Stories from Ancient China: King Mu of the Qin State Wins Respect with Virtue

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The virtuous ancient Chinese rulers cared for the people like they would their own children. King Mu of the Qin State during the Warring States period set a very good example of this.

In the twelfth year of his reign, the King Hui of the Jin State sent a messenger to the Qin State asking for food as humanitarian aid, because the Jin State was suffering from a severe drought. One of King Mu’s royal advisors advised him not to oblige, and recommended he take advantage of Jin’s drought and attack the Jin State. King Mu turned and asked the opinion of another royal advisor, who said, “All countries suffer from droughts and famines at some time, how can we turn away at a time like this?” Next, the King Mu turned to Baili Xi, who said, “King Hui of the Jin State has offended you, but his people have done nothing to you.” King Mu immediately decided to send food to the Jin State. In fact, King Mu sent such a large supply of food relief that by the time the first food wagon arrived at the outer wall of the Hui State, the last wagon had barely exited the outer wall of the Qin State.

Two years later, the Qin State suffered from drought. King Mu sent a messenger to the Jin State asking for food. King Hui of Jin not only rejected the request, but also took the opportunity to attack the Qin State.

In the following year, the military forces of the two states directly led by the two kings battled in the Han region (today’s eastern Shanxi Province and northwestern Henan Province). King Mu was injured in the battle, and the Jin’s forces surrounded him. The king was in mortal danger. At this pivotal moment, some three hundred residents from the foot of Mount Qi roared in on horseback and rescued the Qin’s forces from the Jin’s siege. These people literally blocked the Jin’s blades from King Mu with their own bodies so that King Mu could escape. In the end, King Mu not only escaped from the siege, but also captured King Hui alive.

Why were these people from Mount Qi willing to sacrifice their lives for King Mu? Some years back, King Mu of the Qin State lost a few prized horses. The three hundred residents at the foot of Mount Qi found and captured those fine horses, and consumed the meat. The law enforcement officers of the Qin State discovered their crime, arrested all of them, and were ready to administer the most severe punishments for eating the King’s horses. But King Mu announced, “A true gentleman would never punish people on the account of a few animals. By the way, I heard that eating the meat of good horses without wine is harmful to one’s body.” He released all three hundred of them, and then sent them wine too.

These three hundred people sacrificed their lives to rescue King Mu from the siege to repay him for not slaying them for their previous crime.

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