Zi-chan Did Not Allow Inexperienced He Yin to Be a City Manager

(A historical event in 542 BCE)

Zuo's Extended Version of the Spring and Autumn Annals

    Zi-pi, a high-ranking official, wanted He Yin to be the manager of his private city. Zi-chan said, "He Yin is very young. I doubt he is competent enough to be a city manager." Zi-pi said, "I appreciate his honesty. He will learn more and more about how to govern a city while doing his work."

    Zi-chan said, "You must not do that. One who likes a person desires to help that person. Now you give an inexperienced worker whom you like a heavy responsibility in city affairs. It is like allowing someone who has not learned how to use a knife to butcher cattle or sheep. He may hurt himself. If you treat someone you like in a harmful way, who would want to be liked by you?

    Your importance to the State of Zheng is like a column to a building. If columns collapse, the beam will break. Then I will be crushed also. Therefore, I must voice my opinion fully. If you have beautiful silk, you will not allow an inexperienced tailor to make clothes out of it. Your feudal land is what your career depends on, how could you let an inexperienced laborer manage it? It seems to me that you like beautiful silk much more than your career. I know that only after graduating from the school of political science may one start his political career. I have never heard that one begins to study politics by using public welfare as his guinea pig. If you let an inexperienced laborer be the city manager, it will cause great harm. Like hunting, if one is skillful in archery and riding a carriage, then he is able to capture game. If one has learned neither archery nor how to ride a carriage, then he will worry about whether the bouncing carriage might turn over. How can he have time to think of game?"

    Zi-pi said, "Your advice is great! It is my fault. I have heard that a man with vision can see far and aim at a great goal and that a man without vision cannot not see far and can only focus on small things. I am shortsighted. I know how to protect my clothes because they are attached to my body. However, I fail to pay attention to the city management which greatly affects my career. Without your advice, I would never understand my mistake. A few days ago, I said, 'You are competent to manage the State of Zheng. I am competent to manage my feudal land.' Now I realize that I am not talented enough even for this small-size management. From now on, even for my family estate, I would like to follow your advice."

    Zi-chan said, "One's mind, like his face, is different from others. I don't expect that we will have the same solution for every problem. However, I would feel irresponsible if I did not fully express my opinion."

    Zi-pi considered Zi-chan trustworthy, so he appointed him to be his political adviser. Consequently, Zi-chan gained the opportunity to take charge in state affairs of the State of Zheng. Later, he became Zheng's Prime Minister.