Duke Huan of Qi

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For the later Duke Huan of Qi from the House of Tian, see Duke Huan of Tian Qi.
Duke Huan of Qi
Duke Huan of Qi and Guan Zhong
Ruler of Qi
Reign 685–643 BC
Predecessor Wuzhi
Successor Wukui
Died 7 October 643 BC
Spouse Lady of Wei
Issue Wukui
Duke Xiao of Qi
Duke Zhao of Qi
Duke Yì of Qi
Duke Hui of Qi
Full name
Ancestral name: Jiang (姜)
Clan name: Lü (呂)
Given name: Xiaobai (小白)
House House of Jiang
Father Duke Xi of Qi

Duke Huan of Qi (Chinese: 齊桓公; pinyin: Qí Huán Gōng; died 643 BC) was a powerful Hegemon, who rose to be a major regional power from his headquarters in the State of Qi, toward the end of the early phase of the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China, which began after the sack of the Western Zhou capital in BCE 771, and ended with his death. He is listed as one of the "Five Hegemons". His ancestral name was Jiang (姜), clan name Lǚ (呂), and given name Xiǎobái (小白).

Duke Huan was a younger brother of Duke Xiang of Qi, who was murdered by his cousin Wuzhi who usurped the throne. Wuzhi was soon killed himself. Xiaobai's elder brother Prince Jiu, who was in the State of Lu, was supposed to be the heir and had gained support from Duke Zhuang of Lu, and Guan Zhong, who was initially teacher of Jiu, shot an arrow at Xiaobai who was on his way back to Qi from the State of Ju. Xiaobai pretended to be dead and managed to arrive in Qi earlier than Jiu and take the throne after the ministers were persuaded by Bao Shuya. This angered Duke Zhuang of Lu and he started a fight against Qi for Jiu at Qianshi (乾时), but was defeated by Qi troops and even some of his own territory in Wenyang (汶阳) was possessed. Seeing Duke Huan was steady at his throne, Duke Zhuang of Lu killed Jiu in order to make peace. Duke Huan was the Marquis of Qi from 685 BC until his death; under this period the State of Qi reached its zenith, and the Duke himself was elected to be one of the Five Hegemons.

At the start of his reign and on the advice of his trusted retainer Bao Shuya Lord Huan appointed Guan Zhong, an outstanding politician, to be his Prime Minister. Under Guan Zhong's reforms, Qi became the strongest state of the time, allowing Lord Huan to make a greater impact outside his state. Under the slogan of "respecting the king and defending against the barbarian" (尊王攘夷, pinyin: zūnwáng rǎngyí), Lord Huan was recognized the Hegemon by other states. He helped the states of Yan, Xing and Wey against barbarian troops. He also called on some states to attack the state of Chu in order to ‘defend the honor of the king’.

The slogan 'Respecting the king and defending against the barbarian' was much later revived by the Japanese at the time of the Meiji restoration.

An incident is recorded in the chapter Xiaocheng (小稱) of the book Guanzi (管子):

Yi Ya (易牙) served the Lord (公) Huan of Qi with his culinary talent. The lord said, "the only thing which I have yet to taste is steamed infant." Then, Yi Ya steamed his first-born and offered him to the lord.
(in Classical Chinese: 夫易牙以調和事公。公曰:「惟蒸嬰兒之未嘗。」於是蒸其首子而獻之公。)

Upon Guan Zhong's deathbed, Duke Huan of Qi approached him to discuss whom he should appoint as his next prime minister. Guan Zhong strongly discouraged allowing Tang Wu, Yi Ya, Shu Diao, and Gongzi Kaifang to stay, but Duke Huan only sent them away for a few months. After calling them back those four secretly staged a coup, locking Duke Huan in his room and making the outside world believe they were relaying his orders. One day one of his wives got in through a small hole and found out that the ministers had been starving the Duke to death. After he died in 643 BC, his sons fought each other for the throne, and his corpse was not buried for 67 days. It was so badly decomposed that worms crawled out of his room. (Guanzi, Xiaocheng chapter. Alan Rickett's translation, p. 428-32.)

Other versions of this story also exist, some in the Guanzi, others in a variety of sources such as the Huainanzi, Annals of Lü Buwei, and Han Feizi. For example, the story from the Annals of Lü Buwei says that the Duke waited three years to recall his ministers after Guan Zhong's death.



Duke Huan of Qi
Died: 643 BC
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Duke of Qi
685–643 BC
Succeeded by