Kong Rong

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Kong Rong ( Chinese  孔融 , Pinyin Kǒng Róng , W.-G. K'ung Jung ; * 153 ; † 208 , majority name ( ) Wenju 文 舉  /  文 举 ) was a civil servant, poet and one of the smaller warlords at the time of the Three Kingdoms in ancient China .

Kong Rong was a 20th generation descendant of Confucius . He was the governor of the Beihai Headquarters ( 北海 郡 , today's Weifang in Shandong Province ), hence he is also known as Kong Beihai ( 孔 北海 ). He was defeated by Yuan Tan in 196 and moved to the capital, Xuchang , where he served Emperor Han Xiandi for Cao Cao . Because Kong Rong's efficiency and ambitions made him a serious rival to Cao Cao, Cao Cao executed him in 208.

Because of his intellectual agility and artistic writing style, Kong Rong is counted among the Seven Masters of the Jian'an period ( 建 安七子 , jiàn'ān qīzǐ ), a group of representative writers of his time who are named after the emperor's government motto . However, most of his work has been lost. The traditional verses come from anthologies of the Ming and Qing dynasties .

The popular story Kǒng Róng ràng lí ( 孔融讓梨  /  孔融让梨 ) is still often used today for bringing up children , it is about the value of courtesy and sibling love ( 禮讓  /  礼让 , lǐràng  - “literally courtesy and precedence, analogous politeness "Respect and love"): Four-year-old Kong Rong is said to have left the bigger pears to his older and younger brothers ( 融 四歲 , 能讓 梨  /  融 四岁 , 能让 梨 , Róng sì suì, néng ràng lí ). This story is also used in an educational text from the Song Dynasty to illustrate the virtue of courtesy, respect and love towards the elderly or younger and to give them priority.


Early life and career

Kong Rong was born in the former state of Lu (present-day southern Shandong and parts of northern Henan , Anhui and Jiangsu ). He showed his intellectual agility in childhood. According to the epilogue of Han from Sima Biao , Kong Rong, as a teenager, paid a visit to a famous official named Li Ying, although he did not see anyone except very important or close people. Kong Rong claimed to be his family member and was brought before Li Ying. He asked him how they were related, and Kong Rong replied that his ancestor Confucius was a student and friend of Lao Tzu , whose family name was Li. Another guest, however, was not impressed and remarked that a clever young man rarely becomes a capable man. Kong Rong replied, "Then I assume that you were very clever as a youth." Li Ying laughed at this and prophesied a great future for Kong Rong.

As Kong Rong got older, he entered the service of the Eastern Han Dynasty . He was promoted in quick succession and was appointed governor of the Beihai Headquarters in Qing Province in 190 (when Dong Zhuo was already in control of the imperial court). This region was heavily infested by Yellow Turban rebels in the 180s . When Kong Rong took up his post, he focused on rebuilding the city and setting up schools. He promoted Confucian studies and supervised the funerals of those refugees who no longer had relatives to attend to the burials. During this time he was besieged by an army of the remaining Yellow Turbans, led by Guan Hai . Kong Rong sent Taishi Ci to Liu Bei to ask for help. Liu Bei was the governor of Pingyuan at the time. Taishi Ci returned with 3,000 elite soldiers, and the rebels dispersed. In 195, at Liu Bei's suggestion, Kong Rong was appointed governor of all of Qing Province.

Stay in Xuchang

The next year (196), the warlord Yuan Shao sent his eldest son, Yuan Tan , to take Qing Province. Kong Rong was defeated and his family captured. He himself escaped to the capital, Xuchang , where he was later appointed secret treasurer . During his stay in Xuchang, Kong Rong often went against the policies of Chancellor Cao Cao , who at the time practically had Emperor Xian under his control. When Cao Cao imposed an alcohol ban after a bad harvest , Kong Rong responded sharply in a letter: “Kings Jie and Zhou were often overwhelmed by their desire for women; why don't you forbid marriage? ” Kong Rong was then dismissed from his post and reinstated soon after - albeit in a purely titular position. Nevertheless, because of his hospitality, his house was always filled with guests.

During this time, Kong Rong became friends with Mi Heng , a talented man from Jing Province (now Hubei and Hunan ). Although very well read, Mi Heng took getting used to and was easy by nature. When he reached Xuchang, he disparaged every man of rank in the city in an epigram. When asked for his opinion on who he thought was gifted, Mi Heng replied, "Kong Rong comes first, then Yang Xiu comes second ." Kong Rong tried to recommend him to Cao Cao, but Mi Heng hit him At a festival held by Cao Cao, drumming naked in front of many guests and then criticizing Cao Cao on his doorstep. Because he did not want to personally murder Mi Heng, Cao Cao sent the presumptuous young man to Liu Biao , the governor of Jing Province.

In 198, Cao Cao prepared to face Yuan Shao on the banks of the Yellow River . Kong Rong took a pessimistic stance and told Cao Cao's advisor Xun Yu that Yuan Shao would be difficult to defeat because of his good supply, vastly superior troop strength and capable officers. Despite everything, Cao Cao managed to use Yuan Shao's weaknesses and later defeat him in the Battle of Guandu (200). Yuan Shao died two years later, and his sons Yuan Tan and Yuan Shang quarreled over his inheritance.

In 204 Cao Cao defeated them too and took the city of Ye . He then married Ms. Zhen to his son Cao Pi . She was previously the wife of Yuan Xi , Yuan Shao's second son. Upon hearing about this, Kong Rong wrote a letter to Cao Cao: "When King Wu of Zhou defeated Emperor Zhou , he married Daji 2 to the prince of Zhou, his brother." Believing that Kong Rong wanted to praise him with this quote Cao Cao asked him after his return about the source, but Kong Rong said, "Seeing what is happening in our day, I think it must have been then."

2: According to legend, Daji was a beautiful wife of Emperor Zhou who caused the fall of the Shang dynasty.


In 208 Kong Rong spoke ill of Cao Cao in front of an embassy from Sun Quan , who then sentenced him to death. After the Spring and Autumn Annals of Wei of Sun Sheng Kong Rong's two eight-year-old sons played three straight Go , was arrested when her father. When others urged them to flee, they said:

How could unbroken eggs be under a fallen nest?

This later became a Chinese proverb meaning: The suffering of a group affects all of its members.

3: According to the Later Han book , there was a nine-year-old son and a seven-year-old daughter.

In Liu Yiqing's work, A New Reconsideration of the Stories of the World, there is a fairytale-like and therefore less credible story, which, however, has a similar structure:

After Kong Rong and his entire family were executed, his body was left on the street. None of the court officials who were once close to him dared to take the body up for the funeral - except for Zhi Xi , who fell over Kong Rong's body and sobbed, “Now that you have left me and died who could I speak to who would understand me? "

Literary position

Although Kong Rong did not achieve great success in politics, he is undeniably one of the leading writers of his time, famous for both his prose and his poetry. With six poets of his time he forms the backbone of the Jian'an style . Together they were known as the Seven Disciples of Jian'an . The civil strife towards the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty gave the Jian'an verses their solemn yet touching tone, while complaints about the volatility of life were also a central theme of this period. In Chinese literary history , the Jian'an verses form the transition from folk songs to scholastic poetry.

Kong Rong's excellent literary abilities were often seen as an elaborate but hollow facade - and for good reason: Cao Pi noted in his discourse on literature that Kong Rong's words could not stand discourse and could not survive their sanity, so that they almost seem pure Sarcasm or grumbling worked.

After Kong Rong's death, Cao Pi collected 25 of his poems and summarized them in his discourse on literature . Most, however, are lost and only five have survived, two of which have not yet been verified as authentic. Nine volumes of Kong Rong's prose in the book by Sui are also lost. What has come down to us today was discovered in anthologies of the Ming and Qing dynasties. This includes several letters from Kong Rong to Cao Cao criticizing his policies.

Web link

Wikisource: Kong Rong  - Sources and full texts (Chinese)