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Lu Buwei: Kingmaker of Qin Shi Huang

lu buwei, Qin Shi Huang Prime minister
Lu Buwei the Kingmaker of Qin Shi Huang

Lu Buwei's story in my opinion, should be an example of Sun Tzu Art Of War. A great negotiator, master planner and a very shrewd merchant. For you knowledge, in the ancient China, merchants are rank at the lowest status equivalent to a peasant.

They are considered parasites and does not contribute to the kingdom.

Lu Buwei is a scheming and smart merchant that engineered two prince to be king in the Qin state. They are Prince Ying Yiren who later became King Zhuanxiang of Qin and Prince Ying Zheng to Emperor Qin Shi Huang of Qin Dynasty.

Lu Buwei is a very interesting character because you will discover how this opportunist used his cunning ways to plan, bribe and scheme his way to power, wealth and position.

Discover how Lu Bu Wei set his detailed plan and got Qin Shi Huang's father to become a king and later Qin Shi Huang, to be the first Emperor of China. And in return he became a Prime Minister.


Lü Buwei (born in 291–235 BCE). He was a Chinese merchant of the state of Wei during the Warring States period.

Here is how it all started...

During his business trip to the state of Zhao, he heard about a minor prince from Qin by the name of Prince Yiren.

The Prince was serving as a hostage in the Zhao state to guarantee the armistice between the Qin and Zhao state.

Lu Buwei sees this as an opportunity to make a profit from this deal.

On returning home, he said to his father,

 "What is the profit on investment that one can expect from ploughing fields?"

"Ten times the investment," replied his father.

"And the return on investment in pearls and jades is how much?"

"A hundredfold."

"And the return on investment from establishing a ruler and securing the state would be how much?"

"It would be incalculable."

"Now if I devoted my energies to labouring in the fields, I would hardly get enough to clothe and feed myself; yet if I secure a state and establish its lord, the benefits can be passed on to future generations. I propose to go serve Prince Yiren of Qin who is a hostage in Zhao and resides in the city of Jiao."

The Deal to Release the Prince of Qin

Prince Yiren is definitely unhappy being in the Zhao state. With a lack of food, no ability to travel, no money, lack of resources and far away from home.

Lu Buwei met Prince Yiren and befriended him. He told the prince that he will try to get him out and make him the king of Qin.

I believe Prince Yiren will probably agree with his newfound friend. He will probably doubt that this is possible. Nevertheless, what is there to lose.

Through bribery and machinations, Lu Buwei got Prince Yiren free from being a hostage in Zhao state.

How is Lu Buwei going to make Prince Yiren a King?

Here is the situation,

1. Prince Yiren's father is Lord Anguo. And Lord Anguo have 20 sons.

2. Lord Anguo is the second son of King Xiaowen of Qin. He will be the next king because the first son of King Xiaowen had passed away.

3. Prince Yiren, is one of the 20 sons and his mother was one of the concubines. Technically he does not have a chance to be a king.

Lu Buwei also knows that Lady Huayang was chosen to be Lord Anguo's primary spouse. And she was childless.

To secure Prince Yiren to be the future crown Prince, Lu Buwei has to convince Lady Huayang to have a son, which is Prince Yiren.


How does Lu Buwei convince Lady Huayang?

Getting an audience with Lady Huayang may not be that easy. And, to have more power of persuasion, Lu Buwei met with her brother and sister to buy into his proposal.

Then they approached Lady Huayang to convince her.

Here is how Lu Buwei convinced and conditioned Lady Huayang to take in Prince Yiren to be her son...

When Lady Huayang's husband Lord Anguo becomes King, she will be the queen.

But when her husband dies, she will not have an heir. And some other family members will take over the position of King and Queen.

She will have to step down from her position as a Queen.

The solution is to adopt a son, so the son can be King and she will move from Queen to Queen Dowager.

Lu Buwei proposes Prince Yiren to be the chosen adopted son. He told Lady Huayang that he had suffered begin a hostage in the Zhao state, and it will be a good thing to make him her son.

After convincing her, Prince Yiren became her son and a legitimate heir. He was renamed by the name of Prince Zichu.

As for the original birth mother of Prince Yiren, she too will eventually be Queen Dowager.

There will then be two Queen Dowagers once the King passes away. There will be no competition and everyone will be happy.

To make Lady Huayang happy, Prince Yiren changed his name to Zichu because the name Chu behind represents her home state of Chu.

In return, Lu Buwei made a deal with Prince Zichu, when everything goes well, he wants to serve him as his Prime Minister.

One day Lu Buwei had a party and invited Prince Zichu. There he met a pretty dancing girl and it was love at first sight. He asked Lu Buwei to introduce this girl to him. Her name was Zhao Ji.

Lu Buwei initially was reluctantly introduced to Prince Zichu because she was his concubine.

Eventually, Lu Buwei made the introduction. Prince Zichu and Zhao Ji much later had a son named Zhao Zheng who will be Emperor Qin Shi Huang


Prince Zichu's father became King of Qin

When the King passed away, now Lord Anguo became King Xiaowen.

Unfortunately, he too passed away less than a year. King Xiaowen died 3 days after his coronation.

Then Prince Zichu or Yiren became King Zhuangxiang in 250 BCE. He too unfortunately did not live long. He ruled for 3 years.

After that in 247 BCE, King Zhuanxiang's eldest son, Ying Zheng became King Ying Zheng at 13 years old.

In 221 BCE at the age of 38 years old, he conquered all the other Warring States and declared himself Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

Lu Buwei got his wish fulfilled and became the Prime Minister and Marquis of Wenxin for King Zhuangxiang, and King Ying Zheng.


Lu Buwei the master Kingmaker

Without Lu Buwei's planning and negotiation skills, Prince Yiren will not be free from being a hostage of Zhao State. To the Qin state, Prince Yiren is of little importance because he is one of the 20 sons of his father, Lord Anguo.

Without Lu Buwei, Prince Yiren will not be King and his son will not be the first Emperor of China. The Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

As the Prime Minister and regent to King Ying Zheng, Lü Buwei dominated the Qin government and military.

He invited famous scholars with expertise in economics and trade, government policies, military strategies, philosophy, arts, agriculture and many more from all over China to Xianyang, the Qin capital, where they compiled the Lüshi Chunqiu (Lü's Spring and Autumn [Annals]), an encyclopedic compendium of the ideas of the Hundred Schools of Thought

Lu Buwei also set and improved all the government and military administration of the Qin state.

How Lu Buwei died?

In 235 BCE, after being implicated in a scandal involving Queen Dowager Zhao which is Ying Zheng's mother and her illicit lover Lao Ai. Because of that, Lü Buwei was stripped of his posts and titles and was banished to the remote Shu region in the south of Qin.

It also could be an opportunity to get rid of him and replace him with Li Si as the new prime minister which is King Ying Zheng's favourite.

While in exile, Lü Buwei committed suicide by consuming poison. There was a possibility that he was killed because he knew too much about the insides of the Qin Dynasty. And also to eliminate the possibility of Lu Buwei working for any of the enemy states.

Even though Lu Buwei was remembered for his ingenious plan and plot to rise from a merchant to be a Prime Minister. He has contributed a lot for the state of Qin and was a brilliant Prime Minster.


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