Soul of China

For the love of children

In 265 B.C., during the Warring States Period, Xiao Cheng Wang (孝成王) ascended the throne in the state of Zhao (趙). But it was his mother, Zhao Tai Hou (趙太后) or the Empress Dowager, who was the real power behind the throne.

Qin (秦), the strongest state then, took advantage of the situation and dispatched troops to attack Zhao. To counter the attack, Zhao turned to the state of Qi (齊) for help.

As a condition for coming to Zhao’s aid, Qi insisted that Zhao Tai Hou’s youngest son, Chang An Jun (長安君), serve as its hostage.

It so happened that Chang An Jun was the Empress Dowager’s favorite son. Letting him become Qi’s hostage was out of the question. Zhao Tai Hou threatened to spit on the face of whoever dared suggest the matter. But an old official by the name of Chu Long (觸龍) did just that, albeit subtly.

One day he called on Zhao Tai Hou under the guise of paying respect. After an exchange of conversational greetings, Chu Long explained to the Empress Dowager that for the love of children, one must see to it that they can render outstanding contribution to the state from a long-term point of view. Pulling them back in the name of love would in fact be doing them damage, he said.

Zhao Tai Hou finally saw reason and acceded to Qi’s demand. On her orders, Chan An Jun traveled east to Qi.

When Chang An Jun arrived at his destination, Qi immediately sent troops to help Zhao force the Qin army into retreat. Thus was resolved the crisis of the state of Zhao. — First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 29, nos. 1-2 (June 21-July 4, 2016): 5.