General and Prime Minister in Harmony
In the Warring States Period, Lin Xiangru was an envoy from the State of Zhao to the State of Qin who was able to “return the jade annulus to Zhao.” His performance eventually earned him the post of prime minister, a position above that of General Lian Po. Lian Po did not agree and said publicly, “I am a great general of the Zhao, and I earned my status by conquering many cities. Lin Xiangru got a higher position just by talking. I feel ashamed. I shall embarrass him when I see him.” Hearing what Lian Po said, Lin Xiangru tried to be tolerant and avoid a confrontation, including steering clear of Lian Po’s entourage when he saw them coming.
Lin Xiangru’s squires mistakenly thought that Lin was afraid of Lian Po. They told him, “We came to serve you because of your sublime virtue and morality. Although your position is higher, you are afraid of him and try to avoid him. Even an ordinary person would be ashamed to do that. Please grant us our leave.”
Lin Xiangru firmly asked them to stay and said, “Which person do you think is more powerful: Lian Po or the King of Qin?” “The King of the State of Qin, of course,” answered his squires, as the State of Qin was the most powerful at the time. Lin Xiangru then said, “I dared to argue with the King of Qin and scold him. Even though my abilities are limited, why would I be afraid of General Lian? The reason the State of Qin has not dared to invade us is because of General Lian and I. Two tigers cannot co-exist if they fight. I tolerate his behavior and defer to him because I place the welfare of the nation over my own personal pride.” Hearing what Lin said, Lian Po came to apologize to him, with thorns wrapped around his bare back, saying, “I am only a rough brute. I did not expect you to be so tolerant of me!” All resentment between them disappeared, and they became close friends.
Being able to correct one’s mistakes has been considered a virtue since ancient times. The people praised General Lian Po because he could sincerely repent and mend his ways. Lin Xiangru’s tolerant attitude during conflict and placing the nation’s interests above his personal pride is the righteous demeanor of a gentleman that people in future generations modeled after.
By Hui Zhi