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Preface to the Biography of the Actors in the Five Dynasties

Ou-Yang, Shiou (1007 A.D.-1072 A.D.)

    It seems that a country's state of prosperity or decay, although somewhat dependent on the fortune of nature, is mostly determined by human affairs. If we trace back how King Juang conquered China, and how he lost it, we will see the truth of this statement.

    It is said that while on his deathbed, the King of Chin gave three arrows to his son, Juang, and told him, "King Liang is my Enemy. Both the King of Yen whose kingship I had established, and the King of Tajikistan who had signed a treaty of alliance with us betrayed Chin and joined with King Liang. I hate them with intense passion and focus on my thoughts on destroying them. Now I gave you three arrows to avenge their crime and betrayal." King Juang accepted the arrows and kept them in the temple of his ancestors. Every time he went to war with one of his fatherís enemies, he would ask the temple official to honor his ancestors with an offering of a pig and a sheep. After performing the ceremony, he would take one arrow out of the temple, put it in a sacred bag, and give it to the trusted general in the vanguard of the army. Having won the war, King Juang would return the arrow to the temple.

    After King Juang tied up the King and Prince of Yen, put King Liang's head in a box, he present presented them in the temple, returned the arrows to his late father, and told him of his success. It can be said that the vigor of his spirit at that moment was magnificent. Following the destruction of all his enemies, he became Emperor of China. Gradually , he became indifferent in state affairs, and developed a love of partying with entertainers. One night an actor initiated an rebellion, and riots followed everywhere. Emperor Juang rushed to escaped eastward. His troops discarded their armor and deserted. Emperor Juang and his generals looked at each other and did not know what to do. His loyal officials cut their hair and swore to seek revenge. They cried, wetting their clothes with tears. How despondent they were! Is it true that gaining the throne is difficult and losing it is easy? Or is the foundation of success and failure determined by human affairs?

    The Bible of Journalism says, "Conceit leads to damage while humility brings benefit." It is natural that caution and diligence may cause a country to thrive, while self-indulgence and hedonism may bring one's ruin. Consequently, at Emperor Juang's peak, all the heroes and outstanding generals in China could not compete with him. When he declined, the rebellion led by scores of actors destroyed him and ended his dynasty. He became the laughingstock of China. It is true that a disaster often comes from the accumulation of neglect and trivial errors. A wise and brave man is mostly defeated by his own addiction to bad habits, which are not limited to partying with actors. Therefore, I wrote the biography of the actors in the Five Dynasty.