What’s Valuable Now?
At one point during the third century BC, China was in chaos after the government was overthrown. Armies plundered and looted, and soldiers took and hoarded precious metals, jewels, and other items of value.
In the midst of all of this, a commissioner gathered information like maps and census data, and a clerk gathered grains and non-perishable food. Not long afterwards, the region went into civil war. The commissioner used his information to gain victories and win a high promotion. And the clerk had plenty of food during a time when there was hardly any, and was able to sell everything little by little for very high prices.
Li K’uei warned his guards to the right and left gates of his camp, “Be prudent and alert. Our enemies might come at anytime to attack.” He continuously repeated this, but the enemies did not come, and both groups of guards became tired, neglected their duties, and lost faith in Li K’uei.
After several months, the Ch’ins invaded them and almost obliterated the entire army. This is the calamity of being faithless.
A Unique Punishment
In the eighth century, a city’s new governor changed the punishment for crimes committed by government officials: instead of having them caned, he made them wear a green turban–a symbol that a man’s wife is an adulterer. Not long afterwards, the number of legal proceedings on government officials plummeted to almost zero.
A ruler’s servant broke the law, and planned to escape to a nearby state.
His friend asked him, “What makes you think you will be safe in that other state?”
The servant explained, “Once I went along with our ruler to that state. When they received us, the ruler of that state treated me very well, and even remarked that we were like brothers. He seemed like an honorable man, so I am going there to seek safety.”
The friend remarked, “Ah!–you are surely making a mistake! Think about it. We are in a strong state, and when you visited, their ruler noticed you were influential to our ruler. He treated you well merely in order to be on friendly terms with our king, due to his fear of our state’s power.
“In other words, his motivation was his state’s interest, and not some special kinship he had with you. So if you go to him to seek safety, odds are he will have you arrested and taken back to our ruler.”
General Wu Ch’i was leading Wey’s forces in an attack on the Central Hills. One of his soldiers was ill with boils, and Wu Ch’i himself bent down and sucked the pus out of the boil. The soldier’s mother was observing this nearby, and was crying. The people who saw her said, “The general is being nice to your son. Why does this make you cry?” The mother replied, “Wu Ch’i also sucked the pus out of his father’s wound, and his father was later killed in battle. So, my son will probably die in battle as well. That is why I am crying.”
You’re Fired. You’re Hired
Governor Meng Sun went for a hunt and caught a fawn. He ordered his assistant Ch’in Hsi Pa to bring it back to his palace. But as the latter took it back, the mother deer continuously followed along and wept. Ch’in Hsi Pa found this so unbearable, that he returned the fawn to its mother. When the Governor found out about this, he fired Ch’in Hsi Pa. A few months later, however, he rehired him and made him tutor to his son. This prompted someone to say, “Your Highness blamed him earlier, and now you have called him back to tutor your own son.” The Governor replied, “This man could not bear the ruin of a fawn. So how could he possibly bear the ruin of my son?”
Kung Sung Lung was intent on utilizing people’s talents. One time, a poor man approached him. As Kung Sung Lung interviewed him, the man said, “I have the talent of being able to shout.” Kung Sung asked his disciples if there were any shouters in the group. The men said no. And so, Kung Sung Lung hired the stranger. A few days later, the disciples went to call on Yen Wang for consultation. On coming to a river, the ferryboat was on the opposite bank. The newly hired man was told to shout the instructions across the bank–and upon him doing so, the boat came. Thus it is written: “The Sage does not readily overlook the service of any man with ability.”