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Diplomat Tang Ju defended the dignity of his country

Towards the end of the Warring States Period, the whole world had learned about the greed, power and ruthlessness of Qin, and all was careful not to get in its way. Qin had the most ferocious soldiers, the finest weapons, all the money and endless supply of grains and stock, and all it lacked was the excuse to attack. It was its custom to raise some ridiculous demands, and upon being denied, to make wars. In this fashion it has swallowed many states, big and small. The remaining states held their breaths in utter fear, as if they lay at the edge of a gigantic mouth and one misstep would lead to their final destruction. Just then the State of Han disappeared and the State of Wei also disappeared. The militant Qin “ate” both without spitting the bones.

The State of An Ling could hardly be considered a state, for it was only a satellite of Wei, established when the Duke of Wei carved out a piece of land for his half brother and named him the duke of An Ling. The land was altogether fifty miles across. Now that Wei was annexed by Qin, the king of Qin had his eyes set on An Ling. He sent messengers to the duke of An Ling to say that Qin wished to trade for An Ling with five hundred miles of its land. Everyone knew what lay behind such an offer.
In his reply to Qin, the duke weighed his words carefully, “The most gracious king, your kindness shone through your generous offer of five hundred miles of your best land for the fifty mile patch of An Ling. However we do not dare to accept it. An Ling was handed down to us by our ancestors and it was our duty to keep it and care for it. We have no right to trade it.” The duke of An Ling knew such an answer could not fend off the king of Qin, and it might have just given the brute the excuse to attack. But he simply could not give up the ancestral land without making another attempt. Therefore he sent Tang Ju to Qin as a special envoy.

Tang Ju sat with the king of Qin. In those days, sitting with someone means kneeling face to face and sitting on one’s ankles. The king of Qin barely looked at the so-called envoy of An Ling. He bellowed, “I wanted to trade for An Ling with five hundred miles of Qin’s land, and I was refused. Wei and Han had long become part of Qin, and An Ling had been left alone. Do you know why? It is all because I respected the duke of An Ling as a trustworthy elder. I wished to strengthen An Ling with Qin’s land, and all I got was rejection! I have to conclude that the duke of An Ling thinks lightly of me.”

Tang Ju replied, “That was not the case. The land of An Ling came from our ancestors. Our Duke has to stay with it. He dares not to trade it, even if Qin gave him one thousand miles of land, let alone five hundreds.” His words were polite, firm and left no room for argument.

The king of Qin was furious. “Do you know what the Heaven Chosen One does when he is crossed?”
Tang Ju said, “No.”

The king of Qin said, “Let me tell you. When he is angry, millions die, blood flows like rivers.”
Tang Ju said, “Oh, really? In that case, do you know what the people of An Ling do when they are crossed?”

“What can they do?” the king of Qin was all contempt. “Perhaps they can throw off their caps and bang their heads on the ground?” He scoffed.

“Great king, what you mentioned were the ordinary cases but not the most courageous and remarkable. When Zhuan Zhu assassinated Liao of the Wu Country, the tail of a comet swept across the moon. When Nie Zheng struck Han Gui, a white beam cut through the sun, and when Yao Li attempted the life of Qing Ji, an eagle crashed into the palace hall. All three men were common but their anger moved the heaven to their assistance. I am the fourth one. If I die here, my blood can only spill as far as five footsteps, but the whole world shall dress in white in my wake. I see that the time has come!” He jumped to his feet, pulled out his sword and stared at the king of Qin very hard.
Fear crept up the face of the king of Qin and at last he let out an air of resignation. He pulled his body upright on his knee and spoke, “Please sit down, Mister. There is no need to speak so severely. Wei and Han are gone. I see that the reason An Ling still stands is that there are talents like you.”


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