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Fan Ju — A Remarkable Strategist and A Vengeful Politician

Fan Ju (? — 255 BC), courtesy name Fan Shu, used to change his name to Zhang Lu, was one of the most influential strategists during the Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC). 


From a humiliated criminal to a powerful prime minister of the State Qin, Fan Ju used his exceptional talent and insightful decisions. 


He alienated the king and empress dowager of State Qin, disintegrated the alliance of the other six kingdoms, assisted General Bai Qi won the largest-scale war and contributed significantly to State Qin’s further expansion.


Besides, with him obtaining more power and achievements, Fan Ju avenged everyone who had humiliated or offended him, empowering those who helped him.  


Meanwhile, his vengeful activities also influenced the fates of many states and people.

Silver Tiger of the Warring States Period

Silver Tiger of the Warring States Period — Shenmu Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Escaping from Humiliation and Lethal Crisis in State Wei

Fan Ju (? — 255 BC) was born into an impoverished family and had been working for a noble named Xu, wishing that someday Xu could recommend him to the King of State Wei.

Once, when Xu was serving as an emissary to State Qi, however, his follower Fan Ju impressed the King of Qi and gained big rewards. 

Fan Ju didn't take anything, but Xu and many other jealous officials suspected that Fan Ju sold some valuable info to the King of Qi.

Hence, Wei Qi, the prime minister of the State Wei, commanded to beat Fan Ju to death, wrapped him up in a shabby grass mat, threw him to the toilet, and asked people to pee on him. 

Wei Qi wanted to alert everyone not to betray their country, the State Wei. Otherwise, they would end up being humiliated and dead.

Fan Ju faked his death during the cruel humiliation and survived. 

Afterward, he changed his name to Zhang Lu, escaped, and hid in a small village. 

Inlaying Gold and Silver Cart Decoration of State Wei

Inlaying Gold and Silver Cart Decoration of State Wei — National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Obtaining Power in State Qin

Sometime later, envoy Wang Ji of State Qin visited the State Wei. One of his servers, Zheng, was a friend of Fan Ju who found an excellent opportunity to recommend Fan Ju.

Soon, Fan Ju sneaked into the hotel in the middle of the night with Zheng’s help and met and impressed Wang Ji, who decided to take him back to Qin. 

Fan Ju hid in Wang’s carriage and successfully arrived at the capital city of State Qin but never got a chance to meet the king. 

He was poorly treated for over a year, with plain food and unpleasant living conditions.

But Fan Ju never gave up. 

After careful observation, he wrote an impressive letter to the king of Qin, who finally agreed to meet him. 

As expected, he impressed the King of Qin during that meeting. 

Dragon Shaped Jade Decoration of Warring States Period

Dragon Shaped Jade Decoration of Warring States Period — National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Fan Ju gained the king’s respect through brilliant analyses of the current situation and the strengths and disadvantages of each warring state. 

Ying Ji (325 BC — 251 BC), respected as King Zhaoxiang of Qin, was one of the most extraordinary, ambitious kings of the State Qin. 

Under Fan Ju’s suggestion and assistance, King Zhaoxiang removed power from his mother and the mighty Queen Dowager Xuan (? — 265). Later, four honored noble clans that supported her were all abolished and forced to migrate to remote places.  

After assisting the king in obtaining centralized power, Fan Ju was trusted and nominated as the prime minister of State Qin.

Using his power, Fan Ju nominated and empowered his former friend Zheng and Wang Ji and gave money and treasure to everyone who had helped him.


Meanwhile, he humiliated his former master Xu in public and forced Wei Qi, the prime minister of the State Wei, to commit suicide. 

Bronze Pliers of the State Qin

Bronze Pliers of the State Qin — National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Breaking the Alliance of Six Warring States

After Shang Yang’s significant reform made the State Qin strong, the other six kingdoms felt threatened and allied to fight against the Qin.

This strong alliance brought peace for over a decade, but it was a worrisome threat to King Zhaoxiang of Qin.  

Fan Ju promised the king to tear it up.

He concluded the shortcomings and vulnerabilities of kings and powerful officials of these six states and then used them smartly. 

Fan Ju paid tributes to those who were poor and greedy while sending beautiful women to those who were romantic or dissolute.

The brilliant point, however, was that he only bribed part of the people in the alliance, which led to more internal suspicions and infighting.

Soon, this strong alliance became only an empty title. 

Gold Currency (Ying Yuan) of the State Chu

Gold Currency (Ying Yuan) of the State Chu — Nanjing Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Fan Ju's Successful Diplomatic Policies

Then Fan Ju implemented the principle of "befriending the far and attacking the near" for State Qin. 

Since the alliance of the other six countries collapsed, Qin successfully built good relationships with far and extensive kingdoms while continuously attacking nearby ones.

Afterward, State Qin kept expanding because of its strong and aggressive army until they confronted State Zhao. 

Commander of State Zhao was Lian Po (327 BC — 243 BC), a famous and talented general with remarkable military achievements. 

Therefore, even though Qin's general and army were quite strong and aggressive, Qin and Zhao were at a stalemate for over three years.

Restored Crossbow of the Warring States Period

Restored Crossbow of the Warring States Period — Hubei Museum

The Large Scale, Cruel Battle of Changping

This was the Warring States period's largest-scale war, the Battle of Changping.


Around one million warriors of Qin and Zhao participated in this war, and two-thirds of them lost their lives there. 

Seeing Qin couldn't win, Fan Ju sent many spies to State Zhao and spread rumors that General Lian Po had been taking Qin's bribes and didn't want to organize a big fight, and that was why this war had lasted for years; the only general that Qin's army would feel threatened was a young one named Zhao Kuo. 

Those spies did a great job, making the King of Zhao believe all those rumors and replacing great commander Lian Po with young Zhao Kuo.

After hearing this, Fan Ju secretly sent the young and aggressive general Bai Qi to the battlefield. 

Certificate (Hu Fu) of the King of Qin to Deploy Forces

Certificate (Hu Fu) of the King of Qin to Deploy Forces — Shaanxi History Museum

Zhao Kuo was the son of a talented general who had previously defeated State Qin.


He did hear many stories from his brilliant father and had read many military books; however, he had zero experience on actual battlefields. 

He led Zhao’s army and rashly attacked Qin’s troops but ended up with a huge failure.


Zhao Kuo was sacrificed, while more than 400,000 fine soldiers were killed and buried alive by Qin’s general Bai Qi.

Since then, the former prosperous State Zhao never had a chance to fully recover from this enormous loss until it was finally perished by State Qin decades later. 

Site of the Changping Battlefield, the Place That Bai Qi Led Qin's Troop Besieged Armies of the State Zhao.

Site of the Changping Battlefield, the Place That Bai Qi Led Qin's Troop Besieged Armies of the State Zhao.

Disagreement with and Slander Against General Bai Qi

The huge failure of State Zhao in the Battle of Changping shocked everyone.


Losing about half a million soldiers in one war was too astonishing. 

General Bai Qi strongly suggested the king continue the fight and perish the State Zhao when everyone was shocked and unprepared.


Still, Fan Ju persuaded Qin’s king not to, under the reason that recovering agriculture and the economy was more important.  

The King Zhaoxiang of Qin listened to Fan Ju. 

The State Qin did need to recover from such a large-scale war, and so did to perish the State Zhao.


Hence, it was not easy to know whose suggestion would lead to a better result from a historical perspective. 

Bronze Inlaying Silver Ware of the Warring States Period that were used to Place Bows

Bronze Inlaying Silver Ware of the Warring States Period that was used to Place Bows — Art Institute of Chicago (Photo by Dongmaiying)

However, some rumors say that Fan Ju took a large amount of money from other states that wanted Qin to stop attacking Zhao.

Also, others believed Fan Ju didn't want Bai Qi to obtain more achievement and power.

After hearing those rumors, Bai Qi was upset and quite angry with Fan Ju.  

And Fan Ju was fully aware of Bai Qi's hatred and military talent.


Therefore, Fan Ju found an excellent opportunity to slander Bai Qi to the King of Qin, who then commanded Bai Qi to commit suicide. 

Bai Qi, one of the most exceptional generals who brought his people countless victories and honors, got plenty of sympathy from Qin's civilians.

Unearthed Terre Cotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty

Unearthed Terracotta Warriors of the Qin — Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum 

Regret and Departure

After invincible Bai Qi departed, Qin needed a marshal to lead its army. 

Hence, Fan Ju’s good friend Zheng was trusted to lead the Qin’s troop. Ironically, Zheng lost the war and led the army to surrender to the State of Zhao.


A few months later, Wang Ji, another official that was empowered and promoted by Fan Ju, was accused of treason and executed.  

The King Zhaoxiang of Qin didn’t blame Fan Ju, and still respected and trusted him. 

But Fan Ju felt frustrated and regretful. So he recommended another statesman to be the prime minister and resigned.


Afterward, he lived quietly in seclusion until he passed away old and sick.

Silver Shoe Sole of Warring States Period

Silver Shoe Sole of Warring States Period — Gansu Antique Archaeology Institute (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Bai Qi and Fan Ju’s disagreement and departure slowed Qin’s expansion and gave other kingdoms time to unite and develop.  

But their efforts set a solid foundation for the State Qin’s hegemony. 

Four years after King Zhaoxiang of Qin passed away, his great-grandson Ying Zheng (259  BC — 210 BC) ascended to the throne, defeated the other six states, and established the unified Qin Dynasty (221 BC — 207 BC). 

Unearthed Jade Goblet of the Qin Dynasty

Jade Goblet Unearthed From Site of Royal Palace (Epang Palace) of the Qin Dynasty — Xi'an Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

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