An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Jing Ke 荊軻

Dec 3, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Jing Ke 荊軻 (d. 227) was a famous assassin of the late Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE). He attempted to kill Ying Zheng 嬴政, king of Qin 秦 and eventual First Emperor of Qin 秦始皇 (r. 246/221-210).

Jing Ke hailed from the state of Wei 衛, where he was called Qing Qing 慶卿. In the state of Yan 燕, to which he turned as a retainer of Gao Jianli 高漸離, he was called Jing Qing 荊卿 "Minister Jing" or Jing Shu 荊叔 "Uncle Jing". He was introduced by Tian Guang 田光 to Prince Dan 丹, who made him a senior minister (shangqing 上卿).

When the powerful state of Qin destroyed the state of Zhao 趙, prince Dan feared the worst for the state of Yan and dispatched Jing Ke on an official mission, during which he was to assassinate the king of Qin. The mission was led by Qin Wuyang 秦舞陽, who took with him the head of the defected Qin general Fan Yuqi 樊于期, and a map of the commandery of Dukang 督亢 (modern Zhuoxian 涿縣, Hebei). Inside the folded map, a knife should be hidden. On the presentation of the map to the king of Qin, Jing Ke took out the knife, but he failed and was killed. The story of Jing Ke is reported in the novel Yandanzi 燕丹子 "Prince Dan of Yan".

Cang Xiuliang 倉修良, ed. (1991). Shiji cidian 史記辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), 329.