Sunday morning I was thinking about a blog, and wanted to find something on wisdom and peace, particularly after the terrorist attacks on Paris. I must have been thinking about something else because I typed ‘peach’ into the search box instead of ‘peace.’ I found this story from China that still has me thinking, so of course I had to share it with you.
Once upon a time in the province of Qi, there were three brave warriors: Gongsun Jie, Tian Kaijiang and Gu Yezi. They were arrogant and overbearing in the court. The royal ministers found them hard to get along with and Duke Jing was increasingly irritated by their rudeness. When Prime Minister Yan Ying greeted them, they did not bother to acknowledge him. Yan Ying decided it was time to get rid of them.
“Jing,” the Prime Minister said, “those three warriors are getting too proud of themselves. They should be respectful of their ruler and other officials, but their behavior is setting a bad example to their juniors. Such soldiers cannot be relied on to fight for the country. Sooner or later, they’ll get out of control.”
“But what can we do? They are strong and skilled in fighting. You have no way to get rid of them. Shoot, you will miss. Fight, you will lose.” Jing replied.
But the Prime Minister said “They’ve only got physical strength. That’s all.”
One day some time later, Duke Zhao, of Lu Province visited the Royal Court of Qi. Duke Jing gave a banquet in his honor. After the main course, peaches were served. Peaches were a rare delicacy in Qi and there were only five on the table. One went to Duke Zhao of Lu, one to Duke Jing who gave the third one to Prime Minister Yan Ying. The Prime Minister quietly asked Duke Jing let him decide who among the three warriors, who were also attending the banquet, would get the remaining two peaches. The Duke agreed, suspecting that his Prime Minister had something beyond peaches on his mind.
The Prime Minister stood and said, “I will give a peach to one of you who has the greatest merits,” Prime Minister Yan Ying said, as he looked at the three brave men. “Please tell me who deserves it.”
“I deserve it,” said Gongsun Jie. “I saved the Duke’s life when he was attacked by a boar during hunting.”
Prime Minister Yan Ying promptly awarded him a peach along with a glass of wine.
Gu Yezi the second warrior then rose to his feet. “I am also entitled to one. Once I escorted the Duke crossing a river. Suddenly a giant turtle sprang from under the water. Our boat was almost capsized. I jumped into the water, fought the animal and killed it. I nearly got drowned saving the duke’s life.”
Prime Minister Yan Ying nodded and awarded him the second of the two remaining peachs and a glass of wine.
Then the last one of the three warriors, Tian Kaijiang, stood up. “I saved the Duke’s life twice with my sword when he was attacked by the enemy in battle. Do you remember?”
“Yes, indeed I do remember,” said Prime Minister Yan Ying. “Your merits certainly are superior to the others, but you spoke too late. I can only offer you some wine now. But you’ll be awarded a peach next year.”
Tian Kaijiang was enraged. “Killing a boar or a giant turtle is fine. But I fought the enemy to save the Duke. Now I am denied even have a peach, I’ll be a laughing stock.” So he drew out his sword and killed himself.
Gu Yezi was stunned. “I’m not as good as Tian Kaijiang. Now he is dead because I took the peach that really belongs to him. I hate myself. I would be a coward not to die.” And saying this, he fell on his own sword.
Gongsun Jie looked on in consternation. “The three of us are always together. Now two are dead, what face have I got to live on?” So he, too, cut his own throat.
And with that, Qi, the Prime Minister and the Duke were free from the troubles of the three rude warriors.
While I am not enthralled with the idea of tricking three guys into killing themselves, the story did get me to thinking about the importance of understanding others – both adversaries and friends. And, it got me to thinking about the importance of not being too predictable! And then, there is this proverb from China:
To fight a hundred battles and win a hundred is not supreme excellence; what would be more supreme is breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
So . . . keep on thinking my friends!