Tian Ji

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Tian Ji (Chinese :田忌; pinyin :Tián Jì), courtesy name Qi (齐), was a military general of the Qi state during the early Warring States period (4th century BC) of Chinese history. Tian Ji met Sun Bin and recommended him to King Wei of Qi as a military strategist. Tian Ji commanded the Qi armies in the Battle of Guiling and Battle of Maling, scoring victories against the Wei state with help and guidance from Sun Bin.


Tian Ji was descended from an aristocratic clan based in the State of Qi and was later appointed a military general by King Wei of Qi. In 340 BC, Sun Bin arrived in the State of Qi as a refugee from the State of Wei. Tian Ji met Sun Bin and was so impressed with Sun's expertise in military strategy that he kept Sun at his residence as a retainer (门客). Once, Tian Ji was invited to participate in a horse-racing event hosted by the king and Sun Bin proposed a strategy for Tian Ji to win. Tian used his inferior horse to race with the king's best horse, his average horse to race with the king's inferior horse, and his best horse to race with the king's average horse, winning the latter two out of the three races. The king was impressed by Tian Ji's victory and Tian told the king that he won the race after following Sun Bin's suggestion. Tian recommended Sun Bin to the king and the king appointed Sun as a military strategist and advisor.

In 354 BC, Wei attacked the State of Zhao, with Pang Juan leading the Wei forces. Zhao requested help from Qi whereupon King Wei of Qi ordered Tian Ji and Sun Bin to lead an army to reinforce Zhao. Sun Bin proposed the strategy of "Besieging Wei to rescue Zhao", and Tian Ji followed the plan, ordering an attack on Wei, forcing Pang Juan to turn back to save Wei, and effectively lifting the siege on Zhao. In 341 BC, Wei attacked the State of Han with Pang Juan commanding the Wei army. Han was an ally of Qi such that Qi responded by sending an army to reinforce Han. Sun Bin was appointed as commander-in-chief of the Qi army this time, with Tian Ji as his deputy. The Qi army scored a major victory in the ensuing Battle of Maling in 342 BC, which culminated in a crushing defeat for Wei and the death of Pang Juan.

Tian Ji was not on good terms with the Qi chancellor Zou Ji who disparaged Tian in front of King Wei. Unable to clear his name, Tian fled from Qi and sought refuge in the State of Chu. He was invited back to Qi and reinstated in his former office after King Xuan ascended the throne of Qi.

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