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Baili Xi
Issue time:2019-11-07

Baili Xi(百里奚) was also known as Baili Zi, Baili or Yuli. His given name was Xi. He was born in the state of Yu (now north of Pinglu County, Shanxi Province) during the Spring and Autumn Period. His date of birth and death was unknown. He was a wise minister and a famous politician during the period of Duke Mu of Qin State. In his early years, Baili Xi was poor and has been exiled. Before he was captured by Jin State, he had traveled to Qi State, Zhou State, Yu State, Guo State and other states, which made him well aware of the customs, geographical situation and the dangers of mountains and rivers in various states, and prepared the necessary conditions for him to plan for the Eastern March of Duke Mu of Qin State. Baili Xi 's wandering life and frustrating experience made him witness the tragic situation of the lower class. It had a positive impact on his subsequent appointment as a Da Fu of Qin State to be honest and upright, and to set up the idea of taking the common people as the privilege.

Baili Xi turned to Yu State as a Da Fu. In the fifth year of Duke Mu of Qin State (655 B.C.), Jin invaded Guo State through Yu State. Da Fu Gong Zhiqi exhorted the King of Yu State with "teeth can’t live without lips". The King of Yu State agreed to help Jin State because he had accepted Duke Xian of Jin State’s precious jade “Chui Ji Zhi Bi” and famous horse “Qu Chan Zhi Cheng”. Baili Xi knew that the King of Yu State was fatuous and incompetent, and it was difficult for him to accept advice, so he kept silent. As a result, Jin State destroyed Yu State after it had annihilated Guo State, and the King of Yu State and Baili Xi was captured. Later, Duke Xian of Jin State married his daughter to Duke Mu of Qin State, and Baili Xi was sent to Qin State as a dowry minister. Shamed by this, he fled from Qin State to Wan State (now Nanyang, Henan Province) and was captured on the border of Chu State. When Duke Mu of Qin State heard that Baili Xi was wise and intelligent, he wanted to redeem him at a high price, but was afraid that the Chu State would not allow. He sent someone to Chu State and said, “our minister Baili Xi is here. We would like to buy him at a price of five black ram’s skin.” Chu State agreed to release Baili Xi to Qin State. When Baili Xi returned to Qin State, Duke Mu of Qin State personally opened the prison lock for him and asked him about state affairs. Baili Xi said he was a captured minister and was not worth questioning. Duke Mu of Qin State said, “the King of Yu State did not use you, so he died. It’s not your fault.” Duke Mu of Qin State and Baili Xi talked about state affairs for several days. Duke Mu of Qin State appreciated him very much and appointed him be in charge of state affairs. He was known as “Wugu Dafu”. At this time, he was in his 70s.

During this period, Baili Xi administered state affairs and educated common people. As a minister, Baili Xi worked without riding horses and carriages, and in the heat of summer he did not open an umbrella cover. He walked in the capital city without accompanying horses and carriages, and without armored guards. This kind of plain and simple character not only set an example for other officials, but also touches people with the actual behavior. At that time, it was precious and he won the praise and respect of the common people. After his death, “Men and women shed tears, and children did not sing songs”.

Baili Xi always recommended talented people. In his early years, he had traveled all over the country and had made acquaintances with the wise man Uncle Jian. Later, Uncle Jian was recommended by him and appointed by Duke Mu of Qin State as Shang Dafu. He played a great role in the prosperity of Qin State and the achievement of hegemony.

In diplomacy, Baili Xi established the prestige of Qin State and laid the foundation for the hegemony of Duke Mu of Qin State. In the 13th year (647 B.C.), Jin State had a famine and asked Qin State for food. King Mu of Qin State asked his ministers what they should do. Some people thought that they should take the opportunity to invade Jin State. Baili Xi disagreed with the statement that “Natural disasters are inevitable, and it’s our responsibility to help them”. Finally, Duke Mu of Qin State adopted Baili Xi’s advice and transported grain to Jin State. From Yong to Jiang (now southeast of Yicheng in Shanxi Province), Qin State’s grain boats were continually flowing. This was the famous “battle of boating” in history. The people of Jin State were grateful for the kindness of Qin State when they received the food for their lives.

In the 33th year (627 B.C.), Duke Mu of Qin State intended to take the opportunity of the death of Duke Wen of Jin State, and invade Jin State. Baili Xi and Jian dissuaded him, but Duke Mu of Qin State would not listen. Meng Mingshi, the son of Baili Xi, and Xiqishu and Bai Yibing, the son of Jian, were sent to attack Zheng State. As a result, the army of Jin State intercepted them and the whole army of Qin State was overthrown. The three Qin generals were captured. Later, when the three generals were released, King Mu of Qin State said to them, “it was me who didn’t listen to the advice of Baili Xi and Jian, so what is your fault?”

Baili Xi participated in all political affairs when he was Xiang Guo of Duke Mu of Qin State. During his time as prime minister, the people of Qin State owed him several important events in building up the state's prestige. In the period of Duke Xiao of Qin State, some people praised Baili Xi in front of Shang Yang, Xiang Guo at that time. They said: “During the six or seven years, Baili Xi had made three major achievements: first, Duke Yi Wu of Jin State was brought to power by Qin State; then, after Qin State and Jin State fell out and became enemies, he was captured by Qin State and later returned to Jin State for restoration with the help of Qin State; and the Duke Chong Er of Jin State ended his exile and was escorted by Qin State when he ascended the throne. Second, according to Historical Records of Suoyin, in the 28th year of Duke Mu of Qin State (632 B.C.), Duke Mu of Qin State met the Duke of Jin State, and saved Chu State and Zhou State. Third, he pacified the nationalities in the territory and foreign nationalities, and helped Duke Mu of Qin State achieve the great cause of dominating Xirong.”

As an outstanding politician, Baili Xi made brilliant achievements in his later years. With superior wisdom and preeminent strategy, he helped remote Qin State gradually become powerful and played an important role for Qin to gain the hegemony. When Baili Xi was Xiang Guo, it was evident that in the Spring and Autumn Period, Qin State’s national strength has strengthened, which laid the foundation for its hegemony and unification. Dominating of Xirong, fighting against Jin State, and becoming a decisive force in the struggle for hegemony among vassal states were all accomplished in the period of Duke Mu of Qin State. This was the result of Duke Mu of Qin State’s talent and strategy, but it was also inseparable from Baili Xi. Therefore, when the critics praised the merits of Duke Mu of Qin State, they always gave the credit to Baili Xi.