To Mr. Liu

Zong, Chen 1 (1525 A.D.-1560 A.D.)

    I was so lucky that I received your letter from more than a thousand miles away. It relieves my worry about you. You also sent me some gifts. How can I repay your favor? Your sentiment is very sincere. I know you cannot forget my father and my father misses you very much. You said of me in your letter, "Both your supervisors and subordinates trust you. Your talents and virtue match your position." Your words have caused me to think deeply.

    Of course I know I do not have enough talent and virtue to match my position. I am especially poor at building "trust" between me and my supervisors. What does the word “trust” mean in these times? Suppose that you ride a horse to the gate of the powerful person's manor and wait there day and night. The doorman will intentionally stop you at the gate. You must behave like a woman in order to flatter him. Only after you bribe him with the money hidden in your sleeves does the doorman take your business card into the house. The host will not come out right away. You have to stand among the stablemen and horses at the stable. The sickening smell assaults your sleeves. Even if you feel unbearably hungry, noxious, hot or cold, you dare not leave. When the night falls, the bribed doorman comes out and says, "The master is tired and declines seeing visitors. Please come tomorrow." You dare not be absent the next day, so that night you throw your clothes over your shoulders and sit. As soon as a rooster crows, you wash your face and comb your hair, and then ride a horse to the dignitary's gate. The doorman asks angrily, "Who is this?" You will answer, "Yesterday's visitor comes." Then the doorman says in a stern voice, "Why do you come here so often? How can the master come out to see guests at this time?" You feel ashamed, but you hold your emotions in check and tell the doorman patiently, "I have no other way to get help. Please let me in." After the doorman receives your bribe again, he finally lets you enter the gate. Then you again wait in the stable where you stood the day before.

    Fortunately, the master comes out and summons you to meet him as if he were a king. Overwhelmed by this unexpected favor, you walk nervously and then crawl forward at the doorsteps of the mansion. The master says, "Come in!" Then you kowtow to him and keep lying low until the master repeatedly asks you to rise. Once you stand up, you immediately present your gift to him with all respect. The master intentionally pretends that he does not want the gift. You persist by saying, "Please." The master continues to say, "Absolutely not." Again you say, "Please." This time the master orders his servant to accept it. Then you kowtow again and keep lying low until the master repeatedly asks you to rise. After you stand up, you make five or six low bows and then exit. When you leave the gate, you bow to the doorman and say, "Fortunately, the master agrees to help me. When I come again, please do not bother me." Then the doorman gives a bow in return and you come out proudly. When you ride a horse and encounter a friend, you will flourish a whip and say, "I just came from the mansion of an important man.” He treated me very well." Then you fabricate stories to boast about yourself. Your friend is struck with awe because he thinks the dignitary treated you so well. Meanwhile, the dignitary will gives you mild praise in front of others. Then the listeners admire you and compete to praise you. This is the so-called "mutual trust" between a supervisor and his subordinates. Do you think I should behave these ways?

    I never visit dignitaries in person; I only send them greeting cards at holiday times. If I were to pass by their doors by chance, I would cover my ears, shut my eyes, and speed my horses to run past their doors as if someone were chasing me. This makes them think I am narrow-minded. Consequently, my supervisors do not like me. The less they like me, the less I care about how they treat me. I often say, "My fate is predestined. All I can do is act according to the call of duty." When you read this, do you consider me stubborn?

1 Chen Zong was a native of Xing-hua City of Yang County during the Ming dynasty. Zi-xiang was his other first name. He passed the Advanced Exam in 1550 A.D. His first job was as an official who evaluated the work of other officials. He could not get along with the evil prime minister, Song Yan. Consequently, he was exiled to Fujian Province. Because he repelled a pirate attack, he was promoted to be the superintendent of schools. He, Pan-long Li, Shen-zhen Wang, Zhen Xie, Zhong-xing Xu, Guo-lun Wu, and You-you Liang are referred to as “the Seven Gifted Scholars During the Jia-jing (reign title) Period”.