However, what did the actual historical records available say about them?
From what I could gather, what could be confirmed was that Yī Yĭn (according to one version, circa 1658BC - 1549BC, but the traditional existence era for Xia Dynasty is circa 2100BC to 1800BC, so he should have been living earlier.) was a slave was part of the dowry from YŏuXīn Clan (有莘氏) when King Tāng (汤) of Shāng (商) married a girl from the tribe. Through his culinary skills, he got to meet and demonstrate his own abilities before the king. King Tāng was impressed and revoked his status as a slave, and promoted him eventually to be the prime minister.
In 1600BC, the Shāng overthrew the Xià and Yī Yĭn helped to govern the realms. Yī Yĭn even in the capacity of regent temporarily locked up TàiJiă (太甲), one of Tāng's descendants and successor, until the latter repents from profligacy and strove to become an able monarch.
Yī Yĭn's precedent was cited as an excuse in later dynasties for powerful courtiers to monopolise over under-age rulers, such as Huò Guāng (霍光) of Western Hàn Dynasty (西汉).
In the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, in a chapter when Zhuge Liang, in the capacity as an envoy from Liu Bei to Sun Quan, debated with the renowned scholars of Eastern Wu, a pedant demanded to know what classics Zhuge Liang had studied. Zhuge Liang countered disdainfully by asking what classics had Yī Yĭn studied, Yī Yĭn's reputation was such that it needed no further elaboration.
In all, he was said to be the assisting regent for 5 generations of rulers from Tāng, to WàiBĭng (外丙), to ZhòngRén (仲壬), to TàiJiă (太甲), and finally to WòDīng (沃丁).
He was said to have been buried after his passing by WòDīng on a site adjacent to Tāng's tomb.
Question: was there any historical account of Yī Yĭn being a spy in the court of Xià?
According to records in 《国语·晋语一》 and 《列女传》, Mèi Xĭ was from YŏuShī (有施), sent as a tribute to Xià to protect her people from further attacks. Instead of presenting a demure image, she swaggered around with a sword which captured the interest of her captor.
She managed to captivate King Jié (桀), and became the classic example of a woman being the cause of a kingdom's downfall, ahead of Dá Jĭ of Shāng (商-妲己), Bāo Sì of Zhou (周-褒姒), and Concubine Yáng of Tang (唐-杨贵妃).
She got King Jié to mismanage the state affairs and alienate his supporters and people through extravagant projects.
In some accounts, after the downfall of Xià, instead of being rewarded, she was exiled along with Jié to the remote south (南巢).
If Yī Yĭn and Mèi Xĭ were indeed both in the court of Xià at the same time, it would be probable that they would encounter each other. Some imaginative fiction writer wrote of the two of them as spies, and even lovers, working together and coordinating with each other.
wiki's entry on 伊尹 : http://zh.wikipedia....9&variant=zh-cn
wiki's entry on 妺喜 : http://zh.wikipedia....org/wiki/å¦ºå–œ
为商灭夏的女间谍 : http://www.xiaogushi...50820013103.htm
Edited by snowybeagle, 04 April 2006 - 09:39 PM.