Tian Dan

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Tian Dan (simplified Chinese :田单; traditional Chinese :田單; pinyin :Tián Dān) was a general and nobleman of the major state of Qi during the Warring States period of ancient China. He was known for a spectacular military tactic called "Fire Cattle Columns". [1] After the kingdom was nearly destroyed under the rule of King Min of Qi in 284 BC, he helped regain its territory and restored the king's son. He later fought the Beidi nomads, either in the far north or some pocket of these people living in or between the Chinese states.

Simplified Chinese characters standardized Chinese characters developed in mainland China

Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Table of General Standard Chinese Characters for use in mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, they are one of the two standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People's Republic of China in mainland China has promoted them for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s to encourage literacy. They are officially used in the People's Republic of China and Singapore.

Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau, and in the Kangxi Dictionary. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han Dynasty, and have been more or less stable since the 5th century.

Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.


Yan and Qi Conflicts

In 314 BC, Zizhi, the Chancellor of Yan Kingdom, rebelled against his king and brought the country into months of inner fighting. King Xuan of Qi desired to take advantage of Yan's weakened defences and launch a military attack on Ji (near modern Beijing), the capital of Yan. However, the attack was unsuccessful.

Yan (state) ancient Chinese state during Zhao dynasty

Yan was an ancient Chinese state during the Zhou dynasty. Its capital was Ji. During the Warring States period, the court was also moved to another capital at Xiadu at times.

Beijing Municipality in Peoples Republic of China

Beijing, formerly romanized as Peking, is the capital of the People's Republic of China, the world's third most populous city proper, and most populous capital city. The city, located in northern China, is governed as a municipality under the direct administration of central government with 16 urban, suburban, and rural districts. Beijing Municipality is surrounded by Hebei Province with the exception of neighboring Tianjin Municipality to the southeast; together the three divisions form the Jingjinji metropolitan region and the national capital region of China.

In 286 BC, King Min of Qi attacked the state of Song and destroyed it, annexing its land into Qi territory. Although successful, the attack incited hostility against Qi from the remaining six kingdoms. King Zhao of Yan used that chance to raise a military alliance against Qi. The army of Yan and its allies under the command of Yue Yi managed to inflict a crushing defeat on Qi, captured 70 cities. Only two cities remains in Qi possession, Jimo and Ju. King Min was later killed at Ju, his son Tian Bijiang was crowned by the local people as King Xuan of Qi.

Song (state) state in Ancient China

Sòng was a state during the Zhou dynasty of ancient China, with its capital at Shangqiu. The state was founded soon after King Wu of Zhou conquered the Shang dynasty to establish the Zhou dynasty in 1046/46 BC. It was conquered by the State of Qi in 286 BC, during the Warring States period. Confucius was a descendant of a Song nobleman who moved to the State of Lu.

Yue Yi, enfeoffed as Lord of Changguo, was a prominent military leader of the State of Yan during the Warring States period of ancient China. He was the son of the prime minister of the state of Zhongshan, but when Zhongshan was destroyed by King Wuling of Zhao, he was forced to wander from country to country. His talents were recognized by King Zhao of Yan, and he was made a minister. He served with great skill and helped forge alliances with the states of Zhao, Wei, Chu, Han and Qin against the threat posed by Qi. He led the allied armies and crushed the Qi forces. The cruel King of Qi was driven away, and, except for two cities, the entire territory of Qi was brought under control. Soon thereafter, King Zhao of Yan suddenly died. Due to the scheming of Tian Dan of Qi, King Hui of Yan mistrusted him and he fled to the state of Zhao, where he was enfeoffed as Lord of Wangzhu. His son Yue Jian (樂間) inherited his title Lord of Changguo in Yan.

King Xuan of Qi was from 319 to 301 BC ruler of Qi, one of the seven major states of the Warring States period of ancient China. King Xuan's personal name was Tian Bijiang (田辟疆), ancestral name Gui (媯), and King Xuan was his posthumous title.

Yan army's onslaught led to many of Qi's citizens fleeing. Many of Qi people's chariots were broken due to overuse. However, Tian Dan had reinforced his chariots' axles with metal. Therefore, his family was able to safely escape to Jimo. The Qi citizens in Jimo praised Tian Dan's intelligence and elected Tian Dan as Jimo's military commander after the previous commander was killed in battle.

Had Yue Yi demoted

In 279 BC, King Zhao of Yan died. He was succeed by King Hui of Yan who disliked Yue Yi. Tian Dan sent his spies to Yan who created rumours about Yue Yi's possible treachery. The rumours successfully misled King Hui who then dismissed Yue Yi and replaced him with Ji Jie. This enraged Yan troops who deeply respected their former commander.

Boosting the morale of Qi troops

It was said that Tian Dan had his spies spread the rumour : "If Yan troops cut the nose of Qi prisoners and put them in the first line, Qi troops will be defeated." Yan troops believed the rumour and did as Tian Yan said. The Qi people were enraged then refused to surrender because they didn't want to be mistreated.

Tian Dan's spies spread another rumour: "If Yan troops dig up our ancestor's graves and dishonour the deceased people, it will be very disheartening." Yan troops again believed the rumour and destroyed Qi graves and burned the dead bodies. The Qi people were again enraged and strongly sought revenge.

The Flaming Oxen

After boosting Qi's morale and weakened the Yan troops, Tian Dan was able to launch a successful counter-attack and retook the lost territory of Qi.

This counter-attack was reliant on an unconventional assault which included inducing panic in a herd of oxen, who were then set upon the Yan army. It is described by Sima Qian in the Records of the Grand Historian within his biography of Tian Dan:

Sima Qian Chinese historian and writer

Sima Qian was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty. He is considered the father of Chinese historiography for his Records of the Grand Historian, a Jizhuanti-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to his time, during the reign of Emperor Wu of Han, a work that had much influence for centuries afterwards on history-writing not only in China, but in Korea, Japan and Vietnam as well. Although he worked as the Court Astrologer, later generations refer to him as the Grand Historian for his monumental work; a work which in later generations would often only be somewhat tacitly or glancingly acknowledged as an achievement only made possible by his acceptance and endurance of punitive actions against him, including imprisonment, castration, and subjection to servility.

<i>Records of the Grand Historian</i> historical record of ancient China

The Records of the Grand Historian, also known by its Chinese name Shiji, is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Han dynasty official Sima Qian after having been started by his father, Sima Tan, Grand Astrologer to the imperial court. The work covers the world as it was then known to the Chinese and a 2500-year period from the age of the legendary Yellow Emperor to the reign of Emperor Wu of Han in the author's own time.

"Tian Dan collected more than one thousand oxen from the people in the city. He had them dressed with red silk, and had multicolour lines, like those of dragons, painted on them. Sharp blades were adjusted to their horns, and reeds dipped in grease, so that their tips could be set aflame, were attached to their tails. Several passages were dug in the city walls, and on one night, the oxen were released, followed by five thousand sturdy men. The oxen, their tail on fire, charged the army of Yan, creating panic. The torches attached to the tails illuminated the night, the troops of Yan saw the lines on their bodies, which looked like dragons, and all those who met their horns were either killed or wounded. Then, the five thousand men, their mouths closed with pieces of wood, attacked them. They were followed by the sound of shouts and drums from the city, and all the old people and children struck metal pots. The noise shook heaven and earth. The soldiers of Yan panicked. They were defeated and repealed, and the people of Qi killed his general, Ji Jie. As the army of Yan was falling back, in disorder and confusion, the soldiers of Qi chased it, and destroyed it as they pushed it northwards. All the cities it went through revolted, and rallied Tian Dan, whose troops were larger every day. As he fled from a victory to another, the army of Yan was defeated every day, and finally reached the northern bank of the Yellow River. At this time, more than seventy cities had returned back to Qi." [2]

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  1. "Characters of the Warring States Period: Tian Dan (战国时人物:田单)" (in Chinese). MilitaryChina.com. 2005. Retrieved November 6, 2010.
  2. "Shiji 82 - Biography of Tian Dan" (in Chinese and English). 2008. Retrieved May 11, 2014.