Bai Qi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Bai Qi
Bai Qi.jpg
A Ming dynasty portrait of Bai Qi
BornUnknown, c. 332 BC
Died257 BC

Bai Qi (Chinese: 白起; c. 332 BC - 257 BC), also known as Gongsun Qi,[1] was a military general of the Qin state in the Warring States period of China. Born in Mei (present-day Mei County, Shaanxi), Bai Qi served as commander of the Qin army for more than 30 years, being responsible for the deaths of over one million,[2] earning him the nickname Ren Tu (人屠, human butcher). According to the Shiji, he seized more than 73 cities from the other six Warring States in the Warring States Period and to date no record has been found to show that he suffered a single defeat throughout his military career. He was named by Chinese historians as one of the four greatest generals of the Warring States period, along with Li Mu, Wang Jian, and Lian Po.[3]


He was promoted from Zuo Shu Zhang (左庶長, Vice Prime Minister of Qin) to Da Liang Zao (大良造, Prime Minister of Qin) by King Zhaoxiang of Qin. He had commanded wars against the states of Han, Wei, Zhao and Chu, seizing large areas of territory. In 278 BC, he led the Qin army to capture Ying, the capital city of Chu.[4] As a reward, he was given the title Lord Wu'an (武安君, literally: Lord of Martial Peace).

During the Battle of Changping in 260 BC, he succeeded Wang He as the commander of the Qin army, and soon defeated the Zhao army commanded by Zhao Kuo. The Zhao army was split into two parts and its supply lines and retreat route cut off by Bai Qi. More than 400,000 Zhao soldiers, including the Shangdang people who surrendered after Zhao Kuo was shot dead by Qin archers, were slain (坑殺, buried alive) on the orders of Bai Qi.[5]

Bai Qi wanted to end Zhao once and for all, as the Zhao troops were psychologically affected by the Battle of Changping. But the prime minister of Qin, Fan Sui (范睢, or Fan Ju, 范雎), who was persuaded by a talker from Zhao, feared Bai Qi's rising power, and recommended the king stop the attack on the pretext that the Qin troops ought to be rested and to accept a ceded territory negotiation.[6] Bai Qi stopped the attack; on his return journey to the State of Qin, he fell ill.

According to the Shiji, in the year 257 BC, Qin started to besiege Handan, the capital of Zhao. Because Bai Qi was ill, the Qin king used another prominent general, Wang Ling (王陵), who subsequently lost the battle. After about four months, when Bai Qi seemed to have recovered, the king asked Bai Qi to return to his post as commander, but Bai Qi held a different opinion, he argued that Qin no longer had enough resources for such a long-range war, and the other states would soon attack Qin since Qin had been contrary to the negotiation. However, the king insisted on continuing the attack. Bai Qi refused the king's command, using his illness as an excuse. The king, therefore, had to use Wang He (王齕), another prominent Qin general, instead of Bai Qi, as the commander.[7]

This decision did not help the Qin army in the battle at all. Chu and Wei soon sent troops to assist Zhao. After more than five months of continuous defeat at Handan, Qin had suffered major losses. The king asked Bai Qi to become commander again. Bai Qi once more used his illness to refuse the request. In Zhan Guo Ce, his true intentions were revealed when he stated that he would rather be executed for refusing the King's order, than lose his long undefeated fame on the battlefield. Having been refused several times, the King became angry, removed all titles from Bai Qi, and forced him to leave Xianyang, the Qin capital. In addition, Fan Sui persuaded the King of Qin that Bai Qi would join another state as a general and become a threat to the State of Qin. Convinced by Fan Sui's information, the King of Qin then forced Bai Qi to commit suicide in Duyou (杜邮).[8] Before he committed suicide, Bai Qi stated that he deserved a tragic ending, due to having killed so many people.[9]


Bai Qi sometimes appears as a door god on Chinese and Taoist temples, usually paired with Li Mu.

He is noted in Chinese history as a symbol of brutality rather than for his military talent. The traditional Tofu dish of Gaoping,[10] today's Changping, called Bai Qi meat is well known. Some stories have been written about Bai Qi suffering for his brutal actions, such as one mentioned in Chronicles of the Eastern Zhou Kingdoms, which says that an ox with two Chinese characters, 'Bai Qi', tattooed on its back was executed by lightning in Tang Dynasty.

Human remains used to and still continue to be found at the site of the Battle of Changping around Gaoping. The Emperor Xuanzong of Tang once decided to dedicate a temple over a collection of the remains there.[11][12]

Bai Qi is one of the 32 historical figures who appear as special characters in the video game Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI by Koei. He has the highest military leadership statistics of all the characters. Bai Qi, also known by the Japanese reading of his name "Haku Ki", is the leader of the Six Generals of Qin in the manga series Kingdom. Bai Qi appears in Gate of Revelation, a Chinese modern fantasy novel.

Battles commanded[edit]

  • 293 BCE Battle of Yique. Killed 240,000 State of Wei and State of Han troops.
  • 272 BCE Besieged a Wei Fortress and killed 130,000 Wei soldiers. He then killed a further 20,000 Zhao soldiers and threw them into a river.
  • 263 BCE Sieged 5 Han fortresses and killed 50,000 Han soldiers.
  • 260 BCE Battle of Changping. Defeated the State of Zhao in battle and killed all surrendered Zhao soldiers except for 240 men in order to inform Zhao. Total Zhao losses about 450,000 men.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Strategies of the Warring States.
  2. ^ "How many people had Bai Qi killed".
  3. ^ Thousand-Character Classic.
  4. ^ Hawkes, 162
  5. ^ Sima, Qian. The Grand Historian.
  6. ^ "Minister Fan Ju".
  7. ^ Sima, Qian. The Grand Historian.
  8. ^ Sima, Qian. The Grand Historian.
  9. ^ "An Exceptional Marshal and God of War - Bai Qi".
  10. ^ 就是俺们这里的:高平烧豆腐
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ "Battlefield of Changping".


  • Hawkes, David, translator and introduction (2011 [1985]). Qu Yuan et al., The Songs of the South: An Ancient Chinese Anthology of Poems by Qu Yuan and Other Poets. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-044375-2

Further reference[edit]

  • (in Chinese) 西汉, 司馬遷.史記 卷七十三 白起王翦列傳(Western Han Dynasty, Sima Qian, Biography of Wang Jian and Bai Qi, Volume 73 of Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji)
  • (in Chinese) 清, 蔡元放. 東周列國志(Qing dynasty, Cai Yuanfang. Records of the states during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty

External links[edit]