Portraits of Thirty-three Swordsmen – 32 Xie Xun’s Concubine

No. 32 Xie Xun’s Concubine: should have just left, why harm others, jealousy is reproachable*.

Xie Qian and his younger brother Xie Xun have always loved each other. During the Jing Kang Incident, Xie Qian was stationed in Hubei province, and became a highly decorated general. Meanwhile, Xie Xun was trapped in the occupied northern territories. His wife had attempted to return to her mother’s home in the south, but was abducted by the defeated army midway. Separated from wife and family, Xie Xun was poor, miserable, and alone. Later, through introduction, he took a concubine who brought a lot of money with her. Only then did Jie Xun’s start having good days in his life again.

Still, Xie Xun missed his wife. One year, during the Chong Yang Festival, he was thinking about his wife, and tears started to stream down his face. Seeing this, the concubine was moved, and decided to help him return south, even saying “if your formal wife is still alive, I would gladly offer half of my dowry to her.” She was extraordinarily capable: planning and arranging every detail of the journey, passing through each checkpoint without incident, and overcoming all manners of obstacles and difficulties on land as well as on water.

Ecstatic upon reuniting with his beloved younger brother, in addition to a new residence, Xie Qian offer Xun four young servant girls. Thinking the concubine would object, Xun initial instinct was to decline. But the concubine advised otherwise: “We really need them right now, and should count ourselves lucky. If you like we could raise them as our children. So why refuse?” Soon however, Jie Xun, being a man still in his physical prime, started to drift away and neglect the concubine, and shift his affection and attention to the new, younger girls.

One day, while drinking with the concubine, they started arguing. The concubine accused him “when you were stranded in the north, you didn’t know where your next meal would come from. If not for me, most likely you would’ve been starved to death by now. But as soon as fortunes changed, you forgot all about past kindness and righteous conduct, such is not the behavior of a real man!” Xie Xun, shouting back, started to punch the concubine. The concubine just sneered, neither saying anything nor doing anything to physically defend herself. Meanwhile, Jie Xun continued with his angry tirade and wild punches. Then suddenly, the concubine stood up, all the lamps went out at the same moment, an oppressive chill struck the bodies of all who stood around. The four servant girls, terrified, all fell helplessly to the floor.

A long time passed before someone dared to light the candles. They can see Xie Xun’s body on the ground, separated from his head. The concubine is gone without a trace.

General Xie Qian, shocked by the report of his brother’s sudden death, immediately sent 3,000 of his elite troops after the concubine. They found nothing.

Notes and commentary
* Ren Xong’s attitude is typical of his time, that in a situation like this, the discarded woman should just leave. In a society where polygamy was the norm, jealousy was deemed a vice unbecoming of a good women.


解潛与其弟洵,素相友愛。建炎、靖康之際,潛積軍功,帥湖南。洵獨陷北境。其妻歸母家,又為潰兵所惊。數年后,為間關得歸。見潛,相持悲慟,潛置酒勞苦,而語之曰:“吾弟雖不幸流落。而兄幸蒙國恩,握兵權。每与虜及群盜戰,奏功于朝,必為弟審名籍中,已至正使,誥命皆在此。”即畀之。洵再拜謝過望,因言: “頃自汴都過河朔,孤單羈困,或見怜,為娶婦,奩裝丰厚,不暇深詳其出處。正無以為活,殊用自慰。偶以重陽日把盞,起故妻之思,不覺墮淚。婦惻然曰:“君豈非欲本朝乎?茲事易辦也。經旬日來告曰:“川陸之計已具,惟命是從。我亦俱行。倘君夫人固存,自當家嫁而分囊橐之半;万一捐館,當為偕老。”遂登途,水宿山行,防閑營護,皆此婦力也。今在舟中,未敢輒參謁。”潘嗟异,途命車招迎。見其眉宇秀茹,言詞明慧,益加敬重。


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