Xuan Feng As A House Guest 1
of Prime Minister Meng-chang
Strategies During the Warring States Period (403-221 BCE)
In the State of Qi 2, there was a person who
was so poor that he could barely survive. He went to Prime Minister Meng-chang and said that he
desired to be
his house guest. Prime Minister Meng-chang asked, "What do you like?"
Feng replied, "I have no hobby."
"What can you do?" asked Prime Minister Meng-chang.
"Nothing." stated Feng.
The Prime Minister smiled and accepted him. The servants thought that Prime
Minister Meng-chang despised him, so they fed him cheap tea and plain rice.
One day after Feng had lived there for several weeks, he leaned against a column,
used his sword as a musical instrument, and sang, "Long sword! Let us go home!
There is no fish to eat." Servants reported this to Prime Minister Meng-chang.
The prime minister said,
"Serve him fish like the other house
guests." After several weeks, Feng played his sword and sang again, "Long
sword! Let us go home! There is no carriage to take when I go out." The servants
told this to Prime Minister Meng-chang again. The prime minister said,
"Let him use carriages like the
others." Then with his sword hung on
his waist Feng took a carriage to visit his friends. He told them, "Prime
Minister Meng-chang treats me very
well." Several weeks later, Feng played his sword and sang again, "Long
Sword! Let us go home! I cannot feed my family!" The servants all disliked him
and considered him too greedy. Prime Minister Meng-chang
asked Feng if he had any relatives. Feng answered,
"I have an old mother."
Then the prime minister sent people to provide her food and money periodically.
Afterwards, Feng never sang again.
Later, Prime Minister Meng-chang put a notice on a bulletin board and asked the house
guests if any of them knew accounting and would help him collect debt in Xue
City. Feng signed his name and claimed that he could do it. Prime Minister Meng-chang
was curious and wondered about his identity. The servants said, "He is the one
who sang, 'Long sword! Let us go home!'" The prime minister said with a smile, "This shows
that he is very talented. I am sorry that I barely know him."
He asked Feng to come and then apologized to him by saying,
"I am busy with work and burdened with
sorrow. I am weak, foolish, and only care about my work for the country. I am
sorry that I did not treat you well. However, despite my mistreatment, you are
still willing to collect debt for me in Xue City, aren't
you?" Feng said.
Consequently, Feng reserved a carriage, prepared his luggage, and carried the
promissory notes with him. Before he started his trip, he went to say farewell
to Prime Minister Meng-chang and asked, "After I
collect the debt, what shall I buy when I come back?"
The prime minister said, "Look around
my house! If you find we lack anything, then go buy it!"
Feng took the carriage to Xue City and ordered officials to assemble the
citizens. The debtors all came to check their contracts. After they knew the
amount they owed, Feng forged prime Minister Meng-chang's order to void all the contracts
as the prime minister's gift. Indeed, Feng burnt all the contracts. People all
shouted, "Long live Prime Minister Meng-chang!"
Then Feng took a long ride home. Next morning Feng went to see the prime
minister. Prime Minister Meng-chang was amazed that he had returned so fast. He dressed up, met Fung
and asked, "Did you collect all the
debt? How could you have returned so fast?"
Feng replied, "Yes. I collected all the debt." Prime Minister Meng-chang asked,
"What did you purchase when you come
back?" Feng said, "You wanted me to purchase something lacking in your
house. I saw that your warehouse is filled with treasure, that your stable is
filled with dogs and horses, and that your harem is filled with beautiful women.
The only thing lacking in your house is virtue. Therefore, I bought virtue for
you." Prime Minister Meng-chang asked,
"How did you purchase virtue?"
Feng replied, "Now you have Xue City in your domain. You should love your
people like your children rather than squeezing profit from them. Consequently,
I forged your order to void their debts as your gift. In fact, I burned all the
contracts and people shouted, 'Long live Prime Minister Meng-chang!'
This is how I bought virtue for you." The prime minister was not happy, so he said, "Hmm!
You may go rest now!"
After a year, a new king succeeded to the throne. He told
Prime Minister Meng-chang,
"I dare not use my father's
officials as my officials." Thus, Mr. Meng-chang lost his position as prime minister and returned to Xue
City. Fourteen miles before he reached the city, people brought their old and
young and waited along the roadside to welcome him. Mr. Meng-chang turned to Feng and
said, "Today I finally see the virtue
that you had bought for me."
Feng said, "A smart rabbit has
three holes to run for its life. Now you have one hole, but your situation is
not satisfactory. I will dig two more holes for you."
Mr. Meng-chang gave Feng 50 carriages and 276 pounds of gold to persuade the King of the
State of Wei to appoint him as prime minister. Feng told the king,
"The State of Qi forced Mr. Meng-chang to retire. Any country who appoints
Mr. Meng-chang first will become rich and
strong." After listening to Feng's advice, the King of Wei transferred his
prime minister to the position of commander in chief so that the prime minister
position would be vacant. He sent a messenger with 552 pounds of gold and 100 carriages to offer Mr. Meng-chang the
position of prime minister. Feng rushed to Xue City and told Mr. Meng-chang, "A
large amount of gold is a heavy gift and
100 carriages show a great regard for you. The people in the State of Qi will
hear this news." The messenger of the State of Wei came to offer Mr. Meng-chang
the position of prime minister three times, Mr. Meng-chang firmly rejected the offer each time.
After the King of Qi heard the news and told the entire court, they are fearful.
The king sent a special messenger to offer Mr. Meng-chang 552 pounds of gold,
two colorful carriages and one sword. The messenger also carried the king's
letter to ask for Mr. Meng-chang's forgiveness. It said, "It
was my fault. I was tricked by temple ghosts and fooled by corrupt officials
so that I mistreated you. I am not talented enough, and hope you will come back
to take charge of our country in the name of the deceased kings."
Feng advised Mr. Meng-chang, "Move all
the sacred objects from the capital to Xue City and build a new temple for the
deceased kings here." After the temple
was built, Feng told Mr. Meng-chang, "The three holes have been completed. Now
you can relax and enjoy a happy life."
Afterwards, Mr. Meng-chang had no problems with the king and
was his prime minister for forty years. This was because of Feng's
During the Warring States Period, a dignitary usually kept more than 1000
house guests. These house guests received free meals, free housing and some
allowances. They had no daily duties. However, when the dignitary had a problem,
these house guests would offer advice to solve it.
During the Warring States Period, China was divided into seven states: Han,
Zhao, Wei, Qi, Chu, Yan and Qin.