Xi Shi

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Xi Shi washing chothes.

The state of Yue had a much stronger and vicious neighbor, the state of Wu, which had been fighting all its surrounding states for supremacy. After the conquest of Yue, Fu Chai, the King of Wu, imprisoned Gou Jian, the king of Yue and made him a horse keeper.

Back from his imprisonment, King Gou Jian slept on brushwood and tasted gall before each meal to remind himself of the humiliation he and his state had suffered. He wanted revenge. His ministers Fan Li and Wen Zhong recommended that they be fully prepared before any attempt for a retaliation. Wen Zhong suggested eight strategies to Gou Jian. One of them was to use sex as a weapon against the lascivious king of Wu.

Gou Jian commissioned his Prime Minister Fan Li to search for beautiful women, to send as a tribute to King Fu chai of Wu. Xishi and Zheng Dan were selected for the mission. Prime Minister Fan Li escorted them to the state of Wu.

They bribed their way to the court of Fu Chai. Bewitched by the beauty of Xi Shi and Zheng Dan, Fu Chai forgot all about his state affairs and alienated himself from his loyal Prime Minister Wu Zixu, who was against his taking the two concubines. Eventually, Xi Shi and Zheng Dan gave Fu Chai enough reasons to question Wu Zixu’s loyalty and him killed with his own sword....

Text and translation by Haiwang Yuan, © copyright 2003
Last update: October 4, 2003

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