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Showing posts from October, 2010

How to keep in alliance with the aggressive Power

Lian Po was a prominent military General of Zhao during the Warring States period of China. Bai Qi, Wang Jian, Li Mu and he were commonly known as the Four Greatest Generals in Warring States. The story "Carrying Thorned Grass and Pleading Guilt" make him a household name for generations.

In Lian Po's early years, he had victories in the wars against Qi and Wei. Lin Xiangru, a minister of Zhao, was disliked by Lian Po, because of his rapid rise to power and genius. But Lin Xiangru, in several famous incidents, took great steps to avoid Lian Po; in one case he even turned from Lian Po's carriage rather than block the great general's route. Eventually, all this began to cause shame and embarrassment to Lian Po, and he carried sharp brambles on his shoulder without clothing and asked Lin Xiangru to forgive him. Afterwards, they became good friends.

Another story shows how a small state survived by displaying submission to a powerful state:

In winter, the marquis Mu …

When the lips perish, the teeth become cold

Chun Wang Chi Han, 唇亡齿寒.

The state of Yu was on the south of the state of Jin, and the state of Guo again on the south of Yu. Xun Xi, the minister of Jin, requested leave from the marquis to take his team of Qu horses and his bi of Chuiji jade, and with them borrow a way from Yu to march through it and attack Guo. "They are the things I hold most precious," said the marquis. Xi replied, "But if you get a way through Yu, it is but like placing them in a treasury outside the State for a time." "There is Gong Zhiqi in Yu," objected the duke. "Gong Zhiqi," returned the other, "is a weak man, and incapable of remonstrating vigorously. And, moreover, from his youth up he has always been with the duke of Yu, who is so familiar with him, that though he should remonstrate, the duke will not listen to him." The marquis accordingly sent Xun Xi to borrow a way through Yu, with this message:—"Formerly, the state of Ji, against right and reason…

There is a fragrant herb, and a noisome one

In ancient China, one man could have as many wives as he could and he could marry more than both sisters, like King Shun married two daughters of King Yao, Er-huang and Nu-ying.

In this story, the Duke Xian of Jin had wished to make Li Ji his wife, Li Ji has a sister who could accompany to the harem, there were also other Li Ji's relatives companying her to the harem as duke's concubines.

Before the decision was made, following the traditions, the duke consulted the divination to see if the marriage was lucky. The tortoise-shell indicated that the thing would be unlucky, but the milfoil pronounced it lucky. The duke said, "I will follow the milfoil." The diviner by the tortoise-shell said, "The milfoil is reckoned inferior in its indications to the tortoise-shell. You had better follow the latter. And moreover, the oracle was:—

'The change made by inordinate devotion Steals away the good qualities of the duke. There is a fragrant herb, and a noisome one; An…

Duke Yi of Wei was fond of Storks

Duke Yi of Wei, named Chi, was the son of Duke Hui.

The ruin which the Di dealt on Wei is related in the Zhuan:——'In the 12th month, the Di invaded Wey, the marquis of which, duke Yi, was noted for his fondness for storks. So fond was he of the creatures, that some of them were carried about in great officers' carriages. When the time for fighting came, and the people received their buff-coats, they all said, "Employ the storks. The storks truly have their revenues and dignities;—how should we be able to fight?" The duke gave his semicircle of jade to Shi Qi, and an arrow to Ning Zhuang, and appointed them to guard the city, saying, "With these emblems of authority aid the State, doing whatever you shall deem most advantageous." To his wife he gave his embroidered robe, saying to her, "Listen to these two officers." He then mounted his war-chariot, Qu Kong being charioteer, and Zibo the spearman on the right. Huang Yi led the way in front with one…

When disaster is immanent, the ruler listens to spirits

In the 32nd Year of Duke Zhuang of Lu,  year 32, 661 B.C.

In autumn, in the seventh month, there was the descent of a spirit in Xin [Xin belonged to the state of Guo]. King Hui asked Guo, the historiographer of the interior, the reason for it, and he replied:

"When a state is about to flourish, intelligent spirits descend into it, to survey its virtue. When it is going to perish, spirits also descend into it, to behold its wickedness. Thus there have been instances of states flourishing from spirits appearing, and also of states perishing. Cases in point might be adduced from the dynasties of Yu, Xia, Shang, and Zhou."

The king then asked what should be done in the case of this spirit, and Guo replied: "Present to it its own proper offerings, which are those proper to the day on which it came." The king acted accordingly, and the historiographer went [to Guo and presented the offerings]. There he heard that [the duke of] Guo had been requesting the favor [of enlarg…

The first drumbeat excites the spirit

Yi Gu Zuo Qi (一鼓作气): One drumbeat create courage, or Cao Gui (曹刿) discuss war with the Duke of Lu.

Victory depends on the loyalty of the troops and on the prudent strategy of commanders.

In his tenth year, in spring, the army of Qi invaded the state of Lu, and the duke of Lu was about to fight, when one Cao Gui requested to be introduced to him. One of Gui's fellow villagers said to him, "The flesh-eaters are planning for the occasion. What have you to do to intermeddle?" He replied, "The flesh-eaters are poor creatures and cannot form any far-reaching plans."

So he entered and was introduced. He asked the duke what encouragement he had to fight. The duke said, "Clothes and food minister to my repose, but I do not dare to monopolize them. I make it a point to share them with others." "That," replied Gui, "is but small kindness and does not reach to all. The people will not follow you for that." The duke said, "In the victims…

Mencius's Mother Moved Her House Three Times

Mencius' mother changed their residence three times, in Chinese Meng mu San Qian (孟母三迁).

When first left a widow Menciuc's mother lived with her little boy near a cemetery, the result being that the latter was always playing at funerals. Mencius' mother was not pleased to see her son mimic the actions of those performing funeral rituals.

Removing to a house near market-place, she found that the boy now began to play at buying and selling, she was again not wholly satisfied when young Mencius would imitate the actions and words of those hawking goods.

Fearing the ill effect of these sordid associations, she next sought shelter near a college. There the young philosopher began to imitate the ceremonial observances in which the students were instructed, to the great joy and satisfaction of his mother, they settling down and finding contentment, the young Mencius intoned the lessons of teachers and followed their example of diligent study, and later he became one the greatest …

Dà yì miè qīn: Sacrifice ties of blood to uphold righteousness

The idiom Dà yì miè qīn There are different translations of the idiom 大义灭亲 Dà yì miè qīn:

To uphold justice and righteousness even at the sacrifice of blood relations
Righteousness above family royalty
Sacrifice ties of blood to uphold righteousness
Sacrificing family loyalty for the benefit of the state
Placing Righteousness Above Kinship
To place righteousness before family (idiom);
Ready to punish one's own family if justice demands it
The origin And below is the story of the origin of the idiom:

Shi Que has his own son put to death (Zuo Zhuan, Duke Yin, 4th year, 716 BC)

Duke Zhuang of Wei had married the sister of Dechen, the heirson of the marquis of Qi, known as Zhuang Jiang. She was beautiful but childless.

The duke then married a daughter of the House of Chen, called Li Gui, who had a son called Xiaobo that died early. Dai Gui, who had accompanied her to the harem, had a son, who was afterwards Duke Huan, and who was cherished by Zhuang Jiang as her own child.

There was …

the Lady of Tushan

During the reign of Emperor Yao, a great flood occurred in China and the emperor assigned Gun to control the flood, but Gun failed and was later executed. Then the Emperor Yao recruited Yu, Gun's son as successor to his father's flood control efforts. Instead of building earthen dikes, Yu dredged new river channels to serve both as outlets for the flood, and as irrigation conduits to distant rivers, then to distant seas. Yu worked so hard that his entire hands were filled with thick callus, and his feet were completely padded, and sometimes he even changed himself into a black bear to do the digging.

Yu laboured with all his might, and his labours involved him perpetual journeying over the mountains and down on the great plains. When travelled around, he met a beautiful maid on the Mount Tu, she is said to have been a mountain nymph, and was the eldest daughter of the Tu family, so she was called the Lady of Tushan.

Yu always travelled around and left very little time over …

The two Wives of Emperor Shun

The two consorts of Youyu were the daughters of Emperor Yao. The eldest was Ehuang, the younger was Nüying.

Shun's father was bigoted and his mother was cold and calculating. His father was called Gusou, he is an old blind man. His younger brother was called Xiang and was given to idle roaming. Shun was able to harmonize them and win them over. He served Gusou with filial reverence. His mother hated Shun and loved Xiang. But Shun still maintained his composure and harbored no ill will. The Chief of the Four Mountains recommended Shun to Yao. Yao thereupon gave Shun his two daughters in marriage so that he could observe Shun's conduct toward them. The two women served Shun in the fields and did not use their status as daughters of the Son of Heaven as a pretext for arrogant, overbearing or disrespectful behavior. They continued to behave with humility, reverence and frugality, being completely mindful of the wifely way.

Gusou and Xiang plotted to murder Shun and ordered him to …