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Gao Jianli (Chinese: 高漸離) was a citizen of Yan, a Chinese state during the Warring States period, and a player of the lute (a stringed musical instrument played with a thin stick). After Jing Ke was killed in his assassination attempt on Qin Shi Huang, Gao changed his name and became an assistant in a wine shop as Qin Shi Huang retaliated against all friends of Jing Ke. As the work was strenuous, Gao would often pace around the house of the owner of the wine shop listening to the guests playing the lute in the owner's house. He would comment about the playing until one day when someone told the owner what Gao said about his guests' skills in playing the lute.
The owner asked Gao to play for him and his skill in music won him the heart of the owner. Qin Shi Huang heard about the event and decided to summon Gao to play for him. Someone recognised Gao and told Qin Shi Huang about his real identity. Because of his love of music, Qin Shi Huang decided to pardon Gao but not before having him blinded.
The skill of Gao won him praises from Qin Shi Huang and after a few performances the Emperor relaxed the guarding of Gao, who began to move nearer and nearer to him. Gao sensed the change and secretly hid pieces of lead in the instrument. When the Emperor was within striking distance, Gao aimed a blow, but missed. Gao was subsequently executed and Qin Shi Huang stopped being close to people from the other states.
Depiction in films and TV series
- 1996 – The Emperor's Shadow (秦颂; literally "Ode of Qin" or "Anthem of Qin"). Directed by Zhou Xiaowen, starring Ge You as Gao Jianli.
- 1999 – The Emperor and the Assassin (荊柯刺秦王). Directed by Chen Kaige, starring Zhao Benshan as Gao Jianli.
- 2004 – Assassinator Jing Ke (荊軻傳奇). Executive producer Han Sanping, starring Peter Ho as Gao Jianli, Liu Ye as Jing Ke.
- 2007 – The Legend of Qin (animated TV series) Animation
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