Stories about Wu Ji-zhe (Ji Zha)
The Prince of Wu Kingdom

1. The phase: "Tan Wei Guan Zhi "

Today we introduce a phrase we often use when we see something that we think couldn’t be better. The idiom goes Tan Wei Guan Zhi???? meaning “to praise something as the acme of perfection”.

This is how the idiom came about.

It happened during the Spring and Autumn Period, about 2500 years ago. The king of the State of Wu was dying. He called his four sons to his side and said to them: “ I know I can’t live long, so I want to choose one of you to succeed the throne. I always think the youngest brother Ji Zha?? is the most capable among you four. Therefore I’ve decided to let him be the future monarch of Wu. You brothers should help each other in days to come.” But Ji Zha was so modest that he refused to accept the decision. So the old monarch made his testament, in which he ordered his four sons to come to the throne successively, and Ji Zha should be the last to get the crown.

Thus the eldest son was in power for thirteen years, and the second one for seventeen years. When the third son came to the throne, he appointed Ji Zha to be his Prime Minister. Ji Zha advocated peace, and making friends with the princes of the states of Qi?and Jin?. The monarch approved his idea and sent him to the States of Lu?, Qi?, Zhen?, Wei? and Jin? on diplomatic missions.

In 544 B.C., Ji Zha visited the State of Lu and expressed the wish of being everlasting friends to Lu’s monarch, who appreciated it very much, and treated Ji Zha to magnificent entertainment. Ji Zha, who was quite an expert on singing and dancing, enjoyed it immensely. When a most elegant, gorgeous dance was presented, Ji Zha guessed it must be the final item of the show. So he said, “Today’s performances were wonderful. I liked them very much indeed. Let’s call it a night.” The people of Lu were very surprised by Ji Zha’s knowing that that magnificent perfomance signaled the end of the whole program.

Ji Zha’s erudition won their great admiration, and also made him successful in his diplomatic mission.

From what Ji Zha said about the final item of the show, people drew the idiom Tan Wei Guan Zhi, which word for word means, Acclaim, as, look, stop. But it really means “to acclaim something as the height of perfection”. If you want to say something could not be better, you can call it Tan Wei Guan Zhi. The spelling? T-A-N, W-E-I, G-U-A-N, Z-H-I. The tone pattern is fourth, second, first, third. Now let’s say it together: Tan Wei Guan Zhi. Again: Tan Wei Guan Zhi. Good. And that’s our idiom and its story for today. Hope you enjoyed it.

from CRI Online.

2. Books with mentioning about Prince Wu

Translation of Confucian Classics (A Chinese-English Bilingual Edition)

  • ISBN 7806422927, paperback 07/01/2000
  • Translations of Confucian Classics / Chinese-English Bilingual Edition
  • Translated into Modern Chinese: Li Shibiao
  • Translated into English: Hu Zhihui & Zheng Aifang

Compiled on the basis of the record of events pre- served in various states during the first years of the Warring States period, Zuozhuan (Zuo's Commentary) is a book devoted to render an interpretation of Chunqiu (the Spring and Autumn Annals). As for the question of authorship, it has been generally accepted that the putative author of this work is Zuo Qiuming, a court historiographer of the State of Lu, who was a younger contemporary of Confucius (511-479 B. C.).

Apart from being one of the "Thirteen Classics in the field of Confucitisrn", it is widely acknowledged as a gigantic historical book and an epoch-making literary works. Judging merely from the literary angle alone, Zuozhuan has obtained an amazing achievement. For instance, in addition to giving a vivid descriptions of battles, it has recorded the speech and activities of many talented scholars as well as the overt contentions and covert struggles among the members of the royal house and their supporters. All of these are none other than the cream of this works. Hence, we have laid our emphasis on choosing the text in the above-mentioned fields. For example, we have covered almost all important battles as well as the speeches and activities of the famous celebrities, including Shu Xiang (Jin), Yan Ying(Qi), Zi Chan (Zheng) and Ji Zha (Wu), known as the Four Talented Scholars during the Spring and Autumn period.

It is acknowledged that the history of the State of Lu is quite sketchy in the selections from Zuozhuan compiled and published in the past. For this reason, in order to make up this shortcoming, we have purposely covered the history of the State of Lu in an appropriate manner. Considering the inconvenience in the field of translation, we avoid to choose the text related to either the laws or institutions.

In the process of our translation we have made it a principle to unfold the original in a pithy style. As for the presentation, we have done our utmost to get the exact meaning of the original with the help of the results achieved by the former scholars. But, instead of sticking only to a single expert, we "choose and follow what is good". Since the background of this works is quite complicated, there will be a lot of places in the translation that ought to be corrected or can be improved. It is our sincere wish that readers would give us criticisms and suggestions.


** Available on a separate page, are Ji Zha's comments. These comments are taken from Ji Zha's appraisal of the Zhou musical traditions preserved by the state of Lu ?as told in the Zuo Transmission«??»??????. These comments are interesting since they weave odes together to narrate a history of the Zhou dynasty. David Schaberg devotes a section to Ji Zha in his book A Patterned Past. Maybe someday I'll get around to posting a bibilography. This is taken from Harrison Z. Huang, Ph.D Student in E. Asian Lang. & Cultures, University of California, Berkeley

3. Story from Ancient China: Autumn Wind Passing by My Ears

During the Spring and Autumn Period, Shou Mong, the king of the state of Wu had four sons. He named the eldest son Zhu Fan, the second Yu Ji, the third Yu Muo and the youngest Ji Zha. Among all four, Ji Zha was the one with the most pleasant personality. The king was extremely fond of his youngest son. In A.D. 561, the king became seriously ill. He asked for Ji Zha and told him that he would be the successor to his throne. However, Ji Zha would not accept it. He said: “Generally, the eldest son inherits the throne. Father, please, do not continue to shower me with gifts to show your affection.” Therefore, the king’s eldest son, Zhu Fan, inherited the throne. Before he died, the king tasked his oldest son to take good care of Ji Zha.

After Zhu Fan was made the king, he called on his two younger brothers to discuss the order of succession. They decided that the throne should be handed from brother to brother. That meant that Ji Zha would become king in the end. Three of the brothers inherited the throne, one after each other. Ji Zha served them loyally. His virtue became well known by people far and wide. Before King Yu Muo died, he called Ji Zha to hand the throne to him. Ji Zha refused again. He said: "I already made it clear that I did not want to sit on the throne. I only wish to live an honest and noble life. Splendor, wealth and honor are just like the autumn wind passing by my ear. They mean nothing to me." He left the capital and didn’t return until a royal relative Liao was made emperor. Only then did he return to help Liao govern the country. The proverb "Autumn Wind passing by the ears" is a metaphor that indicates that such matters are of no importance.

Excerpt from ("Window of Cartoon")


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