Queen Jiangshi – The Kingmaker




Queen Jiangshi was one of the most virtuous women in ancient China. She has been lauded as a successful kingmaker and for taking decisive actions.[1] When her husband Chong’er, an exiled prince, was reluctant to reclaim his rightful throne, Queen Jiangshi took decisive action in his stead. She even attempted to kidnap him where he would be taken to Jin and proclaimed king. The kidnap attempt spurred her husband to action where he became one of Jin’s greatest rulers.[2] Thus, many poets and historians have praised her for her actions because if it were not for her, King Chong’er would never have known of his potential to rule and Jin would have lost out on a great ruler that made them a powerful state in China during the Spring and Autumn Period.[3]

Queen Jiangshi lived during the Spring and Autumn Period. This period lasted from 771 to 476 B.C.E.[4] During this era, the states of China were breaking away from the crippling Zhou dynasty and forming their own dynasties.[5] In this period, Qin, Qi, and Chu were the powerhouses of China.[6] Jin would be one of the top powers of China, but it needed the guiding hand of Queen Jiangshi to get there.[7] This is the story of how Queen Jiangshi helped make Jin into a power state.

Queen Jiangshi was the daughter of the king of Qi.[8] She was born around 658 B.C.E. in the Qi capital (somewhere northeast of the modern city of Zibo in Shandong Province).[9] She was known to be very clever and had been educated in the classics.[10] Her father married her to Chong’er, a prince from Jin who came to Qi to seek refuge. His step-mother, Princess Liji of Li Rong (see the article “Princess Liji – A Vicious Beauty” for more information on Prince Chong ’er’s background and situation) had framed Prince Chong’er and one of his brothers for planning a rebellion against his father, the Duke of Jin.[11] Convinced of his sons’ treason, the Duke of Jin ordered their deaths.[12] However, Prince Chong’er and his brother escaped from Jin. Prince Chong’er eventually arrived in Qi, where he lived in exile for nineteen years.[13]

Prince Chong’er had no ambition for power. He wanted to have a peaceful, easy life in Qi.[14] However, his wife, Princess Jiangshi, was not content with her husband’s current position. She was ambitious and wanted her husband to take his rightful place as the ruler of Jin. Her opportunity came when a maidservant told her that Prince Chong ’er’s followers were planning to leave Qi and take him back to Jin.[15] Princess Jiangshi could not afford to pass up her husband’s chance of becoming king and began to urge Prince Chong’er into taking action.

Princess Jiangshi tried to persuade her husband to leave Qi as soon as he could so he could take the Jin throne.[16] She told him it was the right time to make his move because Jin was in a state of political turmoil ever since the death of his father.[17] However, Prince Chong’er was in his sixties, and the last thing he wanted was to rule an unstable kingdom.[18] He was content with spending the rest of his days in Qi because his life was stable and tranquil.[19]

Princess Jiangshi was frustrated with her husband’s reluctance.[20] She planned to get him drunk and kidnap him.[21] He would then be taken to Jin and be made king.[22] Princess Jiangshi conspired with Prince Chong ‘er’s friend, Jiufan. They got him drunk.[23] Then, Jiufan put him in a wagon and began to head for Jin.[24] When Prince Chong’er regained consciousness, he became angry and chased away Jiufan.[25] However, Prince Chong’er realized that his reluctance was futile.[26] He decided to continue to Jin to reclaim his rightful inheritance.[27] With the help of Duke Mu of Qin, who provided him with military assistance, Prince Chong’er took the throne of Jin and became king.[28] 

King Chong’er sent for Jiangshi to come to Jin.[29] However, she was not proclaimed his principal wife. King Chong’er instead made her his fifth queen out of all his nine queens.[30] However, Queen Jiangshi did not resent her status. Chinese literature has praised her modesty in accepting her position as the fifth queen in King Chong ’er’s harem.[31] Throughout his reign, King Chong’er made alliances with other regional kings in Jin and promised them his protection.[32] In the end, King Chong’er made Jin one of the top powers during the Spring and Autumn Period.[33] 

Queen Jiangshi is praised throughout Chinese literature. She is included in the “Biographies of the Virtuous and Wise” section in Biographies of Eminent Women, where she is portrayed as “just and honest” [34] and “having urged her husband to action” [35]. Other poems have also praised her:

“Selfish Qi Jian was not,

Justice she always upheld,

And the king became king of kings

As the queen had laid the foundation.”[36]

Sources:

Eno, R. (2010).  1.7. Spring and Autumn China (771-453). Indiana University, PDF.

L. Yunhuan. (2015). Notable Women of China: Shang Dynasty to the Early Twentieth Century (B. B. Peterson, Ed.; F. Hong, Trans.). London: Routledge.

Cook, C. (2015). Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women: Antiquity Through Sui, 1600 B.C.E. – 618 C.E (L. X. H. Lee, Ed.; A. D. Stefanowska, Ed.; S. Wiles, Ed.). NY: Routledge.


[1] Yunhuan, p. 22

[2] Cook, p. 34

[3] Yunhuan, p. 22

[4] Eno, p. 2

[5] Eno, pp. 6-7

[6] Eno, p. 3

[7] Cook, p. 34

[8] Yunhuan, p. 21

[9] Yunhuan, p. 21

[10]Yunhuan, p. 21

[11] Cook, p. 41

[12] Cook, p. 33

[13] Cook, p. 33

[14] Cook, p. 33

[15] Cook, p. 33; Yunhuan, p. 22

[16] Cook, p. 33; Yunhuan, p. 22

[17] Yunhuan, p. 22

[18] Yunhuan, p. 22

[19] Yunhuan, p. 22

[20] Yunhuan, p. 22; Cook, p. 33

[21] Yunhuan, p. 22; Cook, p. 33

[22] Yunhuan, p. 22; Cook, p. 33

[23] Yunhuan, p. 22

[24] Yunhuan, p. 22

[25] Yunhuan, p. 22

[26]Yunhuan, p. 22

[27]Yunhuan, p. 22

[28] Yunhuan, p. 22

[29] Yunhuan, p. 22

[30]Yunhuan, p. 22

[31] Yunhuan, p. 22

[32] Yunhuan, p. 22

[33] Cook, p. 34

[34] Cook, p. 34

[35] Cook, p. 34

[36] Yunhuan, pp. 22-23






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