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King Chuang of Ch'u was besieging the capital of Sung

King Chuang of Ch'u was besieging the capital of Sung. When he had rations for only seven days, he said, "If we exhaust these supplies without conquering, then we are going to withdraw and go back home." Whereupon he had the Ssŭ-ma Tzŭ-fan climb up on the mound built by the besiegers  to spy on the town of Sung. The Prince of Sung sent Hua Yüan to climb up on the mound to intercept him.
Tzŭ-fan said, "How are things with your state?"

Hua Yüan said, "We are exhausted! We exchange our children  and eat them, splitting and cooking the bones."

Tzŭ-fan said, "Alas! Extreme straits indeed! However, I have heard that in besieged states they gag their horses when they give them grain  and send out the fat ones to meet the enemy. Now, how is it that you, sir, are so frank?"

Hua Yüan said, "I have heard that the superior man, seeing another's distress, has compassion on him; while the mean man, seeing another's distress, rejoices in it. I saw that you seemed to be a superior man, and that is why I was so frank."

Tzŭ-fan said, "It is so. May you exert yourself. Our army has only seven days' rations." Bowing, he left.

Tzŭ-fan reported to King Chuang. King Chuang said, "How are they?"

Tzŭ-fan said, "They are exhausted. They exchange children and eat them, splitting and cooking the bones."

King Chuang said, "Alas! Extreme straits indeed. Now all we have to do is take them and return."
Tzŭ-fan said, "We cannot do it. I have already told them that our army for its part has only seven days' rations."

King Chuang was angry and said, "I sent you to observe them. Why did you tell them?"

Tzŭ-fan said, "If a state as small as Sung still has a subject who does not practice deceit, how can Ch`u lack them? This is why I told him."

King Chuang said, "Nevertheless we  shall presently just take them and return."

Tzŭ-fan said, "Let Your Highness stay here; I will just go home, if I may."

The king said, "If you return, leaving me, with whom should I stay here? I shall return as you wish." Whereupon he went back with his army.

The superior man approves their making peace themselves. Hua Yüan told Tzŭ-fan the truth and succeeded thereby in raising the seige and keeping intact the fortune of the two states. The Ode says,

That admirable gentleman
What will he tell him?

The superior man approves their telling one another the truth.



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