This story took place in 541 B.C. in the Zheng State. The Zheng State was a country in the Spring-Autumn Period in modern-day Henan Province. There was a man called Xuwu Fan. His younger sister was very beautiful. Two nobles, Gongsun Chu and his elder cousin Gongsun Hei, loved her. In ancient China, a grown man had another name called “zi”. Gongsun Chu’s “zi” was Zinan, while Gongsun Hei’s “zi” was Zixi.
Zinan proposed the sister of Xuwu Fan, and the family of the girl contracted a marriage with him. After hearing the news, Zixi decided to force the Xuwu family to marry the girl to him. He sent his subordinate to give a betrothal gift to the Xuwu family. Because Zixi was an imperious minister, Xuwu Fan feared. So he had to ask Zichan for help. Zichan was the prime minister of the Zheng State, and he was a wise man. He said, “It is that our country lacks governance, and it is not your trouble. Let your sister select one.” Xuwu Fan then asked Zinan and Zixi to let his sister select one of them, and the two men agreed.
Zixi dressed very well and went to Xuwu’s home. He put down munificent presents and left. But Zinan dressed in military uniform and drove a chariot. When he entered Xuwu’s home, he saluted with a shooting ritual. In the courtyard, he shot an arrow to the left and another one to the right. After doing the ritual, Zinan jumped on to his chariot and left.
All these behaviors were watched from a window by the sister of Xuwu Fan in her room. She said, “Zixi is really handsome, but I prefer Zinan to be my husband. A husband does as a man, and a wife does as a woman. This is called harmony.” So she became the wife of Zinan.
Zixi was very angry. He wanted to kill Zinan and possess his beautiful wife. He believed that he was able to kill this younger cousin by himself. So Zixi dressed in his armor and covered it with a common garment, and went to Zinan’s home. Zinan noticed the purpose of Zixi. He impetuously took a ge (a kind of weapon with a long handle and a transverse blade) and rushed at Zixi. Zixi felt timid and had to run away. Zinan was so enraged, and when he caught up with Zixi in an intersection, he hit Zixi by his ge.
Zixi was wounded and returned home. Many ministers visited him. Zixi felt embarrassed and said to them, “I went to visit him with kindness, but I didn’t know he had an abnormal ambition, so I was wounded.” Ministers knew the fact, but the prime minister Zichan did not want to offend Zixi at this time, because he was worried that Zixi would rebel. Zichan decided to punish Zinan. He exiled Zinan to the Wu State, a remote country in the south.
The next year, Zixi decided to rebel for power. But his wound flared up again, and his plan failed. Under the pressure of Zichan and other ministers, Zixi had to kill himself.
About the later story of Zinan and his wife, there is no record in historical books. But I believe, when Zinan returned home someday, he would live happily with his beloved wife.