In the moral principles of the Orient, a woman should be loyal to her husband. As a daughter, she should filially respect her parents. If a woman’s husband and her father had conflict, what would she do?
In 697 B.C., Zheng Li-Gong (郑厉公), the monarch of the Zheng (郑, where was in modern-day Henan Province) State in the Spring-Autumn Period, wanted to kill his prime minister Zhai Zu (祭足), because Zhai Zu monopolized the power.
Zheng Li-Gong was the nephew of the monarch of the Song (宋, where was also in modern-day Henan Province) State. He had once been in the Song State for a long time. In the Song State, he had a good friend Yong Jiu (雍纠) who was from a noble family. When Zhai Zu visited the Song State, the Song’s monarch forced Zhai Zu to make a promise that he would expel his monarch Zheng Zhao-Gong (郑昭公) and admit Zheng Li-Gong.
At that time, if a promise was made, the promiser would fulfill it at all hazards. So, a promise couldn’t be made easily. Zhai Zu was close to Zheng Zhao-Gong, but he had to keep his promise since he made it. When Zhai Zu returned home, he advised Zheng Zhao-Gong to leave the country. Then Zheng Li-Gong returned home and Yong Jiu followed him. Yong Jiu married the daughter of Zhai Zu, and this woman was then called Yong Ji (雍姬, “Ji” was the family name of the woman).
Though Zhai Zu helped Zheng Li-Gong to ascend the throne, he still controlled the government power. Zheng Li-Gong was very dissatisfied with him. Zheng Li-Gong and Yong Jiu were very intimate, so Yong Jiu decided to help the monarch to kill Zhai Zu. Yong Jiu told Zhai Zu that he would hold a banquet in the suburb and invited Zhai Zu to attend it. Of course Zhai Zu gladly accepted the invitation of his son-in-law. The plan of Yong Jiu was that, his warriors in ambush would kill Zhai Zu as soon as the man attended the banquet.
When Yong Jiu returned home, Yong Ji found that her husband was a little uneasy. So she considerately asked her husband why. Yong Jiu loved his wife very much, and he couldn’t hold his mouth. He told the truth to his wife. Yong Ji felt thunderstruck but she still kept quiet. She thought again and again. She loved her husband, while she loved her father, too. She had no idea.
The next day, Yong Jiu left home and went to work. Yong Ji then went to her parents’ home, and her mother was at home. Yong Ji’s mother felt surprised that her daughter suddenly came to visit parents, so she asked Yong Ji why. The heart of Yong Ji was very painful, but she still quietly asked her mother, “Mother, can you tell me who is closer, father or husband?” Her mother smiled and said, “My dear daughter, why do you ask me such a question? Any man could be the husband, but the father is only one. How do they compare?” So, Yong Ji knew what she should do.
When Zhai Zu returned home, Yong Ji said to her father, “My father, my husband invited you to attend his banquet, right?” Zhai Zu smilingly said, “Yeah, my dear daughter. Yong Jiu let you come to invite me again, right? Will you accompany him in the banquet? Let other ministers see my proud daughter.” But Yong Ji seemed to be a little sad. She said, “The place of the banquet won’t be our home but the suburb, why?” Her sad eyes watched her father’s eyes. Zhai Zu then was sensible of the hint of his daughter, and his smile disappeared. He said in a deep voice, “You mean…” Yong Ji nodded and said, “I feel suspicious of the banquet, so I have to come to tell you…” Zhai Zu said with a sullen face, “I see.” Watching the sullen face, Yong Ji started to be very worried about her husband. She said to her father, “My dear father, can you pardon my husband? I am willing to live with him in a foreign country.” But Zhai Zu answered with a grim smile, “My dear daughter, I don’t want to lose you, and I promise that no one will harm you. As for your husband, I know what I will do.” He stood up and left the house. Yong Ji then knew what would happen. She cried, “No, No! My father, please pardon him! I beg you! Please…”
Zhai Zu didn’t look back at his daughter. He was merciless to his enemy. Now in his mind, Yong Jiu was not his son-in-law but his enemy. Zhai Zu ordered his warriors to kill Yong Jiu and exposed the body of his son-in-law in public. In the last moment, Yong Jiu still didn’t know that his wife betrayed him. Zheng Li-Gong knew Zhai Zu wouldn’t forgive him, so he had to run away to another country. Zheng Li-Gong didn’t forget his good friend Yong Jiu. He drove a chariot and got Yong Jiu’s body, because he wanted to bury the pathetic man. When Zheng Li-Gong left the capital, he faced the body of his pitiful friend and said, “You plotted with a woman, so you deserved to die.”
Yong Ji lost her husband who loved her deeply. Of course Zhai Zu would let a trustworthy man to marry his daughter, but who would trust such a woman who betrayed her husband? She had to spend the rest of her life with a disconsolate heart. Yong Ji was a tragic woman, and she had no other ways.