A Warrior Is Willing to Die for His Master

Yu Rang cutting the robe of Zhao Xiang Zi. (Image:  wikimedia /  CC0 1.0)
Yu Rang cutting the robe of Zhao Xiang Zi. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

In ancient China, warriors sacrificed their lives for their masters who knew how to appreciate and treat them well. This honorable act is comparable to repaying their gratitude and looking upon loyalty and pride as more important than their own lives.

During the Spring and Autumn period in the Jin State, Yu Rang was one of the four well-known assassins in history. He had served the clans of Fan Shi, Zhongxing Shi, and Zhi Shi. When Yu Rang was serving Fan Shi and Zhongxing Shi, his service was not appreciated. After joining Zhi Shi, he was highly acclaimed by Patriarch Zhibo.

The clans in the Jin State attacked each other. Zhibo was killed by Zhao Xiang Zi from the Zhao clan. Zhao chopped off Zhibo’s head and made the skull into a wine container. Yu Rang swore to avenge Zhibo’s death in order to repay his gratitude. Yu Rang fled to the mountains and swore an oath: “A man is willing to die for his master, a woman is willing to dress up for her man, I am willing to die for my master and there are no regrets.”

Late Spring and Autumn period, 5th century BC. (Image: Yug via wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

Late Spring and Autumn period, 5th century B,C. (Image: Yug via wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

Yu Rang painted his body and swallowed charcoal. Even his wife could not recognize him, but during the assassination, Zhao recognized Yu Rang. Zhao asked Yu Rang: “You have served Fan Shi and Zhongxing Shi. When they were eliminated by Zhibo, you didn’t avenge their deaths and now you persist in taking revenge for Zhibo?” Yu Rang replied: “When they treat me as an ordinary person, I use the behavior of ordinary people to repay. Zhibo treated me like a hero; I have to repay with the behavior of a hero.”

Yu Rang knew that he was unable to take revenge for Zhibo. He then asked Zhao’s permission to slash at Zhao’s robe with his sword as a symbolic assassination. Zhao granted him permission. Yu Rang slashed at Zhao’s robe with his sword three times then looked up at the sky and yelled: “I can repay Zhibo!” He then committed suicide. Those with lofty ideals cried for him.

The ancients took morale and pride seriously. They would not hesitate to repay their master with their life. They were well-respected by later generations, which also encourages today’s generations to uphold the belief in justice.

Translated by Chua BC

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