King Ling of Chu

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Xiong Wei
King of Chu
Reign 540–529 BC
Full name
Posthumous name
King Ling of Chu
King Ling of Chu
Traditional Chinese 楚靈王
Simplified Chinese 楚灵王

King Ling of Chu was king of the State of Chu between 540 and 529 BC. His birth name was Xiong Wei (熊圍) and before ascending the throne he was known as Prince Wei (公子圍).

Taking the throne[edit]

Wei was the second son of King Gong of Chu, younger brother of King Kang of Chu and uncle of Jia'ao. When Jia'ao took the throne, Wei served as prime minister and always behaved as if he himself were king. By then he had married someone from the Feng clan from the State of Zheng. Taking advantage of Jia'ao's sickness, Wei finally murdered Jia'ao along with his two sons. He buried Jia'ao at Jia, thus making the placename the style for the late young king. Wei took the throne himself and changed his personal name to Xiong Qian (熊虔).[1] In the wake of his regicide, two of his younger brothers, Bi and Heigong ran off in fear for their lives.

As King Ling did not get the throne in a legal way, he was eager to gain fame among other lords. At that time, Qing Feng, former prime minister of Qi and one of the murderers of Duke Zhuang II of Qi, had taken refuge in the State of Wu where the king of Wu had placed him in Zhufang. King Ling sacked Zhufang, captured Qing Feng and killed all the Qing family. In the face of other lords, he ordered Qing Feng say, "Never follow the example of Qing Feng, who murdered his duke, bullied the people and threatened other ministers to get them to support him." But Qing Feng rebuffed the king, saying, "Never follow the example of Prince Wei of Chu, who murdered the king who was son of his elder brother and threatens other lords in order to gain their support." King Ling was so ashamed that he immediately ordered Qing Feng executed.

In his third year after taking the throne, King Ling tried to gather lords at Shen (in the State of Chu), but he was disappointed. In 534 BC, the State of Chen suffered internal disorder. Duke Ai of Chen favored his second son Liu rather than his legal heir Yanshi, so he asked his younger brothers Zhao and Guo to ensure that Yanshi would pass the throne to Liu in the future. But Zhao and Guo knew that Yanshi would rather pass the throne to his own grown son, Wu. So they planned an assassination and killed Yanshi, which also led to the death of Duke Ai, who was too regretful to hear this. Zhao and Guo installed Liu as the new marquis of Chen, so Wu and Sheng, the youngest son of Duke Ai, went to King Ling for help. King Ling soon conquered Chen. Liu fled whilst Zhao killed Guo and attributed the blame to Guo. Instead of installing Wu as the new marquis, King Ling made Chen a prefecture of Chu, destroyed its ancestral temple and took Wu back to Chu. He then appointed a general named Chuan Fengshu (穿封戍) Duke of Chen.

In 531 BC, King Ling tricked Marquis Ling of Cai into a party and captured him, blamed him for killing his own father (Marquis Jing of Cai) and executed him. What was more, he ordered his youngest brother Prince Qiji to attack the State of Cai. Other lords tried to mediate, but their attempts were finally in vain. Eventually Qiji sacked Cai and captured the heir to Cai named You. In order to show worship to the gods King Ling ordered You executed. Qiji was made Duke of Cai.

Later, after becoming frustrated by Wu troops, King Ling built a grand palace to enjoy himself. The palace was named Zhanghua Palace and possessed a high terrace. He also conquered some other minor states and had their people resettled.

He considered the family of his consort too humble for a queen so instead sought marriage to a high born woman from the State of Jin. King Ling subsequently installed a new wife from Jin as his queen.

Downfall[edit]

In winter 529 BC, King Ling set off attacking the State of Xu and settled at Qianxi. Once he was almost persuaded to withdraw, but soon his generals reported some victorious news, which made King Ling too confident about sacking Xu to withdraw.

While King Ling was away, Chu suddenly suffered a coup. Qiji decided to unite his elder brothers Bi and Heigong as well as the people of Chen and Cai. Chuan Fengshu, who had died right then, would never stop them. Qiji led his troops to Ying and sacked it. The prime minister Wei Pi committed suicide and the two sons of King Ling, Crown Prince Lu zh:太子禄 and Prince Pidi, were killed by Qiji. Prince Bi was installed on the throne, to be posthumously known as Zi'ao.

Death[edit]

After storing King Zi'ao, the rebellions informed the soldiers of King Ling, "If you surrender to the new king, all your current posts and lands would remain; otherwise, you would face severe penalty." As soon as the message spread, most of the soldiers scattered, leaving only hundreds with King Ling. King Ling was mourningful for the death of his sons, but when a servant said that was because the king had murdered too many sons of others, King Ling stopped weeping.

A loyal minister Zheng Dan tried to make some advice for King Ling, but King Ling knew that he could do nothing helpful now. Finally Zheng Dan went to the rebellions and told them about the condition of the now-sorehead king.

King Ling was eventually left alone. The rebellions threatened the people not to provide food or residence to him, so the king became starved. Fortunately there was still someone glad to settle him. The kind man named Shen Hai was the son of a late minister named Shen Wuyu. Shen Wuyu had offended King Ling twice, but the violent King Ling never punished him, so Wuyu told his son to pay a debt of gratitude to the king. Shen Hai led King Ling home, provided a meal for him and asked his two daughters to serve him. But King Ling was too sad to make love with the young girls, instead, he kept crying all night. At midnight, Shen Hai was told that the king had already committed suicide. Hai buried King Ling and killed his two daughters as sacrificial objects.

However, the rebellions did not inform the death of the king at the first time. Convinced by his advisors, Qiji cheated that King Ling was leading his troops back, successfully cheated King Zi ao and Heigong into suicide. Now, as all his elder brothers having died, Qiji became the new king as King Ping of Chu. While ignorant of the condition of King Ling, King Ping once found a corpse and claimed it the corpse of King Ling. Later Shen Hai told him the actual burial of King Ling. King Ping reburied his elder brother in the ritual of a king and styled him as King Ling.

Assessment[edit]

King Ling was thought to be an ambitious but violent ruler. After he took power, some innocent ministers such as Wei Yan, Bo Zhouli and Qu Shen were executed. However, King Ling did have some strengths. Chuan Fengshu once threatened his life while arguing about events at the time of King Kang of Zhou (reigned 1020-996 BC) involving his ancestor Xiong Yi, but King Ling installed him as a duke instead of taking revenge. When he captured loyal ministers from his enemies, he seldom had them executed. Instead, he would release them, even recruiting them as his own ministers. In fact, some advisors for King Ping were just the former ministers of Cai recruited by King Ling. While attacking Xu, he had once expressed his admiration of a good historian named Yi Xiang, referred to him as "A good historian" and asked Zheng Dan to respect him.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Du Yu, Commentary on the Zuozhuan – First Year of Duke Zhao of Lu
King Ling of Chu
Died: 529 BC
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Jia'ao
King of Chu
540–529 BC
Succeeded by
Zi'ao