties to Wu, distracting Fuchai and weakening his resolve. While Fuchai indulged in pleasure and extravagance, Goujian lived a simple life and toiled alongside his wife and the people, wearing clothes woven from their own silk.

After a decade of preparation under the guidance of Fan Li and Wen Zhong, Goujian mustered his forces, ready to strike at Wu and avenge past humiliations. Meanwhile, Fuchai, seeking hegemony, marched north to Huangchi to convene with other lords. Seeing this as an opportunity to strike Wu, Goujian launched a surprise attack on Wu’s capital, which was left undefended in Fuchai’s absence.

With Yue eagerly awaiting the battle, Goujian led his army of three thousand elite soldiers directly towards Wu’s capital. With Wu’s main forces away and only the elderly and weak left behind, the city was defenseless against Yue’s onslaught. Yue swiftly captured Wu’s capital and killed the crown prince.

Upon Fuchai’s return, Goujian relentlessly pursued his campaign, besieging the Wu forces for three years. Faced with overwhelming odds, Wu sent emissaries to kneel before Goujian and sue for peace, but Goujian refused. Eventually, Fuchai, realizing the futility of resistance, took his own life, and Wu was vanquished. Goujian finally achieved his long-awaited revenge.