Four Lords of The Warring States

Credits to SuryaNaga
Four Lords of The Warring States

The Four Lords of the Warring States is a common term that refers to the four famous regional aristocrat of the late Chinese Warring States period. All four of these prominent nobles were renowned for their activity in the politics of their era as well as being the persona of their state respectively at the time; they also wielded influence via the cultivation and housing of many talented house-guests, which often included learned men and tacticians. As such, they came to be the most prominent patrons of the shi scholar-knights, stimulating the intellectual life of the time.

Their prestige became the inspiration for Lü Buwei in creating his academic analogue in Qin.

Lord Mengchang of Qi

Clan Name: Tian 田

Personal Name: Wen 文

He was born as Tian Wen, son of Tian Ying and grandson of King Wei of Qi. He succeeded to his father’s fief in Xue. Lord Mengchang is well known for the size of his entourage. According to the Records of the Grand Historian, he had up to three thousand people in his retinue. His father already had over 40 children by the time he was born and was prepared to let him to starve to death because he was born in the fifth month of the lunar calendar, which was considered a bad omen. Tian Wen was secretly brought up by his mother.

When he grew up, his mother took him to visit his father. His father angrily asked his mother, “I told you to kill this son, but you raised him. What is your reason?” Tian Wen bowed and asked, “Why does my lord not want to raise a son born in May?” Tian Ying replied, “When a son born in the fifth month grows to the door’s height, he’ll be a detriment to his parents.” Tian Wen asked, “A man’s fate is decided by Heaven or the height of the door?” Tian Ying does not have an answer. Tian Wen said, “If my lord’s fate is decided by Heaven, there is no reason to worry. If my lord’s fate is decided by the height of the door, then my lord can raise the height of the door so I cannot grow to its height.” Tian Ying then allowed Tian Wen to stay.

One day, the young Tian Wen warned his father that although their lives had dramatically improved over the years, the family clan was in a short supply of intelligent counselors. Tian Wen said “Father has been in charge of this clan during three kings’ reigns. Today, we have over 10,000 ounces of gold, but we can’t even find an intelligent person in the staff. I heard that Military Families have generals to train them the art of war. Administrative families have chancellors to teach them the way to become a good ruler. But all you have are wives with unlimited amount of clothes and servants with excess food in their mouths; our advisers are left out in the cold without anything. Father only believes in how to save up more and can not even name all your advisers. We are losing ground in these dangerous days. I dare to wonder at this.”

In 299 BC, Lord Mengchang was sent to Qin on an official journey. King Zhaoxiang had heard so much about the young lord that he wanted to appoint him as the new Chancellor of Qin. However, King Zhaoxiang was warned by his ministers that Lord Mengchang was still loyal to his homeland of Qi, and soon put Lord Mengchang under house arrest.Desperate, Lord Mengchang sent a messenger to the king of Qin’s beloved concubine for help. In exchange for her aid, the woman asked for the snow foxfur coat which Lord Mengchang had already given to the king as a gift when he first arrived in Qin. It was worth a thousand pieces of gold and there was not its like anywhere. King Zhaoxiang kept it in the royal treasury. One of Lord Mengchang’s entourage in Qin was a skilled thief. He disguised himself as a dog and sneaked into the treasury under cover of darkness and retrieved the coat. Within two days, Lord Mengchang was released thanks to the pleas of the concubine. Lord Mengchang hired a chariot, forged his documents and dashed to the borders. By midnight of the next day, he had reached Hangu Pass– the last checkpoint of Qin before entering the territories of Qi. King Zhaoxiang had immediately regretted letting Lord Mengchang go and a small army was chasing him to bring him back. The guards at Hangu Pass would not let anyone pass through until the cock-crow at dawn. Lord Mengchang turned to his entourage for help. One of his aides could imitate all types of sounds. He crowed like a rooster, and this woke up the rest of the roosters. Not knowing that Lord Mengchang was being hunted, the guards at the pass then allowed Lord Mengchang and his entourage to enter Qi territory to safety.

Out of guilt, the King Xuan of Qi appointed Lord Mengchang as the Chancellor of Qi after his return. Because his experience in Qin, the new chancellor was gathering allies and asking neighboring countries like Wei and Han to return past favors and prepare for war against Qin. His adviser warned him of growing power of Qi’s neighboring lands, which would eventually be dangerous for Qi if Qin were not in the equation. Instead, the adviser told the chancellor that it was in the interest of Qi to allow Qin to grow in power. This would maintain the balance of power against Han and Wei so they would still rely heavily on Qi, the most powerful of the three states.The chancellor agreed and proceeded as planned. As his adviser predicted, King Zhaoxiang gave Qi the land and not a single drop of blood was shed among the four states. (However, King Huai was not allowed to return home to Chu. He died in Qin.)

King Min of Qi (r. 323-284) made him his Counselor-in-chief, and Lord Mengchang was able to persuade the rulers of Han, Wei, Zhao and Chu to unite in an alliance against the common enemy of Qin. Later on he fell into disgrace because of he was wrongly associated with Tian Jia’s attempted usurpation, and withdrew to his manor in Xue. After some ups and downs, the king despised him so much that he had to flee to the state of Wei, where he was even welcomed as Counselor-in-chief. Lord Mengchang took revenge and managed to direct a joint army of Qin, Zhao, Wei and Yan against Qi. The alliance army under Yue Yi successfully destroyed Qi. Only with the accession of King Xiang of Qi (r. 283-265) the discrepancies with the crown were cleared. He remained, nevertheless, in Wei, where he eventually died.

Source: &…gchangjun.html

King Min of Qi (r. 323-284) made him his Counselor-in-chief, and Lord Mengchang was able to persuade the rulers of Han, Wei, Zhao and Chu to unite in an alliance against the common enemy of Qin. Later on he fell into disgrace because of he was wrongly associated with Tian Jia’s attempted usurpation, and withdrew to his manor in Xue. After some ups and downs, the king despised him so much that he had to flee to the state of Wei, where he was even welcomed as Counselor-in-chief. Lord Mengchang took revenge and managed to direct a joint army of Qin, Zhao, Wei and Yan against Qi. The alliance army under Yue Yi successfully destroyed Qi. Only with the accession of King Xiang of Qi (r. 283-265) the discrepancies with the crown were cleared. He remained, nevertheless, in Wei, where he eventually died.

Source: &…gchangjun.html

Lord Chunshen (Shunshinkun)

Clan Name : Huang 黃

Personal Name : Xie 歇

Image: Lord Chunshen

Lord Chunshen in Kingdom guidebook 2

Lord Chunshen (d. 238 BCE), was a high minister in the state of Chu during the late Warring States period (5th cent-221 BCE). Huang Xie was a very good disputer. He originally served King Qingxiang of Chu (r. 298-263) as Counselor-to-the-Left (zuoxi 左徙). In the service of the state of Qi 齊 he was able to convince the ruler of Qin to set free Prince Wan 完, who was a royal hostage of Chu at the court of Qin. He was furthermore able to stop the king of Qin campaigning against Chu. When Prince Wan acceeded to the throne (known as King Kaolie, r. 262-238), he rewarded Huang Xie with the post of Counselor-in-chief, and enfeoffed him with the territory of Chunshen. So he would be famously known as Lord Chunshen.

In 248 he was enfeoffed with the fiefdom of Wu. In his position as Counselor, Huang Xie dominated the court politics of a whole generation. He invited a lot of scholars, philosophers and worthies and had thus the loyalty of 3,000 retainers. After the battle of Changping, in which Qin destroyed Zhao army, Lord Chunshen commanded a force of relief and smashed the Qin troops near Handan. He was also able to conquer the small state of Lu, the home of Confucius. Lord Chunshen’s military activities contributed to the northward expansion of the state of Chu and made it a last stronghold against Qin. But his attempt at unifying the six feudal states against the powerful Qin was not crowned by success. Qin defeated the allies’ army. After the death of King Kaolie, he succeeded by his son, King You of Chu. The successor’s uncle, Li Yuan, wanted a monopoly over court power. He had assassinated Lord Chunshen.

Huang Xie had many children who were officials stationed in different parts of the State of Chu. When he was murdered, many of them fled to neighbouring states.


Lord Chunshen is the only one from four lords of warring states that still alive currently. He and Li Mu created alliance army (manga version, no proof that Li Mu involved in this war historically) and attacked Qin but repelled. There was rumours that later King of Chu actually his biological sons although we couldn’t accept it as fact value.

Please look King Kaolie of Chu had no sons

Xunzi, Li Si and Han Fei’s teacher, was one of his retainers until Chunshen killed by Li Yuan.

Lord Xinling of Wei

Clan Name: Wei 魏

Personal Name: Wuji 無忌

He was King Zhao of Wei’s son and the blood-brother of King Anxi of Wei. On the accession of his half-brother King Anxi, he was enfeoffed as Lord Xinling. At that time, Fan Ju ran from Wei to Qin and became Qin’s Prime Minister and sent large Qin troops to attack Wei. The Qin troops defeated Wei at Huayang and caused Wei’s general, Mang Mao to escape because of failure. This matter certainly worried King Anxi of Wei and Lord Xinling.

Lord Xinling was kind and treated his surbodinates well. No matter whether one has talent or little talent or no talent, Lord Xinling was humble enough to get along with then well and never because of his riches had he been proud. As a result, many people from different parts of China fought along each other to be his surbodinates, resulting in Lord Xinling having 3000 surbodinates. At that time, different feudal lords saw that Lord Xinling had many surbodinates and got wind of his magnamity, so they did not dare to attack Wei for many years.

One time, Lord Xinling was having a game of chess with King Anxi of Wei and there came a message from the north camp of Wei, saying that Zhao had sent troops to attack Wei and is about to enter Wei’s borderline. King Anxi of Wei immediately stopped the chess game and wanted to summon his ministers to think of a plan. Lord Xinling stopped his brother and said, “The king of Zhao is just hunting, he doesn’t want to invade Wei,” and continued the game of chess, as if nothing had ever happened. However, the King of Wei was still very worried and did not have the mood to play chess with his brother.

After a while, there was a message again, saying that the King of Zhao was barely hunting and was not going to invade Wei. Hearing this news, King Anxi of Wei was very surprised and questioned Lord Xinling, “How did you know?” Lord Xinling replied, “I have a surbodinate who’s very good in detecting the secrets of the King of Zhao. The King of Zhao’s every action can be detected by him and he will report them to me, so that’s why I know about this.”

After that, King Anxi of Wei was very wary of Lord Xinling’s talents, resulting in him not using Lord Xinling to carry out state matters.


In the state of Wei, there is a very talented man named Hou Ying (侯赢). He was seventy-years old and his family was very poor. Hou Ying acted as a guard (guarding the gate of Da Liang). When Lord Xinling heard about him, he sent his surbodinates to visit him and gave him many expensive presents. However, Hou Ying refused to accept the gifts and said that he had been improving on his character for the past ten years and had been also guarding the gate of Da Liang. He also emphasized that he could not accept Lord Xinling’s gifts just because he was poor.

Lord Xinling, upon hearing this, organized a large banquet and invited guests to eat and drink. When everyone has arrived, he set off on a carriage (the left seat in the carriage was empty, reserved for Hou Ying) and drove to the East Gate to receive Hou Ying. Hou Ying first adjusted his tattered hat and boarded the carriage, sat on the left seat in the carriage and did not really act politely. He wanted to observe the behaviour of Lord Xinling. However, Lord Xinling was waving the whip on the horse, and that made him more respectful towards Hou Ying.

Hou Ying requested to meet a friend in the streets and asked Lord Xinling to drive his carriage there. Lord Xinling immediately agreed and drove his carriage to town. Hou Ying alighted the carriage to visit his friend, Zhu Xuan. He kept one eye on Lord Xinling while talking to Zhu Xuan. Lord Xinling’s face was filled with patience. At that time, the state of Wei’s Prime Minister, generals and the officials were already at the banquet, waiting for Lord Xinling to organise the banquet.

People on the streets saw that Lord Xinling was driving the carriage and Hou Ying was sitting in the carriage, so they quietly scolded Hou Ying. When Hou Ying saw that Lord Xinling did not change his face expression, he decided that it was time to leave. When they reached Lord Xinling’s residence, Lord Xinling allowed Hou Ying to take the upper seat and announced to all introduced Hou Ying to all the guests, everyone was flabbergasted. When everyone was making merry, drinking wine, Lord Xinling stood up and raised his glass to Hou Ying.

Hou Ying took the opportunity to said, “Well, I might as well not put Lord Xinling down for any more. I am only a guard for the East Gate but Lord Xinling drove his carriage personally to fetch me and welcomed me in front of so many officials. I should not have talked to my friend and keep Lord Xinling waiting, but Lord Xinling was patient enough to wait for me. As a result, I would also like to spread Lord Xinling’s name far and wide, so that’s why I let Lord Xinling wait in the streets for long, and use the excuse of visiting my friend to observe Lord Xinling’s behaviour and that would make Lord Xinling even more popular. Everyone on the streets regarded me as an impolite person while Lord Xinling had earned a deep impression in everyone who can accommodate people of lower status than him. “

After the banquet, Hou Ying became an important surbodinate of Lord Xinling.

In 257, he used the plan from Hou Ying, killed General Jin Bin and led his troops against the army of Qin, that had invaded the state of Zhao to liberate the besieged city of Handan, capital of Zhao. He stayed for ten years in Zhao before he returned to Wei, this time again to repell the armies of Qin from the territory of Wei. At the head of the joint armies of five allied states, he defeated the Qin army at Hewai. But shortly after the king of Wei, envious of Wuji’s powerful position, deprived him of his military power. He died soon in a disappointed state.

Among the four lords, Lord Xinling was the only one with real talent as a military commander. He was one of the best general during warring states era but because his brother’s suspiction, never had enough chance to show his skill at fullest.


Lord Pingyuan of Zhao

Clan Name: Zhao 趙

Personal Name: Sheng 勝

Zhao Sheng was a high minister in the state of Zhao during the late Warring States period (5th cent-221 BCE). He was a son of King Wuling (r. 325-299) and brother of King Huiwen (r. 298-266), to whom and whose successor, King Xiaocheng (r. 265-245), he served as Counselor-in-chief. Zhao Sheng was fond of wandering philosophers, disputers and worthies of all kinds, and assembled several thousand of them at his court. He was first enfeoffed with the fief of Dongwu. After the disastrous Battle of Changping, the army of Qin besieged the capital of Zhao, Handan. In this situation Zhao Sheng used all his fortune to bring relief for the refugees and to assemble a new army that was able to withstand the army of Qin for three years. Only then he looked for help from the state of Wei. A joint army of Wei and Chu was able to liberate Handan. In later years Zhao Sheng was enfeoffed with the territory of Pingyuan. Hence, his title as Lord Pingyuan of Zhao.

There is a story where Zhao Sheng executed his own concubine. The family house of lord Pingyuan was next to the home of a commoner. In that house lived a lame man, who walked with difficulty to draw water from his well. A concubine of lord Pingyuan lived in the storey of his house. When she saw the lame neighbour, she laughed loudly at him. The next day, the lame man came to the door the lord Pingyuan and said: “Your servant has heard that your lordship was fond of gentlemen, and that some of them did not mind travelling over thousands of leagues to visit him. Yet, your lordship seems to value gentlemen, but to have a poor choice of concubines. I am cursed with this debilitating illness, and one of my neighbours from your rear palace made fun of me. I want to have the head of the mocker.” Lord Pingyuan laughed, and replied: “Right”. After the lame man left, Lord Pingyuan, said, laughing: “Look at this nobody, who wants, on account of one laugh, to have one of my concubines killed. Isn’t this too much?” In the end, he did not have her killed. More than a year later, over half of his retainers, and members of his household, had left, little by little. Lord Pingyuan was puzzled by this, and told them: “In my dealings with you, my lords, I, Sheng, never dare lack respect. How come so many of you have left?” One of his retainers stepped forward and replied: “It is because your lordship has not killed the person who mocked the lame man, because your lordship, out of love for women, despised a gentleman, that these gentlemen have left.” Therefore, Lord Pingyuan cut the head of the concubine who had made fun of the lame man, and went himself offer it at the door of the lame man, to apologize for it. After that, his clients came back, one after the other. At that time, Qi had Lord Mengchang, Wei had lord Xinling, Chu had lord Chunshen, who all vied with each other in attracting retainers.

Lord Pingyuan was the least talented and not as powerful as other three which in turn let him die peacefully as an old man.



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