Ji Wusheng (757-701 B.C.), later known as Duke Zhuang of Zheng, was born to be the ruler of the State of Zheng during the Spring and Autumn Period in China. His mother suffered a great deal in giving birth to him as it was a breech birth. She was frightened and disturbed by the experience and could not get over it.
However, when his younger brother was born, things went very smoothly. As a result, his mother always preferred his brother to him. Later, when his father was seriously ill and he ascended the throne to become Duke Zhuang, his mother attempted to disown him. She was insistent that his younger brother should become the new ruler, but her scheming failed.
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After he became Duke of Zheng, his mother asked him to confer the city of Duan on his younger brother. His chancellor advised against it, saying: “Duan is larger than the capital. By law, it should not be awarded to another.” Eventually, Duke Zhuang gave it to his brother. Once his brother arrived in Duan, he secretly recruited soldiers, raised horses, and built up a strong military. Then years later, with the support of his mother, Duke Zhuang’s brother rebelled and sent troops to attack the Duke, planning to overthrow him.
Duke Zhuang defeated the rebels and his brother fled. Duke Zhuang was so angry at his mother that he exiled her far away to a border city called Yingcheng and vowed: “We won’t meet again until we are both under the ground!” But soon, the Duke began to miss his mother and regretted his vow.
Yingshu, the magistrate of the city of Yingcheng, came to the Capital to offer tribute. Duke Zhuang met him and gifted him with wine and meat in return. Yingshu said: “I have an elderly mother at home. Please allow me to bring this wine and meat back to Yingcheng to give her. Duke Zhuang said: “I miss my own mother very much, but when I sent her to Yingcheng, I vowed not to meet her again until we were both under the ground. What should I do?” Yingshu said: “It’s easy! Just dig out an underground tunnel, and then you can meet each other in the tunnel. This way you won’t break your vow, right?” Duke Zhuang took Yingshu’s suggestion. He had people dig an underground tunnel and then entered the tunnel and happily met his mother. Mother and son were finally reconciled.
Out of love for his mother, Duke Zhuang found a way to resolve their family discord. Having fulfilled his duty to her, he went on to focus all his attention on governing Zheng with peace of mind. The state quickly became a powerful leader in China at that time.
Translated by Jean Chen and edited by Helen