Chinese Short Story 003 – 晏子使楚 (Yanzi’s Diplomatic Mission to Chu)

When Emperor You was killed in 770 BC by Quanrong, a barbarian tribe, the Chinese royalty lost control of the whole country. China was split up into states and suffered by endless wars until 221 BC.

Yanzi is a famous politician and diplomat in Qi, a state in North-East China. Unfortunately, God didn’t give him a good appearance to match his wisdom and resource. Yanzi was tiny and ugly. One day. the king of Qi, King Jing, wanted to get help from the Chu state in South China, so he sent Yanzi on a diplomatic mission to Chu.

Main Gate of ChuKing Ling, the king of Chu, was not satisfied with the emissary because of Yanzi’s ugliness. He asked his people to close the gates of his city and they told Yanzi, “There is a hole dug in the wall by dogs. King Ling thinks the hole is big enough for you.” Yanzi answered, “People go through a great gate when they visit a great kingdom. People go through a dog’s hole when they visit a dog’s kingdom.” After King Ling heard this answer he asked his guards to open the biggest gate for Yanzi.

After Yanzi and King Ling met each other, King Ling asked, “Are there any people in Qi now?”

Yanzi answered,”There are more than 7,000 clans that live in our capital. People can cover the sun with their arms. There are too many people that flood the streets; so they swarm shoulder to shoulder and feet to feet. How can you say there are no people in Qi now?”

“But why, then, did King Jing send you to me?”

“Great people work together on a great job. We really can’t find a better person than you,” Yanzi answered.

Yanzi's Diplomatic MissionAs was custom, King Ling prepared a dinner for Yanzi. During the dinner, some soldiers walked in with a person who was tied up.

King Ling asked, “Who is this guy?”

The soilders answered,” He is from Qi. He is a thief.”

“Are all the people from Qi good at stealing?” King Ling asked Yanzi.

Yanzi answered, “If you plant an orange tree in the South of Huaihe River, it is called Ju. The fruits are sweet and tasty. If you plant an orange tree in the North of Huaihe River, it is called Zhi. These fruits are bitter and distasteful. They are the same fruit, but the environment has changed them. Why are the people in Qi kind and honest, but changed after they moved to Chu?”

King Ling laughed out boisterously and said, “I shouldn’t try to make fun of you! The person who wants to shame others will always be shamed in the end.”


About 正弋

A Chinese in Kansas State University. A male feminist.

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