Su Qin, who advocated for the Vertical Alliance against Qin-合纵抗秦的苏秦

Su Qin, also known as Zi Ji, hailed from Luoyi in the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. Despite humble beginnings, he harbored grand ambitions and reportedly studied the art of diplomacy alongside Zhang Yi under the tutelage of Guiguzi. Upon mastering his skills, Su Qin aimed to showcase his talents in the state of Qin. However, despite multiple attempts to gain recognition from the King of Qin, he returned home empty-handed, his funds depleted and clothes tattered.

Back in his hometown, Su Qin faced a cold reception from his family, who shunned him for his failures. Determined to prove himself, Su Qin embarked on a relentless pursuit of knowledge, studying late into the night. To prevent himself from succumbing to sleep, he tied his hair to the rafters and held a spike in hand, jabbing himself awake whenever drowsiness threatened to overcome him. After a year of arduous study, he finally developed strategies of diplomacy and statecraft.

At that time, the powerful states of Qi, Qin, Chu, Yan, Zhao, Han, and Wei vied for dominance, with Qin being the most formidable. Su Qin devised a plan for a “Vertical Alliance” to counter Qin’s expansionist ambitions. When Qin went to war with Zhao, Su Qin persuaded the neighboring state of Yan to join forces with Zhao, highlighting the mutual threat posed by Qin’s advances.

Subsequently, Su Qin presented his plan to the King of Zhao, advocating for a united front against Qin’s aggression. He argued that the combined territory of the six states far surpassed that of Qin, making them a formidable force. Impressed by Su Qin’s reasoning, the King of Zhao rewarded him generously and entrusted him with the task of persuading other states to join the alliance.

When persuading the King of Qi to join the anti-Qin alliance, Su Qin assuaged concerns about Yan’s loyalty by emphasizing their historical ties with Qi. His persuasive abilities were instrumental in rallying the six states to form a coalition against Qin, culminating in the famous oath-taking ceremony at the Huan River.

Upon his triumphant return home, Su Qin’s family welcomed him with open arms, recognizing the magnitude of his achievements. However, internal rivalries among the states and the strategist Zhang Yi’s exposure of weaknesses in Su Qin’s strategy eventually led to the dissolution of the alliance.

Su Qin’s diplomatic prowess and strategic vision left a lasting impact on ancient China, earning him a place in history as one of the most influential figures of the Warring States period.