The Tian Family Replaces Qi-田氏代齐

In 379 BC, after the death of Duke Kang of Qi, the Jiang clan’s political power in Qi was replaced by the Tian clan, and the state of Qi became known as “Tian Qi.” Jiang Ziya had made significant contributions to the establishment of the Zhou dynasty, and King Wu of Zhou rewarded him by bestowing the state of Qi upon him. At that time, the strength of the Qi state was considerable. After decades of development, during the reign of Duke Huan of Qi, the state of Qi became one of the most powerful states. However, even Jiang Ziya probably did not anticipate that eventually his fiefdom would be lost from his descendants’ hands, and the Tian clan would become its new rulers.

Chen Wan was the son of Duke Li of Chen. After his birth, Duke Li of Chen divined an oracle for him, which stated that Chen Wan’s descendants would become emperors but not within the Chen state. Duke Li of Chen was skeptical. Indeed, after Duke Li of Chen’s death, Chen Wan left the Chen state.

In 672 BC, Chen Wan arrived alone in the state of Qi. Duke Huan of Qi wanted to appoint him as a minister, but Chen Wan declined, saying, “I am just a fugitive. I am content as long as you spare my life. I dare not accept such a high position.” Therefore, Duke Huan of Qi appointed him as an overseer of works. Soon after, a nobleman wanted to marry his daughter to Chen Wan. For this purpose, he specifically cast an oracle, which stated that if his daughter married Chen Wan, her sixth-generation descendant would become a high official, and her ninth-generation descendant would become a monarch. Thus, the nobleman married his daughter to Chen Wan.

After Chen Wan’s death, his descendants remained officials in the state of Qi. Five generations later, his descendant Tian Huanzi Wuyu gained favor with Duke Zhuang of Qi. After Tian Wuyu’s death, his son Tian Qi served as an official under Duke Jing of Qi. Duke Jing of Qi was a foolish ruler who only pursued his own pleasures, completely disregarding the lives of his people. In his later years, he indulged in excesses and neglected his duties, even refusing to provide grain from the state granary to famine-stricken citizens. Furthermore, he ordered the capture of many commoners to construct palaces, and those who resisted were ordered to have their limbs severed. The people were extremely discontented with him. Tian Qi took advantage of this situation to gain popularity by changing the state’s measurement system from a four-unit system to a five-unit system. When lending out grain, he used the five-unit system, but when collecting repayment, he used the four-unit system. This allowed the people to benefit, and they expressed their gratitude to Tian Qi.

One day, while Duke Jing of Qi was with Yan Ying, Duke Jing sighed and said, “After I die, who will live in this palace?” Yan Ying replied, “If what you say is true, then perhaps only the Tian family. Although the Tian family has not achieved any great deeds, they have benefited the people. Your highness collects heavy taxes, while Tian Qi is generous in giving alms. The people’s hearts are inclined toward him. If your descendants perform poorly, then the Tian family will seize control of Qi.” Upon hearing this, Duke Jing of Qi became very worried. He sought advice from Yan Ying, who told him to govern with propriety. Although Duke Jing of Qi agreed, it was too late, and a few years later he passed away. In the end, he only managed to contain the Tian family’s power but did not do anything to win the people’s hearts.

After Duke Jing of Qi fell seriously ill, he appointed Guoxia and Gao Zhang as prime ministers, assisting his son Tu as the crown prince. Upon hearing this, Tian Qi was displeased and wanted Yang Sheng to be the crown prince. After Duke Jing of Qi’s death, Tian Qi pretended to support the two prime ministers Guoxia and Gao, but secretly sowed discord. He told Guoxia and Gao, “Initially, most nobles did not want to crown Tu as the crown prince. With you two assisting Tu, the nobles are planning a rebellion!” Then, he told the nobles, “The prime minister is very powerful. He wants to eliminate those who do not support the crown prince. Before he acts, let’s strike first!” So, Tian Qi led the nobles to attack the palace, and Guoxia and Gao hurriedly fought back but ultimately failed.

Subsequently, Tian Qi brought back Yang Sheng, who had fled to the state of Lu, to his home. Then, he invited the nobles to his house for a feast. Before this, he had put Yang Sheng in a sack and, halfway through, opened the sack and let Yang Sheng out, saying, “This is the rightful ruler of Qi.” The nobles bowed and paid their respects. At this time, a minister said, “Have you all forgotten Duke Jing’s dying wishes?” The nobles showed some hesitation, and Yang Sheng knelt down and said, “If I can ascend to the throne, then do it; if not, then forget it.” In this desperate situation, the nobles had no choice but to agree. Yang Sheng, known as Duke Dao of Qi, ascended to the throne, and Tian Qi became the prime minister, wielding absolute power over the state of Qi.

After Tian Qi’s death, Duke Dao of Qi was assassinated, and his son succeeded him, becoming Duke Jian of Qi. At this time, Tian Chang served as the left prime minister and Jianz