Portraits of Thirty-three Swordsmen – 18 Li Guishou

No. 18 Li Guishou: it was the dog who was alerted to the presence of the assassin.

Tang Dynasty, during time of Emperor Xizhong, Jin Gong (Count of Jin) Wang Duo became prime minister again. He based decisions purely on the welfare of the people. When a request from a warlord came, if it is unreasonable, he would be steadfast in its denial. He displeased many powerful warlords this way. A lover of books, no matter how overburdened he was with work, he would always find some time in the day for reading. In his residence in Yongning street, he set up a separate study. Everyday after coming back from the court, he would find enjoyment in retiring to his study to read alone.

One day, on his way to the study, he was followed by his pug named Huaque (“multi-colored sparrow”). As soon as he opened the door, Huaque started barking, then holding him by the edge of his robe, backing him away from the room. Wang ordered the dog to let go, and went into the study. But the pug kept looking up, his bark getting louder and louder.

Suspicious, Wang took out the sword (“thousand ounce gold” sword) from its box, and rested on his knees. Looking up, he shouted “be there demons and monsters, feel free to come out and greet me. I am a righteous man with nothing to hide, not afraid of you and your ilk.” As soon as he said this, an object dropped suddenly to the ground. It was actually a man. Hair is tied in a red band, he wore a short robe, very thin, with very dark complexion. He wouldn’t stop koutouing to Wang, saying he deserved a thousand death.

Wang Duo ordered him to get up, asked him his name, and where he came from.

That person said “I am Li Guishou of Lu Long (Hebei). Someone gave me a lot of money to do you harm. I was already hesitant, touched by your honor’s virtue, and then the dog startled me, so I was unable to hide… If your honor can spare me, I will follow and serve you for the rest of my natural life.” Wang Duo said “Okay, I will spare you.” He then ordered his men to take Li Guishou into his employment.

The next morning, a woman showed up at the official residence. Her clothing were unkempt, her shoes dragging, and she’s holding an infant. She told the doorman “Please ask Li Guishou to come out”. Li came out, as it turns out this is his wife. The wife said “I was waiting for you last night but you didn’t come back. So I immediately left Suzhou to look for you” (Suzhou is about 500 km from Changan). Thus she moved into the prime minister’s house as well.

After Wang Duo’s death, the entire Li family quietly disappeared, no one knows what became of them.





Wuyizidi: The assassin’s name Guishou means “long life like that of turtle”, very ethereal, daoist-sounding.

In Tang Dynasty, after the An Shi Rebellion, the central governments became weak, its power supplanted by that of regional warlords, who controlled the most of the military. Eventually this led to the downfall of Tang Dynasty. During this period several prime ministers were killed and injured by assassins sent by the warlords. Eventually Wang Duo himself would die in the hands of a warlord:

Born into a wealthy scholar-official family, plus being a bookworm, Wang Duo can be very out of touch, insular at times. On his way to an assignment at remote outpost, he traveled with a huge retinue, his many beautiful concubines all dressed in finest clothing, riding on luxurious coaches. It made quite a scene. Seeing this, the son of the warlord in charge of Hebei province had designs on Wang’s women and treasures. With his soldiers, he set up an ambush. Wang Duo and over three hundred members of his household were slaughtered. The warlord filed a report saying this was the work of bandits. Even thought they knew better, the central government could do nothing.


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