Guan Zhong 管仲

China’s earliest economic reformer


Chinese Name: 管仲

English Name: Guan Zhong

Other Names: Guan Yiwu 管夷吾

Born: ?

Died: 645 BC


Assisting Duke Huan of Qi to unite princes 辅佐齐桓公九合诸侯

Courtesy to the world, pioneer of legalists 礼让天下开法家先驱

Guan Zhong 管仲
Guan Zhong 管仲

Brief Biography of Guan Zhong

Guan Zhong was a famous economist, philosopher, statesman, and strategist in ancient China. He was the representative figure of Legalists in the Spring and Autumn Period 春秋.

Guan Zhong (?~645 BC) was named Yiwu 夷吾, courtesy name Zhong 仲, and the posthumous title of Jing 敬. He was born in Yingshang County 颍上, Anhui Province 安徽省 today.

In the 33rd year of Duke Xi of the Qi 齐僖公 (698 BC), he began to assist Gongzi Jiu 公子纠. In A.D. (685 B.C.), he was recommended by Bao Shuya 鲍叔牙 to serve as the minister of state, helping Duke Huan of Qi 齐桓公 become the leader of the five hegemons in the Spring and Autumn Period. He vigorously promotes reform and makes the country rich and troops strong; Honoring the king and fighting against the barbarians, he is honored as “Zhongfu 仲父”.

Guan Zhong 管仲
The statue of Guan Zhong 管仲塑像

He died of illness in the 41st year (645 BC) of Duke Huan of Qi. Later generations respectfully called it “Guanzi 管子”, and honored him as “the pioneer of legalism”, “the teacher of saints”, “the protector of Chinese civilization”, and “the first phase of China”.

The book Guanzi was written by Guan Zhong. Some people doubt that it was named for later generations.

Personal Life and Major Contributions

Early life experience

His father, Guan Zhuang 管庄, was a doctor in the State of Qi. Later, his family declined, which led to his poor life. In order to make a living, he failed to cooperate with his friend Bao Shuya in business. Guan Zhong was once a humble businessman at that time.

Guan Zhong 管仲
The memoria hall of Guan Zhong 管仲纪念馆

Traveling to many places, meeting various people, and seeing many worlds have accumulated rich social experiences. When he was a soldier, he ran away from the enemy. He tried to become official several times but failed.

Help Qi to seek hegemony

In the second year of Duke Huan of Qi (684 BC), Duke Huan said to Guan Zhong, “I want to strengthen the armaments.” Guan Zhong said again, “No way.” Duke Huan refused to listen, and indeed he repaired the armaments. Once, Madame Song angered Duke Huan of Qi. Duke Huan said angrily to him, “I want to attack Song.” Guan Zhong said, “No, I don’t think it will be successful to employ foreign troops if the internal affairs are not repaired.” Duke Huan refused to listen, and indeed, he attacked the Song Dynasty. The princes raised troops to save the Song Dynasty and defeated the Qi army.

In the third year of Duke Huan of Qi (683 BC), Guan suggested sending troops to punish the State of Tan 谭国 who did not obey the etiquette and law. The State of Tan was originally small and weak and was soon destroyed by the State of Qi. Qi had no effort to destroy State Tan and expand its territory.

In the fifth year of Duke Huan of Qi (681 BC), at the suggestion of Guan, the State of Qi joined forces with Song, Chen, Cai, Zheng, and other countries in the North Apricot of Qi (now east of Liaocheng 聊城, Shandong 山东) to discuss ways to stabilize the State of Song. The state of Sui (now south of Feicheng, Shandong Province) was also invited but did not participate. In order to improve the prestige of Qi, Guan sent troops to destroy Sui.

Guan Zhong 管仲
Bao Shuya 鲍叔牙

In the sixth year of Duke Huan of Qi (680 B.C.), Lu, Song, Chen, Cai, and Wei all surrendered to the State of Qi. Tan and Sui had already been eliminated. Only the State of Zheng was still in civil strife. Guan Zhong, therefore, suggested that Duke Huan of Qi should go out to mediate the internal strife of Zheng, so as to improve the status of Qi and speed up the realization of the goal of hegemony.

After Duke Li returned home, Zheng killed Ziyi and his benefactor Fu Xia, and forced Yuan Fan, the doctor, to die. He became the king of the throne. In order to consolidate the throne, he had to unite with Qi. Guan seized this opportunity and suggested that Duke Huan of Qi should unite with the Song, Wei, and Zheng, and invite the Zhou royal family to join the alliance in Juancheng 鄄城 (now Juancheng, Shandong).

In the seventh year of Duke Huan of Qi (679 BC), Guan asked Duke Huan of Qi to convene Song, Chen, Wei, and Zheng in his own name. From then on, Duke Huan of Qi became a recognized hegemon.

Northern Expedition to Cao Wei 曹魏

In the 41st year of Duke Huan of Qi (645 BC), before Guan Zhong died, Duke Huan of Qi asked who could take his place. Guan Zhong recommended Gongsun Xipeng 公孙隰朋 and asked Duke Huanyuan to leave Fang 方, Shudiao 竖刁, and Yi Ya 易牙.

Guan Zhong 管仲
Duke Huan of Qi 齐桓公

After Guan Zhong died, his successor, Gongsun Xipeng and Bao Shuya continued to use the political system left by Guan Zhong. His descendants were appointed doctors, who enjoyed good fortune from generation to generation.

Video: WORLD HISTORY – Chinese Philosophers – Guan Zhong & Legalism

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