Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Jian of Qi

Duke Jian (齊簡公) was the ruler of the powerful but volatile state of Qi for just three years, from 484 to 481 BCE. The duke’s short reign was consumed by a vicious power struggle with Chen Heng (陳恒), a high ranking official and the head of the Chen Family who was fighting for complete control of the state.

When Chen Heng learned that Duke Jian and his chief minister Kan Zhi (闞止) were planning to expel him and the rest of his family from Qi, he had both of them killed in a violent coup d’état.

Although Chen Heng installed the duke’s younger brother Ao (公子驁) as his successor, the death of Duke Jian marked the beginning of the end of over six centuries of hereditary rule over Qi by his family and the start of the Chen Family’s usurpation of the throne.

Chen Heng had probably also killed the duke’s father, Duke Dao (齊悼公), as the first major step in his relentless rise to power. Duke Dao’s reign was only a little longer than his son’s, lasting just four years.

Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 14, Chapter 21

Book 14
Chapter 21
Chen Chengzi assassinated Duke Jian of Qi. Confucius took a bath and went to court, where he told Duke Ai of Lu: “Chen Heng murdered his ruler. Please punish him.” The Duke said: “Report this to the three lords.” Confucius said: “As a former official myself, I had no choice but to make this report. Yet my lord has only said, “Report this to the three lords.’” He went and made his report to the three lords. They refused to intervene. Confucius said: “As a former official myself, I had no choice but to make this report.”

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