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《Chinese Tales for Everyone: Real and Imaginary_(2) Loyalty and Leadership》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Tales Real and Imaginary

(2) Loyalty and Leadership

Long time ago China was divided into a number of small states. They were at war often, and boundaries change, affecting the identity and welfare of people.

In those changing times, men and women with special ability or quality emerged to become legendary figures. One of these was Lord Meng Chang (孟嘗君) known for his generosity, leadership, and acceptance of talents not readily seen.

One day a stranger called to say he represented a man of great talent.

“What is his talent?” he asked the stranger.

“Nothing special.”

“What does he do?”

“None.”

“What is his name?”

“Feng ().”

The Lord was amused. But he was used to such answers. He asked the stranger to send the man to serve in his estate.

The manager of the estate was not pleased. He believed his Load admitted the man out of sympathy, and treated the new comer poorly.

Feng was displeased. One day he leaned against a pillar and sang, tapping his sword:

  O faithful sword shall we leave 長鋏歸來乎

   There is no fish in my meal 食無魚

Upon learning of Feng’s complaint, Lord Meng Chang ordered that he be served with the same rich food as all others.

A few days later, Feng sang again, tapping his sword:

   O faithful sword shall we leave 長鋏歸來乎

   I’ve found no money my mother needs 無以為

Lord Meng Chang immediately dispatched a servant to provide for Feng’s family.

Several months later, the state next to Lord Meng Chang’s hometown was invaded, causing fear and confusion. He asked if someone would go and collect rent and debts there. Feng volunteered.

“What should I buy with the money collected?’ Feng asked before he set out to the distant town.

Lord Meng Chang was caught off guard by the question. He replied after a short pause: “Nothing special, just buy whatever you think I mostly need.”

Arriving at his destination Feng called all the tenants and debtors to an open ground, bringing their debt certificates and rental contracts.

“You are all free of what you owe from this day on. My master has cleared all your rents and debts!” He then set all certificates on fire. The crowd wept and cheered as they saw the dancing flames. They cried out: “Long live our dear benefactor. We will always remember you!”

Feng returned home fast to see his master. The latter was surprised at how quickly his new servant had completed such a hard task. He asked what was bought with the money.

“Gratitude, and may be loyalty, Sir.”

Time past away quickly. Lord Meng Change lost his position with his new King a year later. He was forced to return to his hometown for retirement, striped off all his noble title and prestige. Feng and three other servants accompanied him and his family.

Approaching his old village, he heard the sound of people cheering to welcome him. Everyone had come to do him honor. It was a heartening sight. People joined him in a possessing right to his old mansion, praising him.

Inside the big hall, Meng Chang whispered to Feng: “Thank you my dear friend, now I understand what it was that you bought me a year ago.”

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Note: This is an English narration from an allegory in the book戰國策of 350 B.C. It teaches us the contrasting value of money and respect, the acceptance and tolerance of talent, and the quality of true leadership. The phrase 食客三千has been adopted by all as an expression for unlimited generosity.

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