|Kwok Fung played Lu Buwei in A Step into the Past.|
Lu was originally a merchant. He amassed a fortune selling goods all over the country. One time, while he was in the Zhao state, he met Yiren (嬴異人), a grandson of the Qin king. Yiren's father was the crown prince of Qin. But since Yiren was born to an unimportant concubine and was merely one of his father's many sons, he was sent to Zhao to serve as a hostage.
When Lu met Yiren, he compared Yiren to a rare piece of merchandise that could be stored for its value (leading to the Chinese saying "奇貨可居"). He decided to "invest" in Yiren. Yiren had been living in poor conditions in Zhao, so Lu gave him five hundred gold to upgrade his living conditions. He also presented Yiren with a beautiful lady from his household, Lady Zhao (趙姬). Lu spent another five hundred gold to buy gifts for Lady Huayang (華陽夫人), who was the principal consort of Yiren's father. Lu persuaded the childless Lady Huayang to adopt Yiren as her son, which made Yiren the presumptive heir to his father. As the hostilities between Qin and Zhao grew, Lu help Yiren escape from Zhao and return safely to Qin.
|Yiren (Lee Lung Kei) and Lady Zhao (Eileen Yeow)|
Yiren died after three years on the throne and was succeeded by his thirteen year-old son, Ying Zheng (嬴政), the future Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇). Lu served as regent to the teenage king, who addressed him as "Uncle". Under Lu’s administration, the Qin state continued to expand its territory and weaken the forces of neighbouring states. Lu oversaw the construction of a large-scale canal project to improve irrigation, which provided agricultural resources to support Qin's growing army. He also recruited a lot of talent to Qin, including over 3000 scholars who stayed as guests in his household. He commissioned them to compile Lu's Spring and Autumn Annals (呂氏春秋), a comprehensive text that covered a wide range of subjects, from philosophy to military to agriculture. Famously, upon its completion, Lu displayed the text in public and offered a thousand gold pieces to anyone who could add or subtract a single word from it. No one claimed the prize.
|Kwong Wah as Lao Ai|
Ying Zheng contemplated killing Lu as well, but ultimately decided to spare him because of Lu’s service to his father, Yiren. Lu was removed as chancellor and banished from the capital. About a year later, Ying Zheng suspected that Lu might be plotting against him and ordered Lu to move to a more remote region. Lu, fearing that he would eventually be executed, committed suicide instead.
Today, reactions to Lu are mixed. He is typically portrayed in media works as a power-hungry politician who dominated the court and oppressed his opponents. This is not untrue. But at the same time, he was a shrewd tactician who engineered the succession of Yiren to the throne. His military strategy and domestic policies while serving as chancellor helped solidify Qin’s power and enabled Ying Zheng to eventually conquer the other states.
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