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Shensheng (Chinese: 申生; pinyin: Shēnshēng, died 20 February 655 BCE[1]), ancestral name Ji (姬), was the eldest son of Duke Xian of Jin and the Crown Prince of the State of Jin before being replaced by his half-brother Xiqi. One of his sisters, Lady Mu, later became the wife of Duke Mu of Qin.

Shensheng (申生)
Crown Prince of Jin
Died655 BCE (traditionally 656[1])
FatherDuke Xian of Jin
MotherQi Jiang


Shensheng was the son of Qi Jiang (齊姜), the first wife of Duke Xian of Jin. Because Duke Xian of Jin favored his concubine Li Ji, in 665 BCE he sent away three of his older sons. Shensheng was sent to live in Quwo, modern Quwo County in Shanxi. In 661 BCE, in order to ensure Shensheng's continued political isolation from the Jin court, Duke Xian split a branch off his army and made Shensheng its general, with the command to garrison Quwo.[2] Three years later, Duke Xian officially replaced Shensheng as crown prince with Li Ji's son Xiqi.

In 656 BCE, the Li Ji Rebellion started with the scheme that caused the suicide of Shensheng. Shensheng was asked to offer sacrifices to his deceased mother, Qi Jiang. Shensheng sent some of the food blessed by the gods to Duke Xian. Li Ji had secretly placed poison in the food in order to frame Shensheng for murder. Before Duke Xian began eating, he gave a part of the food to a dog to check for poison whereupon the dog immediately collapsed. Discovering the poison in the food, Duke Xian killed Shensheng's teacher Du Yuankuan (杜原款) sent men to Quwo to arrest Shensheng.

Shensheng was advised to defend himself in front of Duke Xian by revealing Li Ji's plot.[3] Shensheng replied that he wouldn't like to break his father's heart by revealing Li Ji's plot. When Chong'er advised him to escape, he replied that if he escaped it would appear as if he really had planned to kill his father, and no one in the world would protect him then. Shensheng subsequently hanged himself.[4][5][6]

Due to the filial piety and loyalty of Shensheng, he was given the posthumous title "Gong Taizi" (恭太子) or "Gong Shizi" (恭世子), both meaning "the respectful crown prince".

According to the Records of the Grand Historian, Duke Hui of Jin disrespectfully transferred Shensheng's burial to another place which made the spirit of Shensheng angry. The spirit of Shensheng then appeared in front of the Jin official Hu Tu (狐突) and told him that Shensheng has pleaded to the heavenly god to let the State of Qin conquer the State of Jin as a punishment. After persuasions made by Hu Tu, Shensheng replied that the heavenly god has allowed that Duke Hui of Jin be defeated in battle at the land of Han as a punishment. After that, the spirit disappeared.[7]


  1. ^ a b Sima Qian records the day of Shensheng's suicide as the wushen day (午申; day 45) of the twelfth month according to the Jin calendar (Sima Qian, 39:1646). This was during the spring according to the Lu calendar, as recorded in the Spring and Autumn Annals (僖5:300§5.1). On the first day of the ninth month of the same year – also an wushen day – a total eclipse was recorded, which Yang Bojun calculates as being the eclipse of 19 August 655 BC (idem. p 301§5.8 nn). Shensheng's death took place exactly three sixty-day cycles previously, i.e. 20 February -655. See Yang Bojun in Zuozhuan, p 300§5.1 for the interval between the Lu and Jin calendars according to Gu Donggao (顧棟高) and why Shensheng's death is traditionally dated to 656 BCE; Zhang Peiyu p 133 for the calendars of the years in question.
  2. ^ Sima Qian, 39:1641
  3. ^ The Classic of Rites, 檀弓1.15, specifies Shensheng's interlocuter as his half-brother Chong'er. Some later sources (e.g. Liu Xiang's Shuoyuan, 4:"立節".81) follow this.
  4. ^ Sima Qian, 39.1645–6
  5. ^ Zuozhuan 僖4.296–9
  6. ^ Sources differ on the method of Shensheng's death. The Zuozhuan and Guoyu, the earliest two sources, agree that Shensheng hanged himself. The Lüshi Chunqiu, Lunheng, Guliang zhuan, and Shuoyuan have Shensheng killing himself with a sword, either by falling on it or slitting his own throat. See Zuozhuan 僖4.299 for a list of examples; also Guoyu 8.280; Lüshi Chunqiu 19:"上德", p 519; Guliang Zhuan, 僖10; Shuoyuan 4:"立節".81; Lunheng 5:"感虛".239.
  7. ^ Sima Qian, 39:1651.


  • Liu Xiang, 說苑校證 (Annotated Shuoyuan), [0s BCE]. Xiang Zonglu (向宗魯), ed. Beijing: Zhonghua Publishing, 1987.
  • Lü Buwei 呂氏春秋集釋 (Collected Readings of the Lüshi Chunqiu), [-239]. Xu Weiyu (許維遹), [1933], ed. 2 vols. Beijing: Zhonghua Publishing, [2009] 2010.
  • Sima Qian, 史記 (Shiji) [10s BCE]. 10 vols. Beijing: Zhonghua Publishing, [1959] 1963.
  • Wang Chong, 論衡集釋 (Collected Readings of the Lunheng), [80s]. Liu Pansui (劉盼遂) [1932], annotation; Huang Hui (黃暉), ed. 4 vols. Beijing: Zhonghua Publishing, 1990.
  • Xu Yuangao (徐元誥), ed., 國語集解 (Collected Readings of the Guoyu). Beijing: Zhonghua Publishing, 2002.
  • Yang Bojun, ed., 春秋左傳注修訂本 (Annotated Zuozhuan, Revised Edition). 4 vols. Beijing: Zhonghua Publishing, [1981] 1993.
  • Zhang Peiyu (張培瑜), 中國先秦史歷表 (Historical Almanac of Pre-Imperial China). Jinan: Qi Lu Publishing, 1987.