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Chu Huaiwang 楚懷王, King Huai of Chu

Sep 21, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Chu Huaiwang 楚懷王 (r. 329-299) was a ruler of the state of Chu 楚 during the late Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE). His personal name was Xiong Huai 熊槐 and he was the son of King Wei 楚威王 (r. 340-329).

In 318, the counsellor of the state of Wei 魏, Gongsun Yan 公孫衍, suggested to create an alliance (meng 盟) of five states (Han 韓, Wei, Zhao 趙, Chu and Yan 燕) against the state of Qin 秦, which by its continuing military campaigns threatened the state system of the Zhou dynasty 周 (11th. cent.-221 BC).

The alliance was concluded, and King Huai of Chu chosen as its leader, yet the allies were defeated by Qin. In 313 Qin wanted to disrupt a newly created alliance with the state of Qi 齊 and therefore sent out Zhang Yi 張儀, who offered some territory to Chu. King Huai was so much pleased by this vain offer that he broke with the state of Qi. In the end, Qin refused to cede territory, and King Huai was therefore so enraged that he attacked Qin. He was defeated in the battle of Danyang 丹陽 (located on the north banks of River Dan 丹水 in Henan) and retreated with 80,000 remaining troops.

The whole region of Hanzhong 漢中 (between today's Sichuan and Shaanxi) was lost and the generals Qu Xiong 屈匈 (Qu Gai 屈匄) and Feng Hou Chu 逢侯丑 were captured by Qin. Moreover, the states of Han, Wei and Qi attacked Chu for its perfidy to break the alliance and defeated Chu in the battle of Chuisha 垂沙 (modern Biyang 泌陽, Henan).

In 311, Qin offered King Huai of Chu to give him back half of the territory of Hanzhong, but instead of demanding back his territory, King Huai planned to take revenge on Zhang Yi. This clever diplomatist and counsellor of Qin bribed King Huai's officials Jin Shang 靳尚 and the king's favourite concubine Zheng Xiu 鄭袖, so that he was finally released.

In 299, King Zhaoxiang of Qin 秦昭襄王 (r. 307-251) lured King Huai into a trap masked as an official state meeting in Wuguan 武關 (near modern Danfeng 丹鳳, Shaanxi) and arrested the ruler of Chu. The country of Chu was now without a head, and therefore Prince Heng 橫 was enthroned as the new king (King Qingxiang 楚頃襄王, r. 299-263), although King Huai was still living. King Huai tried to escape to Zhao, but the king of Zhao refused to provide him asylum. King Huai died in Qin. His posthumous title Huai means "the missed king".

A grandson of King Huai, Prince Xiong Xin 熊心, was the last ruler of Chu before it was conquered by Qin. When rebellions broke out against the Qin dynasty, the rebel leader, general Xiang Liang 項梁, a former general of Chu, enthroned Xiong Xin as ruler of Chu. His posthumous title is likewise King Huai of Chu 楚懷王 (r. 209-205 BCE). He was killed by the warlord Ying Bu 英布.

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