An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Goujian, King of Yue 越王句踐

Dec 2, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Goujian, King of Yue 越王句踐 (r. 495- 465), was a dominant ruler of the semi-Chinese state of Yue 越 during the Spring and Autumn period 春秋 (770-5th cent. BCE). He is counted as one of the so-called five hegemons (wuba 五霸).

Just after his accession to the throne, the powerful kingdom of Wu 吳 attacked the kingdom of Yue, but Goujian was able to defeat King Helü 闔閭 (r. 514-496) of Wu at Zuili 檇李 (modern Jiaxing 嘉興, Zhejiang).

Three years later, Helü's son Fucha 夫差 took revenge and defeated the army of Yue in the battle of Fujiao 夫椒 (southwest of modern Wuxian 吳縣, Jiangsu). With the rest of his shattered army Goujian withdrew to Guiji 會稽 and offered a truce. In the next years he attracted worthy advisors like Fan Li 范蠡 and Wen Zhong 文種 who helped him strengthening his government and building up a new military force.

When King Fucha of Wu was on a campaign to the north to exert his hegemonial power over the central states, internal quarrels broke out in Wu. King Goujian took the chance to destroy the state of Wu. King Fucha was forced to commit suicide. His new dominance of China's southeast allowed Fucha to take over the position of the hegemon that Wu had lost. In Xuzhou 徐州 (south of Tengzhou 滕州, Shandong) he assembled the regional rulers (zhuhou 諸侯) and declared himself hegemon of China.

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Zhang Lirong 張麗榮 (1999). "Goujian 句踐", in Junsh kexue yuan junshi baike yanjiubu 軍事科學院軍事百科研究部, ed. Junshi renwu baike quanshu 軍事人物百科全書 (Beijing: Zhonggong zhongyang dangxiao chubanshe), 107.
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