Shi Da Yi Murders His Own Kin-石大义灭亲

Wu Wang of the Zhou Dynasty divided the surrounding regions of the Shang Dynasty and the immigrants of the Shang Dynasty, and conferred them to his brother Kang Shu, establishing the state of Wei with its capital at Chaoge, the residual capital of the Shang Dynasty. Duke Zhuang, Ji Yang, the 12th ruler of Wei, reigned from 757 BC to 737 BC. According to the records in “Zuo Zhuan – The Third Year of Yin Gong” and “Records of the Historian – House of Wei,” Duke Zhuang’s principal wife was Lady Zhuang, the daughter of Duke Zhang of Qi. Lady Zhuang, not only beautiful but also gentle and virtuous, had the unfortunate fate of being childless.

Later, Duke Zhuang took two sisters, Li Gui and Dai Gui, as his concubines from the state of Chen. Li Gui gave birth to Xiaobo, but unfortunately, Xiaobo died early. Dai Gui had two sons, Ji Wan and Ji Jin. Ji Wan later became Duke Huan of Wei. Lady Zhuang treated Ji Wan as her own and loved him dearly. The people of Wei even composed a poem titled “Shuo Ren” praising Lady Zhuang. Lady Zhuang also presented a palace maid to Duke Zhuang, who bore him a son named Zhou Xu, greatly favored by Duke Zhuang. Zhou Xu, relying on his favor, became arrogant, violent, and unruly. However, Duke Zhuang, turning a blind eye to his misconduct, allowed him to act recklessly, making Zhou Xu even more unrestrained.

Senior official Shi Que, seeing Duke Zhuang’s indulgence towards Zhou Xu, felt uneasy and advised, “True love for one’s children lies in guiding them onto the right path, not indulging them to the point of going astray. Extravagance and indulgence lead to wicked habits, especially when it comes to excessive favor. Rarely can one be favored without becoming arrogant. Once arrogance is cultivated, it will not accept a lower position and may lead to many troubles. Therefore, it is better to promptly establish the heir and provide proper guidance to Zhou Xu.” However, Duke Zhuang did not agree and continued to indulge Zhou Xu.

Shi Que’s son, Shi Hou, enjoyed spending time with Zhou Xu. The two often roamed the streets, causing trouble for the people. Shi Que, upon learning of this, became furious and severely punished Shi Hou with a whip, imprisoning him and forbidding him from associating with Zhou Xu. Shi Hou, however, broke through the door, escaped, and took refuge in Zhou Xu’s residence, where he continued his unruly behavior, causing harm to the people. Shi Que could do nothing about it.

Later, Duke Zhuang passed away, and Ji Wan succeeded him, known as Duke Huan of Wei. Duke Huan, being weak-willed, knew that Shi Que would not tolerate Zhou Xu’s behavior. Shi Que, therefore, retired from politics, no longer involved in state affairs. With Shi Que out of the picture, Zhou Xu became even more tyrannical, unrestrained. Not long after, Duke Huan died, and Ji Jin succeeded him as Duke Huan of Wei.

Duke Huan was weak-willed and easily manipulated, so Shi Que decided to retire. Now Zhou Xu became even more arrogant without any restraint. One day, Duke Huan planned to personally visit the Zhou royal family to pay respects. At this moment, Shi Hou devised a plan to take advantage of the situation. They decided to assassinate Duke Huan during a farewell feast at the western gate, with an ambush of soldiers waiting outside. After three rounds of wine, Zhou Xu drew his dagger and fatally stabbed Duke Huan, claiming that he died suddenly from illness. Zhou Xu then declared himself the new ruler, honoring Shi Hou as the chief minister. Duke Huan’s younger brother, Ji Jin, fled to the state of Xing.

Although Zhou Xu successfully ascended the throne, rumors about his fratricide spread widely. Zhou Xu and Shi Hou were concerned about public opinion, and Zhou Xu sought advice from Shi Hou on how to establish authority in neighboring states. Shi Hou suggested attacking the state of Zheng, which had historical grievances with Wei. They bribed the states of Lu, Chen, Cai, and Song, raised an army, and launched an invasion against Zheng, causing great suffering to the people.

During the battle with Zheng, Shi Hou achieved a small victory and advised Zhou Xu to avoid prolonged conflict due to Zheng’s strong military. He proposed a tactical retreat, and as they reached the outskirts of Wei, they heard people singing a song: ‘A hero falls, another rises. Song and dance turn to sword and spear. When will we see peace? Regretfully, there is no one to voice our grievances to Luoyang!’ Zhou Xu, realizing the difficulty in gaining public support, became worried. Shi Hou suggested a plan to secure his position by seeking an introduction