Jin Gongzi Chong’er, also known as Prince Chong’er of Jin, went into exile in a foreign land-晋公子重耳流亡异邦


Jin Gongzi Chong’er, later known as Jin Wengong, was the son of Jin Xiangong. In the later years of Jin Xiangong, Li Ji caused chaos in the Jin state, leading to Chong’er’s exile. He returned to Jin and ascended to the throne 19 years later.

In 672 BCE, Jin Xiangong launched a campaign against the Li Rong tribe. After their defeat, the leaders of Li Rong sent their two daughters, Li Ji and Shao Ji, to Jin Xiangong as a peace offering. Xiagong led his army, accompanied by the beautiful sisters, back to Jin. Li Ji and Shao Ji, renowned for their beauty, gained Xiangong’s favor, especially Li Ji. After a few years, Li Ji gave birth to a son named Xi Qi, and Shao Ji also bore a son named Zhuo Zi. Before this, Jin Xiangong had an affair with Qi Jiang, a concubine of his father Wugong and the daughter of Duke Huan of Qi. She gave birth to Gongzi Shensheng and later married Qin Mugong. After Xiangong ascended to the throne, Qi Jiang was recognized as his consort, and Shensheng was made the crown prince. Later, Xiangong married a woman from the Rong tribe named Da Rong Hu Ji and another from the Xiao Rong tribe, giving birth to Gongzi Chong’er and Gongzi Yiwu.

In his later years, Xiangong favored Li Ji, even though Qi Jiang had passed away. Ignoring opposition from the court, he made Li Ji his queen and Shao Ji the secondary consort. Li Ji, scheming and cunning, sought to secure her son Xi Qi as the crown prince. Although Xiangong initially valued Shensheng, Chong’er, and Yiwu, his affection waned after the birth of Xi Qi and he began favoring him. Xiangong wanted to replace Shensheng with Xi Qi, evident in his decisions to assign them to different territories, thus requiring them to establish separate ancestral temples. This move implied a loss of inheritance rights to the main ancestral temple. Xiangong’s intentions to depose Shensheng and enthrone Xi Qi became clear.

However, as the crown prince had no wrongdoing and enjoyed popularity, he remained a significant obstacle to Xi Qi’s succession. Li Ji, therefore, spread rumors accusing Shensheng of plotting rebellion without evidence to convince people. She then devised a sinister plan: when Xiangong was away on a hunting trip, she sent a false message to Shensheng in Xiangong’s name. The message claimed that Xiangong dreamt of Shensheng’s mother, Qi Jiang, instructing him to have Shensheng perform a memorial ceremony at Quwo and send the offerings to Xiangong for consumption. Grateful for his father’s remembrance of his mother, Shensheng followed the instructions. Li Ji secretly poisoned the offerings, and when Xiangong returned, she deliberately obstructed him, insisting on tasting the food first. The poison was discovered, Xiangong accused Shensheng of patricide, and Shensheng, upon learning of the plot, escaped to Quwo, where he eventually took his own life.

Upon hearing about Shensheng’s fate, Chong’er and Yiwu rushed back to the capital. Li Ji, fearing that they would pose a threat to Xi Qi’s position, accused them of involvement in the poisoning plot. Chong’er and Yiwu, aware of Li Ji’s conspiracy, fled the capital quietly and returned to their respective fiefdoms. Xiangong, convinced of their alleged treason, sent armies to surround Pucheng and Quyi, aiming to capture and execute his two sons. Yiwu resisted fiercely but was eventually overwhelmed, fleeing to Liangdi (around present-day Han City, Shaanxi). Chong’er, believing that his privileges were due to his father, abandoned resistance, and Pucheng was captured. To escape the pursuing Jin forces, Chong’er fled south, crossed the Yellow River, and sought refuge in the state of Zhai, accompanied by figures like Hu Yan, Zhao Shuai, Sikong Jizi, and others. Thus, Chong’er began a long period of exile.

Zhai was Chong’er’s mother’s hometown and also Hu Yan’s hometown. Skillfully arranged by Hu Yan, Chong’er was able to settle in Zhai, where his life was spared, and Jin forces did not pursue him further. The ruler of Zhai treated Chong’er reasonably well, and during a campaign against a Rong tribe, two beautiful girls, Shu Wei and Ji Wei, were captured and given to Chong’er. He married Ji Wei, who bore him two sons, Bo Chou and Shu Liu. Chong’er gave Shu Wei to Zhao Shuai as a wife, and she later gave birth to Zhao Dun, who would become a prominent figure.

Li Ji did not succeed in killing Chong’er and Yiwu, but she managed to eliminate the obstacles to her son Xi Qi’s succession. When Xiangong fell seriously ill, fearing that Chong’er and Yiwu would threaten Xi Qi’s position after his death, he entrusted the regency to Xun Xi to assist Xi Qi. However, the powerful ministers, including Li Ke and Pi Zhengfu, led troops to the capital, killing the young Xi Qi before he could ascend the throne. Li Ke then placed Xi Qi’s younger brother Zhuo Zi on the throne, but he, too, was killed by Li Ke. In the chaos, Xun Xi was also killed, and Li Ji met her demise at the hands of Li Ke. Li Ji’s elaborate schemes to secure her son’s succession eventually led to her and her son’s downfall.

At this point, Xiangong’s only surviving sons were Chong’er and Yiwu. Li Ke sent envoys to Zhai to invite Chong’er to take the throne. After experiencing political persecution and surviving numerous challenges, Chong’er became somewhat hesitant and prioritized his safety. He declined Li Ke’s offer, leading Li Ke to go to Liangdi to welcome Yiwu back and make him the ruler. Around the same time, Qin Mu Gong sought to intervene in Jin’s internal affairs. Knowing Chong’er’s reluctance to return and assume the throne, Qin Mu Gong sent an envoy to meet Yiwu, expressing willingness to support his return and offering assistance. Yiwu received Li Ke’s invitation, accepted it, and promised to cede five cities in Hedong to Qin as gratitude, gaining the support of Qin Mu Gong. Consequently, Yiwu returned to Jin and became Jin Huai Gong.

After Huai Gong’s accession, he relied on loyal supporters, eliminating powerful figures like Li Ke, Pi Zhengfu, and others. Fearing a potential return of Chong’er, who was still in exile, Huai Gong decided to continue persecuting him.

Huai Gong initiated political purges within the state, leading to the death of Gu Tu’s father, Gu Tu. His oppressive rule generated widespread public resentment, facing opposition from both the court and the people. In his youth, Huai Gong had been a hostage in Qin, treated well by Qin Mu Gong. However, upon returning to Jin, he betrayed Qin Mu Gong, further provoking Qin’s involvement in Jin’s politics. Learning about Chong’er’s residence in Chu, Qin Mu Gong sent Gong Sun Zhi to Chu to request an audience with Chong’er. Chong’er, hearing that Qin was willing to help him return, left Chu and headed to Qin.

Arriving in Qin, Chong’er received a grand reception from Qin Mu Gong, who expressed his willingness to assist Chong’er in reclaiming the throne. Chong’er agreed and promised to cede five cities in Hedong to Qin as a reward. Qin Mu Gong was delighted and offered his daughter Wen Ying and four other noblewomen as concubines to Chong’er.

In the spring of 648 BCE, escorted by three thousand Qin troops, Chong’er crossed the Yellow River and returned to his homeland after a 19-year exile. He received enthusiastic support from the people, and Huai Gong fled to Gaoliang. Leading a large army, Chong’er advanced to Quwo, held a ceremony at Wugong, and was acclaimed as the ruler. He became Jin Wengong.

This translation provides an overview of the events involving Jin Wengong, including his exile, struggles, and eventual return to Jin to reclaim the throne.