Ancient China gave birth to countless intellectuals, philosophers and strategists who found employment under the rival kings leading the numerous warring Chinese states. Among the long list of advisors, bureaucrats, generals and statesmen who thrived in that war-torn time, one particular name stands out from the others—Gan Luo.
Not all that much is known about the life of Gan Luo. He can be roughly dated as living during the reign of King Zheng (the future First Emperor of China), who ascended the throne of Qin around 247 or 246 BCE. He also studied under the Qin minister, Lü Buwei, who was said to have committed suicide around 235 BCE. Therefore, Gan Luo’s entry into the Qin government can be placed loosely between those dates.
According to the sources of the Grand Historian, Sima Qian (145-90 BCE), Gan Luo was only 12 years old when he began to serve the kingdom of Qin. Despite his young age, Gan Luo displayed a mind of wisdom and cunning. When Lü Buwei could not convince a man named Zhang Tang to become the next (pro-Qin) prime minister of the kingdom of Yan, the young Gan Luo succeeded where his master had failed. The child followed up that feat by traveling to the kingdom of Zhao, where he impressively convinced King Xiang to cede five cities to the kingdom of Qin. Gan Luo also worked out a deal where the kingdom of Qin would support Zhao in an upcoming war with the kingdom of Yan. In that conflict, Sima Qian claimed that Zhao seized thirty cities from Yan, of which eleven of the captured cities were then handed over to the kingdom of Qin.
After returning home from his successful mission in Zhao, King Zheng of Qin gave the boy great wealth and promoted him to a high ministerial rank. After that, Gan Luo seemingly vanished from history. Perhaps, he died shortly after returning to Qin. Or, more hopefully, he quit politics and lived a happy life of luxury, ignoring the chaotic world he lived within.
Written by C. Keith Hansley.
Picture Attribution: (One Hundred Children in the Long Spring, by Su Hanchen (1101–1161), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).
- Records of the Grand Historian (Shi ji) by Sima Qian, translated by Burton Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.