Lü Buwei Welcomes Foreigners to Qin-吕不韦迎异人归秦

Before the Battle of Changping, the state of Zhao was not inferior to the state of Qin in terms of national strength. Qin launched two attacks against Zhao, both of which were repelled by Zhao’s general, Lian Po. In order to negotiate peace, Qin sent the son of Prince Anguo, known as Yiren, as a hostage to Zhao. Yiren, a middle-ranking son of Prince Anguo, was born of a concubine named Xia Ji and was not favored. After being sent to Zhao, Qin continued to frequently send troops to attack Zhao. Consequently, the people of Zhao treated him poorly, leaving him in a dilemma. Yiren lived in Zhao as if he were imprisoned, facing financial difficulties, feeling destitute and helpless. Money, transportation, and resources were all scarce, and he felt like his life would be spent in Zhao.

Lv Buwei was originally from the state of Wei and made a living through commerce. He traveled around, engaged in buying and selling, and accumulated vast wealth. When his business expanded, Wei, being a small state, could no longer meet his commercial needs, so he came to the state of Zhao. Zhao, being a strategic transportation hub at that time with a developed economy, was conducive to the development of commerce. While conducting business in Handan, Lv Buwei happened to encounter Yiren. With his astute businessman’s mind, he realized that Yiren was “a rare commodity that could be hoarded and sold at the right time,” so he endeavored to befriend him.

Lv Buwei first bribed the guards around Yiren, allowing himself to visit Yiren. He said to the despairing Yiren, “I can make you shine brightly.” Yiren, not believing him, said with a bitter smile, “You should first shine your own door before shining mine.” Lv Buwei replied, “You don’t understand. My door will shine because of yours.” Being alone in a foreign land without any close confidants, Yiren quickly regarded Lv Buwei as an indispensable person.

Lv Buwei’s words struck a chord with Yiren. Having spent aimless days in Zhao, not knowing what to do, he sought advice from Lv Buwei. Lv Buwei said, “The King of Qin is old, and the Crown Prince is your father, Prince Anguo. I’ve heard that Prince Anguo’s favorite concubine is Lady Huayang, but she hasn’t borne any children yet. Given Lady Huayang’s favor, she definitely has influence over Prince Anguo’s thoughts. You have over twenty brothers, neither high nor low in rank, with no outstanding qualities, not favored, and having lived in Zhao for a long time. Even if the King of Qin is no longer around, when Prince Anguo becomes the king, you won’t have the capital to vie for the position of crown prince with your elder brothers and other siblings.” Yiren said, “Yes, you’re right, but what can I do?”

Lv Buwei said, “You have little money and are dependent on others. It’s impossible for you to offer gifts to win favor and strengthen your influence. Although I’m not very wealthy either, I’m willing to provide you with money to travel to the state of Qin and meet with Prince Anguo and Lady Huayang, persuading them to appoint you as the crown prince.”

After saying this, Lv Buwei indeed gave Yiren five hundred gold coins for him to purchase horses and chariots, and to make connections with influential figures. At the same time, he took five hundred gold coins himself, bought exotic treasures, and went west to Xianyang to pave the way. He first visited Lady Huayang’s brother Lord Yangquan and elder sister, having Lady Huayang’s sister personally intervene with Lady Huayang.

The elder sister advised her younger sister, “When young, you can rely on your beauty to gain favor, but there will come a day when you grow old and lose your looks. Moreover, you have no children to rely on. What will you do then? It’s better to choose a talented and filial son among the sons of the Crown Prince now and adopt him as your own, making him the heir to the throne. This way, while your husband is alive, you can rely on your position as his wife, and once your husband is gone, the person who inherits the throne will be your son, allowing you to rely on your position as his mother. If you don’t accumulate capital while you’re still favored, how will you maintain your position when you’re no longer favored? I have a candidate here, the hostage sent to Zhao named Yiren. This young man has good character, knows that he can’t become the crown prince according to his birth order, and his birth mother is not favored. If you support him as the heir, he will surely be grateful and respectful to you for life. Then you can have hope for your lifelong honor.”

These words touched Lady Huayang deeply. Therefore, she seized the opportunity to persuade Prince Anguo that Yiren, who was held hostage in Zhao, was very talented and highly praised by many people. She then tearfully pleaded, “I am fortunate to be favored by the Crown Prince, but I have no children. I feel uneasy. I hope to adopt Yiren as my own son and make him the heir, so that I will have someone to rely on in the future.” Prince Anguo agreed, and appointed Yiren as the heir. After confirming the heir, Prince Anguo and Lady Huayang sent many gifts to Yiren, and asked Lv Buwei to be his teacher. Yiren’s reputation grew.

One day, while drinking with Lv Buwei, Yiren requested Zhao Ji, one of Lv Buwei’s concubines, to dance. Yiren liked her very much and asked Lv Buwei for her. Zhao Ji thus became Yiren’s wife, and soon gave birth to a son named Zhao Zheng. Shortly thereafter, Qin attacked Zhao again, besieging Handan, and the situation became critical. The people of Zhao wanted to kill Yiren out of resentment. Yiren hastily consulted Lv Buwei. They bribed the officials guarding the city gates with a large sum of money and hurriedly fled to the Qin camp. They left in such a hurry that they left behind Zhao Ji and their son Zhao Zheng in Zhao. Since they didn’t catch Yiren, the people of Zhao wanted to kill his wife and son. Zhao Ji hid in the home of a wealthy Zhao family, pretending to be their daughter, and thus escaped this ordeal.

After returning to Qin, Lv Buwei had Yiren wear Chu attire to visit Lady Huayang. Lady Huayang, being from the state of Chu, was particularly pleased to see Yiren, and thus gave him a new name, Zichu. Shortly afterward, the King of Qin passed away, and Prince Anguo ascended the throne. However, a few days later, Prince Anguo suddenly died of poisoning. In 251 BC, Yiren became the new King of Qin, Lady Huayang was honored as the Queen Mother, Zhao Zheng was named the Crown Prince, Lv Buwei became the prime minister, and was granted the title of Marquis of Wanhu.