Ji Zou Suggested That the King of Qi Accept Advice
Strategies During the Warring States Period2(403-221 BCE)
Prime Minister Zou was six feet one inch tall. His shape and face were fair. One day he
dressed up, put on his hat, looked in the mirror and asked his wife, "Compare me with Mr. Xu from the north
part of town. Who is more handsome?"
His wife replied, "You are much more
handsome than Mr. Xu. How can Mr. Xu compete with you?"
Mr. Xu from the north part of town was the most handsome man in the State of
Qi at that time. Zou did not believe his wife's
words. So he then asked his concubine, "Who
is more handsome, Mr. Xu or I?" His
concubine answered, "It is impossible
for Mr. Xu to compete with you."
The next day a guest came, sat down, and conversed with Zou. Zou asked his
guest, "Who is more handsome, Mr. Xu
or I?" The guest replied,
"Mr. Xu is not as handsome as you."
The day after that, Mr. Xu came to see Zou. Zou watched him continuously and
felt that he was not as handsome as Mr. Xu. When he looked into the mirror, he
found that he was much less handsome than Mr. Xu. When he lay on his bed that
evening, he thought, "My wife said
that I was handsome because she is partial to me. My concubine said that I was
handsome because she is afraid of me. My guest said that I was handsome because
he wanted to ask a favor of me."
Consequently, next morning he went to see King Wei-wang of Qi. Zou told the king,
"In truth, I understand that I am not
as handsome as Mr. Xu. However, my wife is partial to me; my concubine is afraid
of me; my guest wanted to ask a favor of me. Therefore, they all said that I was
more handsome than Mr. Xu. Now there are 50,000 square miles of land and 120
cities in the State of Qi. Your wives and eunuchs are all partial to you. The
officials in your court are all afraid of you. The people in the entire State of
Qi all want to ask favors of you. In view of this, you can hardly listen to any
The king said, "You are absolutely right." Therefore, he decreed, "Anyone who
points out my faults in front of me will receive a large prize. Anyone who
writes to me and criticizes my mistakes will receive a medium prize. If I hear
someone criticize my policy in public, I will give him a small prize."
When the decree first went into effect, the officials who came to the
court to give advice numbered as many as the people in a market. After a few
months, there were many fewer people coming to give advice than before. After a
year, those who wanted to receive prizes by giving advice found that they had
nothing to say. After the kings of the States of Yan, Zhao, Han, and Wei heard
this event, they all sent envoys to pay homage to King Wei-wang of Qi. This victory was won
in the king’s court rather than on a
Many people believe that if one destroys others, he will automatically become
the winner. In fact, this strategy cannot lead him anywhere. The above story
tells us, "A real victory is won by
changing an enemy's heart rather than by force. A true winner is the one who
fights against his drawbacks and fights for his ideals."
2 Strategies During the Warring States Period is a collection of 33
essays written between 403 BCE and 221 BCE by several authors. Xiang Liu (77-6 BCE) compiled these essays into a book. Later Gong Zeng (1019-1083) revised it. Most people during the Warring States Period did not care
about loyalty or morality. They only worked for personal gain. Scholars went to
each country to persuade the king to offer them positions. Therefore,
strategists were very active during this period. Various schools of Chinese
philosophy grew and bloomed like flowers in spring. The competition made every
scholar eloquent. During a critical conversation, a quick and proper response
may have prevented a country from suffering the disasters of war. The honed wits
of these strategists created the characteristic of contemporary philosophy: They
skillfully used favors and threats as their diplomatic means; their analyses
were interesting and to the point; their arguments were lively and convincing.
It is said that Chinese philosophy was most productive during the Warring States
Period. Actually, Strategies During the Warring States Period greatly
influenced many Chinese writers'
approaches to literature.