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Killing Three Generals Using Two Peaches二桃杀三士

Xie Daochi

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'Killing Three Generals Using Two Peaches' (二桃杀三士) is a famous history-based story in China. The earliest version of this story was from 'Yan Zi Chunqiu'(晏子春秋), and there are several more completed versions spread in China, and I am going to summarize and introduce the version that I like best. 


Time: Spring and Autumn Period (BC770~BC476) 

Place: in the country of Qi 


Qi Jinggong(齐景公): the duke of Qi 

Yan Zi(晏子): an intelligent adviser of Qi

Lu Zhaogong(鲁昭公): the duke of Lu 

Shusun Nuo(叔孙诺? an officer of Lu

Gongsun Jie(公孙接): a successful general of Qi

Tian Kaijiang(田开疆): another successful general of Qi

Gu Ye Zi(古冶子): also a successful general of Qi



The three generals, Gongsun Jie, Tian Kaijiang and Gu Ye Zi were brave, and each of them had won several battles. However, they were also too proud of themselves.  Especially when Tian Kaijiang was a member of the big family of Tian, and Qi Jinggong was afraid of their power. He also afraid that the three generals would join the Tian family's side and become a significant threat. Therefore, Qi Jinggong and Yan Zi decided to kill them in a special way. 



Lu Zhaogong and Shusun Nuo were guests to this party set up by Qi Jinggong. Yan Zi advised to get several peaches for people who were part of the party, and Qi Jinggong agreed. Lu Zhaogong, Shusun Nuo, Qi Jinggong and Yan Zi got one peach for each. There were only two peaches left, and Qi Jinggong decided to give the two peaches to the three generals, Gongsun Jie, Tian Kaijiang and Gu Ye Zi, with a special condition: the ones with more significant merit go first. First Gongsun Jie, then Gu Ye Zi, walked forward and got one peach for each, as they both considered themselves with the most significant merit. Tian Kaijiang felt himself insulted, but there was no more peach, so he killed himself with his sword because of shame. Gongsun Jie also felt shamed, as Tian Kaijiang was 'with more significant merit than himself', and so he also killed himself because of shame. The last one was Gu Ye Zi, he claimed that he 'considered the other two as his own brothers', and so he felt shamed for himself as he was still alive, therefore he also killed himself. The goal of Qi Jinggong and Yan Zi achieved. 


As a Chinese, I first heard this story when I was very young, and didn't think much about it. But now I have a weird feeling of this story, although I still like it. How do you think about this story? I am really interested. 


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Maybe I'm romanticizing what generals do, because if they were generals worth their salt, they would also be good in strategy, anticipating enemy tactics, knowing you can't trust anybody and should've seen through the ruse (I probably watch too much drama). If they weren't able to do even this much, then 活该的.

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