Of the two, Duke Huan was certainly the most tragic figure. Despite his early success in transforming Qi into a veritable superpower and repelling foreign invaders who threatened the Zhou kingdom, he left the state in just as chaotic a mess as when he assumed the throne. While his corpse lay rotting in his bed chamber, his six sons from six different mothers fought each other for his throne. Even though the duke’s intended successor Zhao finally triumphed, the damage caused by the power struggle meant that Qi was never again able to regain the preeminent position that it rose to under the duke and Guan Zhong.
In contrast, Duke Wen left his state in a strong position to expand its influence for many decades to come. Perhaps the duke’s much shorter reign proved to be a blessing in disguise because it enabled him to avoid the family schisms that plagued the latter part of Duke Huan’s longer period of rule.
Analects Book 14: Confucius delivers his verdict on Duke Wen of Jin
Analects Book 14: gruesome tales about Duke Huan of Qi and Duke Wen of Jin
Spring and Autumn period elite overproduction: perils and tropes
Spring and Autumn period elite family feuds: exile, fratricide, and regicide
I am taking advantage of the Lunar New Year holiday to fill in the gaps I left in my analysis of Analects Book 13, starting with a look at the sage’s wisdom on effective governance:
Happy Lunar New Year of the Ox!
I took this image on the Four Beasts Trail just outside Taipei.