RI EN/LI YUAN
Japanese Pronunciation: Ri En
Chinese Pronunciation: Li Yuan
He has the same family name as Li Mu and was also from Zhao, which probably makes them distant relatives in some way. However, there were no records of their relationship as far as i know.
2.Activities in History
Li Yuan is most famous for his assassination of Lord ChunShen(Shunshinkun) after the death of King KaoLie of Chu, and later becoming a prominent figure in the Chu court as his biological nephew becomes the new king.
1)According to the Shiji: Biography of Lord ChunShen:
Lord ChunShen was worried about the heir of the Chu throne as King KaoLie did not have any sons. He summoned many women into the palace in hope of conceiving a son for the king but to no avail. Hearing the news, Li Yuan knew that even if his sister had a son with the king of Chu, there will not be enough time for him to get the attention of the king, and therefore he had a plan. Instead of directly bringing his sister to see the king of Chu, he instead became a servant of Lord ChunShen. One day, he took time off from his work to return home and returned to Chu later than the expected date on purpose. When asked by Lord ChunShen about the delay of his return, he mentioned that an envoy from Qi came to visit and said that the king of Qi is interested to marry his sister. Hearing this, Lord ChunShen asked if the Qi people sent any betrothal and Li Yuan said no. He then wants Li Yuan to show him his sister, which he took on a liking swiftly. Soon, Li Yuan’s sister was pregnant and Li Yuan discussed the next stage of plans with her. One day, Li Yuan’s sister told Lord ChunShen: “Our king treats you better than his own brothers. Today, after 20+ years as his prime minister, our king still does not have a son and after his death, the crown will go to his brothers and naturally, their own trusted subjects will rise in power when that day comes. Over the years, you might have offended them in court in some way and this is their chance to take revenge on you. When that happens, what do you think will happen to your position as prime minster and your land? Now that I’m pregnant, which is something that no one else knows, and since I wasn’t by your side for long, you can take the chance to present me to the king. With your current status, I will definitely be a favorite of the king very soon. If I am lucky and conceive a son, your son will be the crown prince and I will be the Queen. Later, Li Yuan was given a post in court and became one of the king’s favorite subject.
Soon after, Li Yuan’s sister became the Queen after bearing a son for the king of Chu. Li Yuan was worried that Lord ChunShen might reveal their secret and started hiring and training assassins to one day assassinate him. During the 25th year of King KaoLie’s reign, the king was gravely ill. One of Lord ChunShen’s vassal, Zhu Ying, told him that: “In this world, there are unpredictable fortunes and unpredictable disasters. Today, in this unpredictable world of yours, serving an unpredictable king, how can there not be any unpredictable people?” Confused, Lord ChunShen asked:” What do you mean my fortunes that come in time?” Zhu Ying replied:” As a prime minister of Chu for 20+ years, while you hold the post of prime minister, you power is actually as great as the king of Chu. Now that the king of Chu is on the brink of death, when the young king ascend the throne, you will be his adviser and control the entire state. Similar to YiYin and Duke Zhou of the past, when you hand over your power to him when he grows up, you will control the entire state of Chu. This is the unpredictable fortune.” Lord ChunShen then asked about the unpredictable diasaster, which Zhu Ying replied: “Li Yuan currently has no power over the state affairs and thus he is your enemy. Instead of building an army, he trains assassins and when the king of Chu passes away, he will definitely enter the palace and kill and silence you.” “How about unpredictable people?” asked Lord ChunShen. Zhu Ying replied: “You can smuggle me into the palace as a doctor, and when the king passes away, Li Yuan will definitely enter the palace first. When that happens, I will kill Li Yuan. This is what i mean by unpredictable people.” After listening to Zhu Ying, Lord ChunShen wants him to give up on that idea as he thinks Li Yuan is a soft person and a good friend of his. Killing him is just too much. Knowing his failure to convince Lord ChunShen, fearing his life might be in danger, he fled the country.
17 days later, the king of Chu died. Li Yuan entered the palace and ambushed his assassins at Jing gates, killing Lord ChunShen and taking his head and tossing it out of the gates. His family were also executed. Li Yuan’s sister, who was pregnant before entering the palace, bore a son who then became the new king of Chu, King You of Chu.
2)However according to Biographies of Heroic Women《烈女传》, Li Yuan did not have a happy end.
Later, a son born after the death of King KaoLie became the king, known as King Ai after King You died. A vassal of FuZhou, the younger brother of King KaoLie, found out the secret that King You wasn’t in fact the son of King KaoLie, and thus also suspected the legitimacy of King Ai. He then killed King Ai and the Queen Dowager, executed the family of Li Yuan and made FuZhou the new king.