Duke Ling of Wei

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Duke Ling of Wei
Duke Ling of Wey (衞靈公). Lacquer painting over wood, Northern Wei.jpg
Duke Ling of Wey (left at the bottom) with his wife.
Duke of Wei
SuccessorDuke Chu of Wei
IssuePrince Kuai Kui, father of Duke Chu
FatherDuke Xiang of Wei
MotherChou E (婤姶), concubine of Duke Xiang of Wei

Duke Ling of Wei (衛靈公) (c. 534 — 492 BC) was the 28th ruler of the ancient Chinese state of Wei, the son of Duke Xiang of Wei. He was the subject of Chapter 15 of the Analects of Confucius. His given name was Yuan.


Duke Ling was a son of Duke Xiang of Wei and his low-ranking concubine. Duke Ling’s wife was Duchess Nanzi,[1][2] whilst his son was Prince Kuai Kui (蒯聵).[3] Duke Ling was succeeded by his grandson Duke Chu of Wei, son of Kuai Kui.


When Duke Xiang of Wei passed away, he did not specify an heir apparent. Lord Kong Zhengchi consulted the oracles of I Ching and Shu Feng of Kang's mandate in order to choose an heir of the state of Wey. The oracles and the spirit of Shu Feng favored prince Yuan, the second son of Duke Xiang. According to the religious convention, Kong Zhengchi decided to enthrone prince Yuan as the next Duke of Wey. In 535 BCE, Yuan succeeded the title of duke(Gong). [4]

In 522 BCE, Duke Ling was forced to flee to Siniao due to a sudden rebellion of his retainer Qi Bao, Beigong Xi, and Chu Shipu. In Siniao, Duke Ling received an envoy from the state of Qi(the state was not related to Qi Bao), when receiving the envoy, he admitted that he was not an apt ruler. Later, Qi Bao was assassinated by lord Beigong Xi's retainer who did not know his own lord was allied with Qi. After Qi's death, Duke Ling returned to Diqiu; the capital city of Wey. He did not punish Beigong Xi for plotting against him.

Qi Bao's rebellion was caused by Duke Ling's elder brother Gongmeng Zhi who abused his power as a prince. Zhi deprived Qi of his land and gave him orders arrogantly. Qi was humiliated by Gongmeng Zhi and thus resorted to a rebellion.[5]

Duke Ling's elder son prince Kuaikui attempted to murder his mother Duchess Nanzi. The plan was not successful, Kuaikui fled to Jin to seek asylum. However, Kuaikui's son Zhe stayed in Wey.

In 493 BCE, Duke Ling died after 42 years of rule. Duchess Nanzi wanted to enthrone prince Ying but Ying refused the proposition. Instead, Ying recommended his brother Kuaikui's son Zhe as the heir apparent. Consequently, Zhe succeeded Duke Ling and was known as Duke Chu of Wey.[6]

Duke Ling and Mizi Xia[edit]

Duke Ling was one of the most famous representatives of the homosexual tradition in China, as portrayed in the philosophic work Han Fei Zi by Han Fei. In the chapter of Shuonan(說難)[7], Duke Ling favors a courtier named Mizi Xia, whom he allows to use the ducal carriage without permission, and whom he admires for handing over the remainder of an especially delicious peach.[8] Han Fei records that once Mizi Xia's looks faded, however, the Duke turned against his former lover, accusing him of stealing the carriage and of degrading the Duke by giving him a half-eaten peach. This story was so widespread amongst the literati of China that the phrase "the bitten peach" became a byword for homosexuality.[9]

In media[edit]

Duke Ling is played by Bi Yanjun in the biographical fantasy adventure drama film Confucius.


  1. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, A. D. Stefanowska, Sue Wiles. Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women: Antiquity through Sui, 1600 B.C.E. - 618 C.E., p. 53, at Google Books 2007.
  2. ^ The Authentic Confucius: A Life of Thought and Politics by Annping Chin
  3. ^ Page 69, Analects
  4. ^ Zuo Zhuan, Duke Zhao, 7th year of.
  5. ^ Zuo Zhuan, Duke Zhao, 20th year of
  6. ^ Zuo Zhuan, Duke Ai, 2nd year of.
  7. ^ Han Feizi. Shanghai Guji Press. 1989. ISBN 9787532506101.
  8. ^ The Homosexual Tradition in China: Selections from Chinese Homosexual Literature
  9. ^ Hinsch, Bret. (1990). Passions of the Cut Sleeve. Published by the University of California Press. Pages 20-21.