The Legend of Ng Zisui (Wu Zixu)
It is the custom and tradition of the Chinese people to honor the most famous and revered ancestor from the family past. To the Ng’s, Ng Zisui is that honored person for the Ngs. Many Ng family associations and temples throughout the world are named after him. This story is based on a translation of a Chinese version of the life of Ng Zisui by Dr. William F. Wu and additional historical material contributed by Dr. Michael Quinto. We would like to offer our thanks and appreciation to William, Michael, our members and friends who had contributed to the writing of this story.
Ng Zisui (526 to 484 B. C.) lived in the Spring & Auturm Period (770 to 476 B.C.) of Chinese history. During this period, China was made up of many kingdoms each with its own ruling hierarchy. The area was unstable and mutual distrust between kingdoms was common. Loyal advisors with great wisdom were highly valued. In the Kingdom of Chu, Ng Zisui’s forefather, Ng Ju was highly respected,honored and greatly trusted by the king. Subsequent progenies, such as Ng Che, Ng Zisui’s father, was also a highly regarded advisor to the king.
In the Court of King Chu Ping, Ng Che was the senior advisor to the king and teacher of the heir to the throne, Prince Jian. Fei Wuji was the junior advisor and protector of Prince Jian. Fei Wuji, a treacherous and ambitious person. Through his treachery, he maligned the prince and schemed to gain the king’s favor.
The King sent Prince Jian to Chengfu to organize the civil administration and the defense of the area. While in Chengfu, Fei Wuji convinced the king that Prince Jian was disloyal and can no longed be trusted. Prince Jian is plotting to overthrow you and is creating turmoil in the Kingdom. You too may very well be in great danger. The king immediately ordered the arrest of Ng Che and sent Chenfu’s Chief of Security to kill Prince Jian. Instead, the chief informed the prince of his predicament and allowed him to escape to the Kingdom of Sung.
Fei Wuji advised the king that Ng Che’s two sons, Ng Shang and Ng Zisui, were astute political and military strategists. If they knew of the king's order to kill Prince Jian, they might attempt a coup d’etat. The king sent a decree to summon Ng Che’s two sons, and should they disobey, their father would be executed. Ng Che told the messenger that Ng Shang is a gentle and caring person and would obey the order, but Ng Zisui is a straightforward, headstrong and rebellious person, and would disobey the order, if he suspected it was a trap. After receiving the summon, Ng Zisui convinced his brother that it was a scheme to lure them in and execute them. The sons decided not to appeared. As a result, their father and three hundred of their clansmen were executed.
Remorseful and bitter, the two brothers vowed to avenge the death of their father and clansmen. An attempt to avenge their death failed. Ng Shang was captured and summarily executed. Ng Zisui escaped to the Sung Kingdom, where he found Prince Jian. Together they went to the Jang Kingdom then to the Jin Kingdom. During their stay at Jin Kingdom, King Jin Jinggong approached Prince Jian to help him conquer the Jang Kingdom. The plan was so ill-conceived, the venture failed, and Prince Jian was captured and executed.
Prince Jian left behind his only son, Ng Sheng. Concerned for Sheng’s safety Ng Zisui returned with him to the Chu Kingdom. In the Chu Kingdom, Ng Zisui was a wanted man. His picture was posted all over the kingdom. He and his young charge were constantly pursued by soldiers. They hid in the mountains, sometimes concealing themselves underneath piles of leaves when the soldiers approached. When the opportunity arose, they went into the city to seek the help of Dong Gao Gung, his physician friend and former official of the king’s court.
Dong Gao Gung gave refuge to them in his home for a week. he was under enormous stress trying to plot a way for their escape. Overnight, his hair turned completely white and his facial features aged greatly. His facial feature changed completely. The change was a blessing in disguise. Unrecognizeable, he and Sheng escaped and headed for the Wu Kingdom.
In order to get to the Wu Kingdom they must cross a river. When they reached the river and risked not being spotted crossing over the bridge, Ng asked a fisherman to ferry them across the river. The fisherman knowing the contributions of Ng Zisui to the Chu Kingdom, he immediately complied. He ferried them across. As he disembarked with his charge,Sheng, Ng offered his sword to the fisherman as a gesture of gratitude. The fisherman declined. He felt the sword is a symbol of courage and dignity, he was not worthy of his sword, Only he, Ng Zisui, is worthy of the sword. In parting, Ng Zisui asked the fisherman not to reveal the encounter to anyone. The fisherman was deeply offended by the reminder. To show his loyalty and trustworthiness he then walked into the river and drowned himself. Now no one can reveal the encounter.
Ng Zisui fell on hard time in Wu Kingdom. In order for him and his charge, Sheng, to survived, he resorted to playing his flute and begging for food in the streets of the Wu Kingdom. Later he became ill. After he recovered, he sought an audience with King Wu Wangliao to offer his service. The king, well aware of Ng Zisui’s political and military expertice, appointed him one of his advisors.
Five years later, King Chi Ping of the Chu Kingdom died and was succeeded by his son Jen. King Wu Wangliao, sensing the right moment to invade Chu Kingdom. He sent his two youngest brothers to lead the invasion force. The invasion failed and the Wu army annihilated and by some miracle, the two brothers escaped to safety.
By now, the Wu Kingdom was in turmoil. One of the generals, Gung Zi Guang, seized the opportunity to revolt. He assassinated the King and declared himself King Huo Lu, Ruler of the Wu Kingdom. Once in power, King Huo Lu immediately appointed Ng Zisui Minister-at-Large.
Three years later King Hou Lu decided to invade the Chu Kingdom again. Once again. the invasion failed. King Hou Lu was mortally wounded. His grandson, Fu Cha succeeded to the throne.
Six years passed, King Fu Cha of Chu Kingdom decided to have his brother invade the Wu Kingdom. The defense of the Kingdom fell on Ng Zisui’s lap. Ng Zisui led his force valiantly and drove the invaders back to their capital and subsequently conquered the Chu Kingdom. He entered the tomb of King Chu Ping, who ordered the deaths of his father, Ng Chi, his brother, Ng Sheng, and three hundred clansmen. Ng Zisui whipped King Chu Ping’s corpse three hundred times. Thus, avenging their brutal deaths.
No sooner had Ng Zisui returned to the Wu Kingdom in triumph, the king ordered him to conquer the Yue Kingdom. It was again a success; the king and queen of Yue were captured and given the humiliating positions of stable-hand at King Fu Cha’s stable. Secretly,they swore revenge.
Corrupted by power and delusion of omnipotence, King Fu Cha became decadent and arrogant. Foreseeing the danger the king’s overconfidence and excesses, Ng Zisui advised the king to release the Yue king and queen before they gained support from sympathetic followers within the Wu Kingdom. The king, headstrong with his sense of supremacy, sneered at the prediction, handed Ng Zisui his sword and ordered him to kill himself. Grieve-stricken with the king’s obstinacy, and weary of all the treacheries, Ng Zisui took the king’s sword and took his own life. Before he died he predicted that one day the Yue Kingdom would be resurrected to invade and conquer the Wu Kingdom. He asked that after his death his two eyes be removed and hung on top of the east gate of the kingdom so he can see the Yue troops march in for the conquest. King Fu Cha will lived to regret his obduracy. True to Ng Zisui’s prediction, the king and queen of Yue were released and later returned to overthrow King Fu Cha.
The king ordered Ng Zisui’s body be thrown into the ocean. His body was carried by the ocean current to the mouth of the Jin Huang River and tossed into the rapids that spilled into the ocean. His body did not drift back into the ocean. Instead, it stayed at the mouth of the river, where the rapids collided with the ocean tide. There, Ng Zisui’s body spun in the undertow. To this day his indomitable spirit rises up to a great crescendo as the gigantic waves from the Pacific Ocean crash with the rapids of the Jin Huang River.
Ng Zisui (Wu Zixu) 伍子胥 Birth name 生時命名: Ng Yuen (Wu Yuan)伍員
Ng Tom (Wu Can) 伍參 (Great grandfather曾祖父)
Ng Ju (Wu Ju) 伍舉 (Grandfather 祖父)
Ng Che (Wu She) 伍奢 (Father 父親)
Ng Sheng (Wu Shang) 伍尚 (Brother 兄弟)
Chu Kingdom 楚國 (Present day Hunan & Hubei Province 現今湖南湖北省)
King Chu Ping 楚平王
Prince Jian 建王子
Fei Wuji 費無忌
Sung Kingdom 宋國
Jin Kingdom 晉國 (Present day Henan Province 現今河南省)
King Jin Jinggong 晉頃公
Jang (Zheng) Kingdom 鄭國
Prince Sheng 尚王子
Wu Kingdom 吳國 (Present day Jiangsu Province 現今江蘇省)
Dong Gao Gung 東皋公
Zhao GuanPass 昭關
Wu Wangliao 吳王僚
Gung Zi Guang 公子先
Huo (He) Lu 闔閭
Fu Cha (Chu) 夫差
Yue Kingdom越國 (Present day Zhejiang Province 現今浙江省)
Jin Huang River 錢杭江