I was so lucky that I received your letter from more than a thousand miles
away. It relieves my worry about you. You also sent me some gifts. How can I
repay your favor? Your sentiment is very sincere. I know you cannot forget my
father and my father misses you very much. You said of me in your letter, "Both
your supervisors and subordinates trust you. Your talents and virtue match your
position." Your words have caused me to think deeply.
Of course I know I do not have enough talent and virtue to match my position.
I am especially poor at building "trust" between me and my supervisors. What
does the word “trust” mean in these times? Suppose that you ride a horse to the
gate of the powerful person's manor and wait there day and night. The doorman
will intentionally stop you at the gate. You must behave like a woman in order
to flatter him. Only after you bribe him with the money hidden in your sleeves
does the doorman take your business card into the house. The host will not come
out right away. You have to stand among the stablemen and horses at the stable.
The sickening smell assaults your sleeves. Even if you feel unbearably hungry,
noxious, hot or cold, you dare not leave. When the night falls, the bribed
doorman comes out and says, "The master is tired and declines seeing visitors.
Please come tomorrow." You dare not be absent the next day, so that night you
throw your clothes over your shoulders and sit. As soon as a rooster crows, you
wash your face and comb your hair, and then ride a horse to the dignitary's
gate. The doorman asks angrily, "Who is this?" You will answer, "Yesterday's
visitor comes." Then the doorman says in a stern voice, "Why do you come here so
often? How can the master come out to see guests at this time?" You feel
ashamed, but you hold your emotions in check and tell the doorman patiently, "I
have no other way to get help. Please let me in." After the doorman receives
your bribe again, he finally lets you enter the gate. Then you again wait in the
stable where you stood the day before.
Fortunately, the master comes out and summons you to meet him as if he were a
king. Overwhelmed by this unexpected favor, you walk nervously and then crawl
forward at the doorsteps of the mansion. The master says, "Come in!" Then you
kowtow to him and keep lying low until the master repeatedly asks you to rise.
Once you stand up, you immediately present your gift to him with all respect.
The master intentionally pretends that he does not want the gift. You persist by
saying, "Please." The master continues to say, "Absolutely not." Again you say,
"Please." This time the master orders his servant to accept it. Then you kowtow
again and keep lying low until the master repeatedly asks you to rise. After you
stand up, you make five or six low bows and then exit. When you leave the gate,
you bow to the doorman and say, "Fortunately, the master agrees to help me. When
I come again, please do not bother me." Then the doorman gives a bow in return
and you come out proudly. When you ride a horse and encounter a friend, you will
flourish a whip and say, "I just came from the mansion of an important man.” He
treated me very well." Then you fabricate stories to boast about yourself. Your
friend is struck with awe because he thinks the dignitary treated you so well.
Meanwhile, the dignitary will gives you mild praise in front of others. Then the
listeners admire you and compete to praise you. This is the so-called "mutual
trust" between a supervisor and his subordinates. Do you think I should behave
I never visit dignitaries in person; I only send them greeting cards at
holiday times. If I were to pass by their doors by chance, I would cover my
ears, shut my eyes, and speed my horses to run past their doors as if someone
were chasing me. This makes them think I am narrow-minded. Consequently, my
supervisors do not like me. The less they like me, the less I care about how
they treat me. I often say, "My fate is predestined. All I can do is act
according to the call of duty." When you read this, do you consider me stubborn?
Chen Zong was a native of Xing-hua City of Yang County during the Ming
dynasty. Zi-xiang was his other first name. He passed the Advanced Exam in 1550
A.D. His first job was as an official who evaluated the work of other officials.
He could not get along with the evil prime minister, Song Yan. Consequently, he
was exiled to Fujian Province. Because he repelled a pirate attack, he was
promoted to be the superintendent of schools. He, Pan-long Li, Shen-zhen Wang,
Zhen Xie, Zhong-xing Xu, Guo-lun Wu, and You-you Liang are referred to as “the
Seven Gifted Scholars During the Jia-jing (reign title) Period”.