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During his rule as the first emperor of China’s Qin Dynasty, Zheng of Qin faced numerous threats to his life, with assassination attempts being a constant concern. These dangers weren’t limited to his reign as emperor; even when he was still the King of Qin, attempts on his life were not uncommon.

One remarkable incident stands out among the attempts on Zheng’s life. During this particular assassination attempt, Zheng found himself in a perilous situation where his life hung in the balance. In a stroke of quick thinking and agility, he managed to outmaneuver his would-be assassin by employing a rather unconventional tactic – running around a pillar.

This spontaneous decision to circle the pillar was a clever diversion, allowing Zheng to evade the assailant’s deadly intentions and escape unscathed. The effectiveness of this maneuver was perhaps unexpected, but it undoubtedly saved the emperor’s life at that crucial moment.

Background

In 227 BC, Crown Prince Dan of Yan devised a daring plan to end the conquests of the Qin state by orchestrating an assassination attempt against their ruler, Zheng. He enlisted the help of his loyal retainer, Jing Ke, and his accomplice, Qin Wuyang, to carry out the perilous mission.

The assassins cunningly secured an audience with Zheng under the pretense of offering goodwill gestures from the state of Yan. They presented a severed head and a map, concealing a deadly dagger within its folds. Their intention was to use the dagger to assassinate Zheng and halt the Qin army’s advance towards Yan.

As the encounter unfolded, Qin, overwhelmed by nerves, faltered in his attempt to approach the king. Jing, quick to improvise, attributed Qin’s behavior to awe in the presence of the revered sovereign. With Qin barred from advancing further, Jing proceeded alone to present the gifts to Zheng.

Upon examining the map, Zheng inadvertently exposed the hidden dagger, prompting Jing to make a swift move toward him. In a moment of shock and panic, Zheng recoiled, narrowly evading the assassin’s thrust towards him.

With the ceremonial sword proving unwieldy, Zheng struggled to defend himself against Jing’s relentless pursuit. As the dramatic chase unfolded within the palace chamber, the courtiers, stunned by the unfolding chaos, remained frozen in disbelief. Hindered by palace guards stationed outside, they were unable to intervene to protect their king.

Amidst the chaos, the royal physician, Xia Wuju, displayed remarkable courage by attempting to thwart Jing’s advance with his medicine bag. This brief distraction allowed Zheng to draw his sword and confront his assailant head-on. With a swift stroke, Zheng managed to wound Jing, bringing the harrowing ordeal to a decisive end.

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