The story of Madame Xi happened in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC) of ancient China. During that period, many vassal states coexisted. Among them, the state of Jin and the state of Chu were the strongest. Other small kingdoms were attached to either Jin or Chu, surviving under the protection of these strong states.
Madame Xi was the second princess of the state of Chen. She was married to the King of the state of Xi. According to history, she was said to possess a stunning beauty, with a face that looked like peach blossoms in the spring. So Madame Xi was also called the “Lady of the Peach Blossom”.
In the year 684BC, Madame Xi went to the state of Cai to visit her elder sister, who was married to the King of Cai. At the banquet, the King of Cai was too attracted by Madame Xi’s beauty to control his feelings. He acted with lack of courtesy to Madame Xi.
Madame Xi felt insulted, and left in a fury. After coming home, she cried and told her husband what she had experienced in the state of Cai.
The King of Xi became very angry. He was full of resentment and shame, because the state of Xi was only a small kingdom with a weak force, and was perhaps not able to counter the state of Cai. What is the point of being a king if he couldn’t even protect his wife? The King of Xi finally came up with an idea—known as the strategy of borrowing the knife of another to kill a rival.
The King of Xi knew that his neighbor, the state of Chu, had always glared at both Xi and Cai like a ravening tiger. So he wrote a letter secretly to the King of Chu, recommending: “Why don’t you pretend to send armed forces to suppress my country? I will seek help from the state of Cai. The King of Cai will surely come to rescue me. Then you can find an excuse and destroy the state of Cai.”
As a result, the King of Chu sent out troops to battle the state of Xi, and the King of Xi asked for help from Cai. The King of Cai did come to help, and was indeed defeated by Chu quickly.
By this token, the King of Xi and the King of Cai were not only the relatives whose wives were sisters, but were also close allies for a long time. Otherwise, how could it happen that when one got into trouble, the other would come and support at the cost of offending a strong state?
The King of Cai was arrested by the state of Chu. He could barely survive without a minister interceding for him. The King of Cai was at the edge of death, and broke out in a cold sweat. He now realized that he was the victim of a trap set by the person he trusted most.
Before the King of Cai was released, the King of Chu hosted a feast for him. At the feast, the King of Cai used the most flowery words to praise the beauty of Madame Xi. The King of Chu became very interested in Madame Xi. Soon after sending away the King of Cai, the King of Chu arranged a trip to the state of Xi.
The King of Chu saw Madame Xi in the palace of Xi, and found out that Madame Xi was even more beautiful than he could imagine. So he apprehended the King of Xi immediately as planned. The King of Xi was detained thereafter, and died in depression there years later. Madame Xi was brought to the side of the King of Chu. She was very loved by the King of Chu, and owned all the splendors in the world. One of her sons even succeeded as the next king of Chu. Yet, she was unhappy, for she couldn’t forget the loving-kindness of her former husband. Based on historical records, Madame Xi remained silent for the rest of her life, and never spoke to the King of Chu.
The King of Chu noticed Madame Xi’s sadness. To make her happy, he sent armed forces to suppress the state of Cai, and imprisoned the King of Cai.
The King of Cai narrowly escaped death, and was expected to live a peaceful life. But he plotted revenge by enticing the King of Chu to take Madame Xi away. He succeeded. However, he also put himself at a dead end while destroying Madame Xi’s family.
As the old Chinese saying goes: “Holding a moment of anger can avoid hundreds of days of disaster.” In many cases, forgiving others is forgiving oneself. But people don’t always understand this.