Warring States Era: Part 1: Seven Heroes Side by Side: 战国 1: 终局/ 七雄並立
Now at each corner of the realm there is a king, and each king a Hegemon in his reach.
Now is the late game of warring kingdoms. The final battle where only one king, one kingdom would remain.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The Warring States period would be an evil crucible where so much of the best and brightest of humanity, and all that had flourished, that were lovingly written in those trying centuries would twist down the gyring whirlpool of destruction and die. Extreme violence will be the order of the day. In this age, even the best were monsters.
The bloodbath commences. The chaos and violence of the Spring and Autumn period was only a precursor to the even more tumultuous and brutal Warring States period. For the next two and half centuries, the land was engulfed in a never-ending cycle of wars as all of the greatest of the local lords declared themselves kings and waged battles with their neighbors. The constant conflict left little room for the small states and their citizens to prosper, as they were constantly caught in the crossfire and left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. It was a time of great despair and suffering, as the power-hungry rulers relentlessly pursued their own agendas. But~ it was also the height of ancient China's statecraft and state philosophy on full violent display. In this ultimate zero sum gyre of inhumanity, millions would die in the blows of the final kingdoms, and only the most cunning and ruthless will survive.
Music: Wood Steel and Fire
FROM AN AGE OF LORDS TO A BATTLE ROYALE OF KINGS
For new readers, we have extensively covered the previous Spring and Autumn period and its dramatic political order across several previous chapters. Feel free to read through them if you are interested. But a significantly truncated summary of this period is that after Western Zhou's last major king was slain and his capital was sacked by the Rong invaders, the Zhou court then migrated to the east and built up a new capital at Luoyang (hence "Eastern" Zhou.) But the severely weakened Zhou king were now powerless with little land and authority of their own. In the ensuing age, power fell to the local lords who ruled their own domains and city-states as if they were autonomous rulers in their own right.
The Spring and Autumn era, as it later became known was an age of lords, and the greatest lords of them all, often voted in by a conference of other powerful lords became "Hegemons" and lead the realm's political order. In 3 centuries, 5 great Hegemons rose and molded the age in their state's sway. But at the tail end of it, around the time of the death of Confucius, all out violence erupted and the already divided realm slid to further chaos. What followed was 2 full centuries of total war. In this age, all of the remaining kings were all Hegemons in their own domains, and the late game began, where only 1 king and 1 kingdom will remain standing.
七雄並立: 7 HEROES SIDE BY SIDE
REGIONAL CONSOLIDATION: THE LAST KINGDOMS
Hypothetical faction emblems of the remains notable states at the beginning of the Warring State period. From the developing Rise of Nations mod: Bronze Dawn: Respectively: Qin, Zhou, Wei, Zhao, Yan, Lu, Shu, (-Row 2) Yue, Han, Qi, Chu, Zhongshan, and Song. States such as Yue, Shu, and Zhongshan are considered semi- Sinicized. Of these early states, only 7 will remain into the Warring States period. By then the remaining survivors nearly all have declared themselves as kings in their own right. Together, they were known as the "Seven Heroes Side by Side."
The first phase of this era is characterized by rapid regional consolidation. Most of the states- like they did during the previous centuries in the Spring and Autumn period largely still focused on absorbing nearby smaller states to make themselves stronger. However, by the time they devoured all that they can and ran against a peer that was equal in power and shared a long boarder, then the violence would drastically escalate. Now, both found themselves in the late game, with each other right next the other. This first phase was characterized by sweeping reforms, then, with the culminations of these new ideas and changes: gory fruits that won out on the first major battlefields.
Music: Blazing Red Tassel
A NEW STAR RISES TO LEAD QI
The beginning of the Warring States period was characterized by 2 egregious transgressions, 2 shocking and violent coups that ended illustrious houses that once- literally sired Hegemons and held the whole realm in their sway. From both usurpations, a new type of monstrosity would emerge, but were they truly monsters? Or dynamic and revolutionary Enfant terribles that just might give those 2 withered realms a chance by burning out the old while paving way for the new? The Warring States would come into being with these 2 transgressions. The first would occur in the marshy plains of Qi.
It had been 2 centuries since the death of the first Hegemon- the dynamic Duke Huan of Qi who held the realm together after Zhou Kings had been reduced to mere figure heads. In his 42 year of rule as Duke and 2 decades of tenure as Hegemon he had warred against the barbarians and intervened on be half of smaller states. But now, his clan~ which was sired from the legendary Jiang Ziya who founded Zhou with it's first kings and had ruled for 6 centuries was wracked with woes.
Overlord: The greatest of lords in the Spring and Autumn era were conferred titles such as "Ba" 霸 which meant "Hegemons" - they could be thought of as ancient Chinese Shoguns: supreme lord of all under heaven, aloof to all except the Zhou Kings. However, unlike the automatically hereditary Shoguns, which were pegged to a clan, the Hegemons has to be conferred their titles through support by other great lords and approved by the Zhou Kings.
Unfortunately for the Jiang clan, after the death of Duke Huan, Qi's position of supremacy collapsed. Already long plagued with parricidal and fratricidal assassinations before Duke Huan's ascension, after his death his heirs ruined Qi in a series of catastrophic civil wars where by they killed their elder brother's heirs to climb the throne. But after the fresh usurper's own death have his heirs killed by another younger brother. With the leading Duke's heirs degenerating into a cycle of murderous fratricide, true leadership fell on the mantle of its ministers and its deep state, who were the only responsible adults left in this house on fire.
THE ASCENSION OF TIAN CLAN
By the beginning of the Warring States period, Qi, was long shun away from the political limelight and was only a pale shadow of itself. Politically it had been bullied and crippled by the nearby Hegemon of Jin. Because of constant dynastic intrigue at the uppermost echelon of its leadership, power fell on the Qi minister's clans. Worse for Qi it was also ineptly held together, although it was rich, its laws were labyrinthine and the state's policies were not uniform and not enforced- leaving many pockets of cyclical inequity. Salaries and wages were unfair and unevenly distributed. Inequality was both ubiquitous and very prominently noted even to outside observers. What's more its taxes were heavy and laws were severe. Protestations against taxes or minor offenses often could result in leg cutting, where one lower leg of the offenders was cut off.
In this backdrop of ineptitude and misery came new faces that made sure they would be noticed. The house of Tian 田 lit. "Field" were former princes of the central state of Chen who fled to Qi. Over time became a great house within it. It was during this time of chaos and misery that they established a far flung reputation as one of the kind lordly houses inside Qi. Because of their astute financial acumen, over the centuries they had amassed a great private fortune. However while most great houses hoarded their gains, instead during the nearly perennial crises that often struck at the powerless lower classes of Qi, during hard times the Tian lords often opened their granaries to the masses and also loaned out at extremely generous rates.
After 6 centuries of rule as the Duke of Qi- the lineage that founded Zhou with its first Kings would near its end.
A great example of Tian charity was their loans using the trapezoidal Dou 斗 during loans. Dous were ancient Chinese grain boxes used to transport rations, with a slider lid that could be secured either on top or the bottom, and handles or mug like holders placed on its sides. It is well known that if the wider bottom has the lid, then the container will have a shallow hold, but if the thinner bottom has the lid, then the container could hold much more to the brims. Tian lords made sure to explicitly loan out more generous portions at their own expense with the thinner bottoms, while during repayments willingly accepted the wider bottoms, again, at their own expenses. But this was not naked charity either. Over a long time Tian deeply ingratiated itself to the Qi public and began to play the Qi game of thrones, during dynastic successions they succeeding backed their own candidates while purging all potential challengers to their candidates. In 481 BC, the Tian patriarch killed a puppet duke, most of the ruler's family, and a number of rival chiefs. He took control of most of the state and left the Duke with only the capital of Linzi and the area around Mount Tai.
PROTEST AND SELF IMPOSED EXILE OF CONFUCIUS
Almost none dared to denounce this naked usurpation, but one did, the Lu minister Confucius himself.
Despite the outrageousness of this usurpation, by this era it was not uncommon to the rest of the realm either. At this time, several of what had been Zhou and Spring and Autumn China's greatest clans were similarly being displaced by their vassal houses from within. 1 was Qi as previously mentioned, 2 was the nearby even greater state of Jin, who had long been seen as the police man of the realms and the arm of the Zhou king and the greatest military state that kept order. By the mid and late 5th century BC (towards 400 BC) Jin too was slowly being eaten from within by its powerful vassals. 3 was none other than Confucius's native state of Lu, which was also being devoured from within by its powerful vassals.
Petty men: Ji 季, Meng 孟, and Shu 叔 were collectively know as the "Three Huans," or the "Three Families," they were all distant relatives of the ancient Duke Huan of Lu and had blood claims to the Lu throne. Because they exorcised extraordinary military power within Lu, Confucius had great weariness of their powers.
In Confucius's time, the state of Lu was headed by a ruling ducal house. Under the duke were three aristocratic families, whose heads bore the title of viscount and held hereditary positions in the Lu bureaucracy. They retained great military power and had control of strongly defended walled cities, although Confucius tried to cull their powers and reinvest their powers under the hand of his own duke, his efforts were off no avail. for he relied solely on diplomacy as he had no military authority himself. When the Qi Duke was placed under blatant house arrest by his Tian vassals, the event shocked the Zhou political world, and Confucius from the nearby state of Lu was especially shaken.
The state of Lu (dark blue) declined rapidly in the ensuing decades after Confucius' self imposed exile. By the start of the Warring States period Lu had diminished from being one of the most respected states in the realm to merely 1/7 of its original size.
After taking a cold bath, he went to his master Duke Ai of Lu and petitioned Duke Ai to intervene and depose the usurpers: lest his own ambitious vassals dare to do the same, however Ai was powerless in these affairs as well. Instead, Ai knowingly asked Confucius to consult this matter with his 3 chief military vassals, especially the viscounts of Ji. Since Viscount Ji IS basically the Lu version of Tian and had long coveted the Lu throne, Ji rebuffed Confucius' request. A tiger does not give up a meat diet, especially if it already got its victim in its sights. For this reason, along with many other powerless maltreat suffered at Lu, Confucius stepped down and went on a self imposed exile for 12 arduous years. He visited most of the remaining Zhou states (even the "barbarian" Chu) to preach his ideals. But despite being courted by many sovereigns, he found no ruler that would allow for his ideas to take root. He would return to Lu a tired and broken man, and die lamenting his failure to realize his idealistic vision to reform this corrupt and broken world.
CONFUCIAN MEDITATIONS ON VASSALS AND SOVERIGNS
And thus ignominiously exits either the last great sage of the Spring and Autumns period, or the first of the Warring States period. Though in life, Confucius's ideas never gained significant traction, with the master woefully lamenting at the tail end of his life that he effected little to improve the decomposing world~ for his ambitions, his beloved Lu, or the brutal self cannibalizing world. After his death, his school's prominence electrified across the realm and within generations its schools began to be adopted by many states across the realm.
However, what's more were Confucius's observations. In meditating about the entropic state of Qi, Jin, and his own court of Lu, Confucius noted at the dangers of these (what he saw as) disloyal vassals. Like the Zhou dynasty in miniature- founded by righteousness and vigor by a worthy house, only to see that century long lineage cannibalized by duplicitous underlings. After all, wasn't the world hurting because the righteous king was displaced while his greedy lords war and quarreled while commoners suffer? Is it any wonder that there is such endless chaos under the heavens when petty men who had no claim to the Mandate of Heaven what so ever continue to undermine the proper world order? What else was the Spring and Autumn era and the Warring States era but this unnatural fruit?
In reaction to these selfish and deeply feudal "Petty Men" 小人 who timelessly always placed their clan's interets above all, Confucius advocated the creation of a meritorious bureaucratic class. There was already the class of largely hereditary scholar vassals or Shi 士 lit. "Servant" which Confucius himself was born in. But in seeing how unreliable hereditary clans are (Tian and the 3 clans of Lu, and the 3 clans of Jin, and nearly all of the noble houses of this era) Confucius advocated for a meritocratic class of scholarly bureaucrats that are hired and fired at the lord's leisure and dedicated to the nation & traditions. Though none of these ideals would take place during Confucius's lifetime. The seeds, and deviations borne from this kernel would be manifested, ironically by another school would would one day be seen as the rivals of the Confucians, the Legalists. For this time, though, power and glory went to the usurpers. And with this bloodletting, (and the slaying of the Jiang Dukes in the next century) Qi recieved a renewed loan on life and splendor~ so in keeping with the Tians.
THE HEARTLAND BREAKS: PARTITION OF THE ARCH- HEGEMON
Hand of the Zhou King, Policeman and protector of the realm, the martial duchy of Jin~ descended from a minor branch of the Zhou royal clan ensured that the realm's heartland was stable for some 3 centuries.
Architects and biologists will know of the word "Keystone:" ~a central stone at the summit of an arch, locking the whole together. And if the keystone was ever taken out, the entire form of that arch will irrevocably shatter like a tower of Jenga blocks. The beginning of the Warring States period began with a vital keystone that had held the realm together for 3 centuries taken out. And in the yellow- blue Mountains of what is modern Shanxi was the 2nd of the egregious transgressions that sparked the Warring States.
Unfortunately for Jin, Jin was unique among the major states in a major respect; whereas other states often enfeoffed the cadet branches of the ruling house (blood after all is thicker than water,) Jin often exiled or disempowered its own cadet houses. Instead, powerful ministerial families arose which were given fiefs like cadet houses in other states.
This made powerful minister's hereditary clans exceedingly strong and grew only stronger in each new generation, these legalized parallel states ruled and managed parts of Jin as their own hereditary domains, while the Jin Dukes became weaker with each new succession. And in time, like within Qi the clans of these ministers had no qualms about toppling the Jin Duke at all. Though unlike in Qi, de facto power did not coalesce around only 1 dominant usurper clan. Power first delved into 6 major clans but 2 were driven out. Then most of power coalesced around the Zhi clan 智. By about 450s BCE, the Zhi clan was the most dominant and began demanding territory from the other clans. All decisions of the state had to pass through its patriarch's judgement. But with their power, soon came an arrogance that alienated the 3 remaining clans.
In Jin's last decades, 6 powerful clans ruled the duchy in a cabal and held the Jin Duke as a front man hostage. Eventually such clans became much more brazen and dropped their charade, imprisoning the Jin Duke in the tiny domain of the capital while they partitioned Jin into their own lands. By the time of Jin's full break up, 6 had became only 3 clans, and these clans became the new kingdoms of Wei, Zhao, and Han.
During a climactic campaign to vanquish the disobedient clan of Zhao in the north, 2 of Zhi's vassal clans, that of Wei and Han mutinied and turned on their masters. Then together in a bloody orgy, Zhao, Wei, and Han slaughtered the Zhi house. With Jin secured solely under the 3 of their hands. The 3 powerful clans split apart Jin from the inside out, deposing the last Jin Dukes and splitting Jin into the states of Wei, Zhao, and Han. The collapse of Jin, which had been the keystone that ensured law and order and political stability in the heartlands would kick start the Warring States era.
LEGALISM & MERITOCRACY: THE LEAN EFFICIENT WEI
So much was realized under the unassuming Wei. What it lacked in size, it made up in deeds. Under their roofs were once bowed giants that produced miracles. Though surrounded by potential rivals, they threw the first punches that quelled the fiercest apex predators.
Marquess Wen of Wei was indisputably one of the major figures of the early Warring States era. A rapacious learner, silver- tongued diplomat, with endless resourcefulness for attracting talented individuals. He molded the "3 Jins" to support each other and Wei's interests. What's more, he greatly enriched Wei from within and dealt crippling blows to Wei's foes abroad. Under his roofs gathered polymaths and philosophers of Confucian and the earliest Legalist stripes.
If one would have recalled Confucius's laments in his final moments, of his dashed dreams and failed realizations. He would probably have not have guessed that not long after his passing~ another state would quickly rose to the spotlight of the realm with a winning hand guided by some of his ideals. Though by this time, such ideals had already crystalized into a new form that would continue until the end of the Warring States period: Legalism.
Marquess Wen was an aggressive reformer who sought to create a lean but highly efficient state. In his attempt to maximize every aspect of his domains, he began to hire men who are able to radically improve his food production yields and enrich the state's coffers, what's more, he hired reformers that radically reformed his internal bureaucracy and military. Under this court's roof, the first legalist philosophers and reformers flourished.
PROGENITORS OF THE LEGALISTS
Li Kui was a trusted aide to the Marquis even before Wei was a fully recognized state. Because of his proven loyalty, Li was promoted to become Chancellor of the Wei-controlled lands in 422 BC. Under his initiative, Wei became the first of the seven major Warring State powers to began a more centralized and bureaucratic~ what's more meritocratic government rather than a noble- dominated lordly state that rested its strength on the unreliable whims of its feudal vassals. Together with Wen, Li Kui stripped the Wei nobles of much of their power and inheritance, instead, Li Kui ruled through a framework of clear laws for promotion and demotion. The state's responsibilities were instead delegated to talented individuals without distinction to their birth, and rewards were doled out to those who maximized state's current interests, especially in agriculture and key productions. What's more, punishments were also clearly spelled out for a wide spectrum of existing offenses. The codification of these clearly stated laws allowed Wei to administer with much greater impersonal efficiency and consistency.
Wu Qi, a peerless general and philosopher. Though immensely talented, like Confucius before him, he wandered aimlessly throughout many of the courts before finding himself under the service of the Marquis of Wen. After proving his worth in debates and demonstrations, Wu was soon entrusted with reshaping the Wei war machine. Under his close watch, the Wei military became one of the finest in all of the realm. Despite the kingdom's small size, it would soon be able to punch far above its weight and even bully the most powerful armies that had dominated China for centuries. He would be one of the first talented archetype of the wandering philosopher- generals of this period: their roles mirroring that of a mercenary NGO advisory institute today. The Warring States era would be replete with these wandering philosophers with the likes of Sun Bing (who most definitely fabricated a mythical ancestor called Sun Tzu who just happened to served the exact role for the job he sought) after Wu Qi would rapidly came many scholars of war such as Shang Yang, Su Qin, Han Fei, Mozi, and Li Si.
Ximen Bao, the talented reformer and hydraulics mastermind. With the Marquise of Wen's patronage he ably reformed Wei's internal infrastructure and greatly strengthened the state from within. Wei's position was largely dominated by 2 major rivers, the Wei and the Yellow River, with the best arable lands surrounding these narrow strips around the river's flood plains tucked by shields of mountains. A rationalist and a man sensitive to the plight of peasants, when he toured the rivers and learned from the distressed local elders that shamans (quack shamans) were drowning beautiful local girls to become "wives" to the river god He Bo to placate him from sending out floods, he summoned for a demonstration. But instead of throwing the originally intended local girls, he ordered the local shamans be sent as "brides" instead. The shocked shamans instantly fell to their knees and begged for their lives and this practice ended. Under his supervision, the locals dug 12 subsidiary canals at a trouble some part of the Wei river. Despite arduousness labor, after the canal was completed, the diversion prevented flooding, nearly all of the locals got water directed to them, thereafter this critical section suffered no drought and flood, and the harvests soon doubled. With this mastery of water and earth, so rose taxes and population in Wei.
A WEAVING OF BROTHERS:
Of these peerless talents, Marquise of Wen himself was no less than his court of worthies. Taking Wei's diplomacy by the reigns, he would wield Wei itself like a battle axe. When tensions and hatred soon developed between Wei's 2 neighbors (and former co- inhabiting tenants of Jin) Zhao and Han, both side made clear of their antipathy of the other and sent envoys to Wei seeking Wei's aide in eradicating the other. But Marquise knew well that having his state prematurely being drawn in any of these wars does not serve Wei in any way, instead curtiously reiterated Wei's respect to both in the same exact verbiage, while stating that Wei would be neutral to both. After some time passed and either side cooled off, Wen instead proposed to both that the 3 of them (now known to outsiders as the "3 Jins") should instead form an alliance and attack outwards.
With Jin partitioned between Wei (dark blue,) Zhao (white,) and Han (yellow) (with Wei being the strongest and redirecting the mutually suspicious Zhao and Han toward the 3 central state's external enemies) Wei began to redirect the 3 states to fight Qi (red) to the east ad repelling the Di- steppe nomad led state of Zhongshan (light blue) in the process.
Due to Wen's eloquence and credibility, Zhao and Han were convinced of his plans and the 3 Jins soon allied with each other and attacked eastward. For many centuries, the steppe- invaders of the north had troubled northern China and harassed Jin while the ancestors of Wei, Han, and Zhao were Jin retainers. In an attempt to redirect internal aggression outward, Wen redirected them to attack the steppe- lead state of Zhongshan and also against late Jin's traditional rival, Qi in the east. The plan worked swimmingly and both Zhongshan and Qi were dealt humiliatingly defeats in the field.
Though each of the 3 Jin successors were small, they proved that when they worked together even greater states like Qi were theirs to be bullied. However, the truest battle, the one that defined both Wei and the Marquise of Wen would break out in the West.
WEI LEADS ATTACKS WEST
Quality and Efficiency: The state of Wei was one of the best organized and most meritocratic at the time of Jin's partition. The end result was a lean but highly efficient state and war machine that punched far above its weigh. In military matters his aces were the elite core of wei zuzu (lit, "Wei Martial Troops".)
The first climactic bloodshed of the Warring States period between major kingdoms saw a strange sight: of Qin, the military terror before and after this period, being resoundly bullied in front of the realm's stage, at the hand of the first great philosopher general of this age. According to traditional sources, five hundred thousand Qin warriors would be mustered to avenge this grievous humiliation.
Art by dadecaxx
Wei zuzu 魏武卒 (lit, "Wei Martial Troop") An approximate reconstruction. Wei wuzu were the strategic genius philosopher-general Wu Qi's creation, an elite and versatile core of heavily armored Wei infantry that is equipped simultaneously as halberdier, crossbowmen, and sword and shield (or pavise) infantry. "Martial" in this instance not only denoted their role as warriors but their proficiency in many martial arts- as such were like weapon masters.
Rigorously selected without distinction of birth from the best of various camps of Wei warriors and given the best armors that covered most of their bodies, they were capable of marching 40–50 km in one day while equipped with heavy armor, a helmet, a halberd or pike, swords, a shield, a crossbow with 50 bolts, and three days of rations. Wuzu as a distinction generally also referred to armored and professional soldiers of the era. They were rigorously drilled. From their performance, we will soon see why even the best of the realm had much to fear from them.
A versatile crack force that could transform into halberdier, crossbowmen, or swordsmen as needed and also provide shield screens if they came under heavy fire. And despite their expensive armor, their rigorous training in long marching (with days of rations) allowed them to threaten afar and redeploy even during extreme duress with great order. Aside from the unit's immense cost, training and upkeep, it was one that virtually has no weaknesses.
THE BLACK HUMILAION OF QIN- DUEL FOR HEXI
The wei wuzu would soon embark on a campaign that immortalized them in Chinese history. Under the patronage of the astute Marquess Wen and the watchful personal command of the bold Legalist philosopher general Wu Qi- this unit was swiftly launched as the vanguard of Wei's expansionary wars. Their enemy in this matter should by no means be trifled with~ both in the previous centuries nor the ensuing centuries. Wei would throw the wei wuzu as a iron- mailed fist that squarely gave the nearby state of Qin a black eye. Wei wuzu thus made its name punching out the best of the realm's soldiers in the previous centuries.
In the west, the Hexi Corridor was of vital strategic importance. The Hexi Corridor (Red)- the traditional geopolitical flashpoint between Jin and Qin. It was one of the most vital horse raising regions and its possession gave the owner initiative to project power on to the other.
Warring States era lamellar helmet with one piece visor and 工 shaped face slit. The 2 cheek pieces are secured by a hooked latch
In 409 BC, Marquis Wen of Wei appointed Wu Qi as the commander-in-chief to conquer Hexi from Qin. According to records, Wu Qi led Wei Wuzu march south and northern in war, during this period, he fought 76 times with the armies of the princes, winning 64 times, and the rest were draws." He attacked Hangu Pass to the west, fought countless battles with the Qin state, and seized more than 500 miles of Hexi and great 5 walled cities from Qin.
During Wu Qi's tenure as a general, he wore the same clothes and ate the same food as the most inferior soldiers, slept without laying bedding, marched without riding in carts and horses, and shared joys and sorrows with the soldiers by carrying bundled food himself. With this rapid series of victories, Wu Qi was appointed the governor of Xihe (West of the River, Hexi means the same but spelled inversely meaning "River's West.") In some 20 years following this humiliating injury Qin counterattack many times, but all failed at the hands of Wu Qi. Though Marquis Wen passed during this time, Wu Qi held the west firm for Wei.
During his tenure as a respected governor and general Wu Qi once asked the successor of Marquess Wen, Marquess Wu to hold a celebration banquet for the soldiers, so that those who made the most meritorious service would sit in the front row and be given the most precious food and tableware; great benefits would be conferred upon their families, and if they fell, annual condolences and honors should be paid by Wei's great ministers. This mechanically consistent system of upward mobility ensured that Wei soldiers were always led by proven and battle tested commanders.
Qin was grievously humiliated by this strings of defeats and the loss of a vital portion of their GDP from this fertile highly taxable region. To prevent further encroachments, Qin built a series of fortresses between their new borders, however for 20 years they would never forget this outrage. When Marquess Wen of Wei died, and around this time a new ambitious Duke Hui ascended the Qin throne, Qin instituted a massive national level muster to avenge this grievance.
500,000 VS 50,000 THE TITANIC REMATCH: BATTLE OF YIN JIN
The muster called for males of fighting age to be levied and drilled across the whole swath of Qin and 500,000 soldiers were mobilized (definitely exaggerated in the traditional records, but likely still very lopsided) and invaded Xihe County in 389 BC. According to Qin laws, men who have reached 16 must register for military service and are part of the role call pool until they are 60. The service period is one year. Funded and led by warriors, Qin had long been a military state and every male citizen is both farmer as well as soldier material. Answering the tide of invaders, tens of thousands of Wei troops in Hexi immediately put on armor and volunteered to fight.
The Qin army went straight to the strategically important fortress city at Yin Jin (in modern Shaanxi). This fortress guards the east-west traffic arteries, and its vitally important. Wu Qi possessed 50,000 wei wuzu against the Qin army and requested further reinforcements to shore up the Wei position. Marquis Wu agreed and sent 500 additional chariots and 3,000 cavalry.
The fortress's city's walls provided a great force multiplier against the Qin besiegers and the defenders braved hails of arrows and repeated waves of Qin assaults. Unfortunately, the sources left out much of the details of this battle's tactics and order of battle. It was recorded that before the climactic battle against Qin, Wu Qi advised and ordered the three part of his army to: "All officials and soldiers should go with me to fight against the enemy, no matter whether chariots 车骑 or foot guards 徒. If the enemy chariots cannot be chariots, riders cannot be riders, and foot guards cannot guard, the army is broken and utterly useless."
In short Wu Qi knew that despite the vastly lopsided numerical disadvantage, he has quality over quantity, and his quality will overmatch any of the Qin's best, since he knew Qin's real veteran fighting force is much more even, and the rest are merely bolstered with inexperienced armed levies. In destroying the Qin chariot vanguard and destroying its accompanying noble's foot guards, (paired and trailed behind their lord as a rally point and pit crew.) Wei would have decapitated Qin's best, then they'd have no problem easily overmatching the rest off the field.
By the late Warring State's era both Qin and Chu had vast legions of armored crossbowmen.
It became a highly favored weapon by all the greatest kingdoms of this age.
Charioteer's heavy armor- black lacquered hide stitched together with red silk. Hide armor during this period varied from ox hide and more expensive hides such as rhino that are almost definitely reserved for the aristocrats. The boots of some aristocrats are fashioned from white deer skin.
Warring States era chariots, by this time both the horses and the riders were almost always heavily armored, with thick lacquered hide armors protecting the horse's front and sides heavy armor protecting the riders. Material evidence excavated from the Tomb of the Marquise Yi of Zeng. According to contemporary treatises, hide armor were extracted from the tough hides of water buffalos, and when lacquered could block almost any blows. For the best soldiers expensive lacquered rhinoceros hide was used. Rhinos had long lived in what is central China and still lived during this era. Rhinoceros hide armor- laced together with silk cords were impervious to iron weapons and could prove to be as resistant as steel plates.
The next day, the Qin and Wei armies fought. Due to the high morale and long discipline of the Wei army, the Qin vanguard likely suffered massive losses. After this was done and continual application of pressure, the morale of the rest of the Qin army broke. Unable to contend with the Wei, the Qin then withdrew after the gory 2nd humiliation. And here, wei wuzu's reputation was forever made.
Wu Qi was feted and celebrated far within Wei for his miraculous victory, and Qin was publicly disgraced before the whole realm. This second, near mortal wound was so calamitous that the distraught Duke Hui of Qin died only 2 years later, having ruled only those 2 years. Qin was so shaken to it's core that it would not have dared to face off against Wei for Hexi for the next 20 years.
However this lopsided heroic victory also destroyed Wu Qi in Wei as well, because of this victory, many other ministers within Wei became jealous and felt threatened by Wu. In time they began a sustained slander campaign that slowly turned Marquess Wu to fear Wu. Eventually, fearing for his life, Wu Qi escaped Xihe County and fled Wei reportedly with bitter tears. Wu Qi then wandered across the various kingdoms of the era until he came to the employment of the King of Chu.
There, he again tried to create a highly meritocratic and legalist state, drastically curtailing the expenditures of the highly decadent and corrupt Chu nobles with his Chu King's backing. He stripped the deeply corrupt Chu nobles of their wealth and redirected their coffers to enrich the Chu royal coffers, and like Wei, molded a strong and centrally directed army. Predictably, again like in Wei Chu became much more efficient in war and proved itself in battle. Chu defeated Yue in the south and the Wei in the north, dealing with each in quick succession. But for his part in diminishing their riches and privileges, the Chu nobles deeply resented him and plotted against the King's favorite.
During his patron's funeral, the Chu nobles shot Wu Qi with arrows. Wounded Wu then ran up to the corpse of his late patron and pleaded for his life, but the assassins did not relent and shot him to death with volleys of arrows~ in turn even piercing the late king's body with many of them.
When his patron died, the Chu nobles had Wu Qi assassinated. All of Wu Qi's reforms in Chu were then reverted afterwards. So died the first great philosopher- general of this bloody age, only to have his great deeds and methods undone by the truest manifestation of who Confucius called "Petty Men" 小人. And with his death, Chu lost a critical (perhaps life saving) early advantage. An age, that now, inspired by his discoveries and reforms would become much bloodier in the making.
GEOPOLITICAL SCRAMBLE- A CLASH OF KINGS
It is here that our brief coverage of the early broad changes of the Warring States warfare would end. We now return to the era right around the partition of Jin and its unravelling at the hands of its 3 great ministerial clans. And though early on, far sighted states such as Wei was able to cleverly avoid strife between the former Jin comrades and redirect their expansion outwards, in time, their fragile partnership broke down.
What followed all the way until the wars of Qin unification was an endless series of war between Wei, Zhao, and Han. Between the 3 of them it would be an endless cycle of betrayal, war, and alliance, then betrayal again as each 3 jockeyed for power, yet were unable to totally eradicate the other. Maps of the land that was Jin became constantly redrawn, sometimes a dozens times in one year as the three former "Jins" turned what was the stable heartland of Zhou China into a cartoonish dust cloud of fighting and screaming. With the collapse of the center, they inadvertently set off a feeding frenzy from all of the nearby great powers. The constant total war of the 3 "Jins" would soon turn the whole realm into war as well.
QIN BEGAN TO APPRECIATE LEGALISM
Those who had read up on Wu Qi's life, and his brilliant exploits, and his wasteful killing at the court of Chu would have likely lamented his fate, but more over, all the things that he did got right that was otherwise wasted on Chu and his age. However, what Wu Qi achieved~ in the wake of his death ironically took root in the state that he nearly crippled. 20 years after their bitter crushing at Yin Jin, Qin revenged itself savagely upon a much weakened Wei in 366BC and retook Hexi. After transforming this vital pass into a gate pass for the Qin, the initiative returned to Qin and they began to aggressively meddle in central state's affairs.
Deeply impressed by the efficiency and miraculous achievement of Wei, Qin in time would adopt Legalism wholesale and transform their state into a highly meritocratic war machine.
Qin would not be alone in their attempts to meddle and mold the central 3 "Jins" to suit their political agendas. For at this precise moment of Qin's ambitious reconstitution, another power rose (or should be more correctly put) rerose again in the shining east~ Qi. If we recall ^ is not under the rule of a new vigorous house. The duchy, now under new management of the Tian 田 clan who had displaced the former old ducal house, made Qi into a Kingdom and they its kings. Soon, these two poles of Qin and Qi began to dominate Warring State's bloody politics.
THE TWO POLES- EAST & WEST
King Wei of Qi was one of the most brilliant and ambitious rulers of the next phase of Warring State. By this era, most of the great surviving states had made themselves into full right kings and competed against each others as fully elevated kingdoms. King Wei's dynamic rule, and attempt to wrangle the 3 "Jins" under Qi's sway would pave way for the next round of great wars in this age. And Qi's cold war frenemy relationship with Qin would definite this age both in war and in peace. The age of kings had truly came.
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The chaos and violence of the Spring and Autumn period was only a precursor to the even more tumultuous and brutal Warring States period. The 2 and half centuries that followed was a ruthless and brutal age, characterized by nearly three centuries of constant warfare. The chaos and violence of the Spring and Autumn period had escalated to even greater heights, and the suffering of the common people seemed to have no end in sight.