Xuan Feng As A House Guest 1 of Prime Minister Meng-chang

Strategies During the Warring States Period (403-221 BCE)

    In the State of Qi 2, there was a person who was so poor that he could barely survive. He went to Prime Minister Meng-chang and said that he desired to be his house guest.
    Prime Minister Meng-chang asked, "What do you like?"
    Feng replied, "I have no hobby."
    "What can you do?" asked Prime Minister Meng-chang.
    "Nothing." stated Feng.
The Prime Minister smiled and accepted him. The servants thought that Prime Minister Meng-chang despised him, so they fed him cheap tea and plain rice.

    One day after Feng had lived there for several weeks, he leaned against a column, used his sword as a musical instrument, and sang, "Long sword! Let us go home! There is no fish to eat." Servants reported this to Prime Minister Meng-chang. The prime minister said, "Serve him fish like the other house guests." After several weeks, Feng played his sword and sang again, "Long sword! Let us go home! There is no carriage to take when I go out." The servants told this to Prime Minister Meng-chang again. The prime minister said, "Let him use carriages like the others." Then with his sword hung on his waist Feng took a carriage to visit his friends. He told them, "Prime Minister Meng-chang treats me very well." Several weeks later, Feng played his sword and sang again, "Long Sword! Let us go home! I cannot feed my family!" The servants all disliked him and considered him too greedy. Prime Minister Meng-chang asked Feng if he had any relatives. Feng answered, "I have an old mother." Then the prime minister sent people to provide her food and money periodically. Afterwards, Feng never sang again.

    Later, Prime Minister Meng-chang put a notice on a bulletin board and asked the house guests if any of them knew accounting and would help him collect debt in Xue City. Feng signed his name and claimed that he could do it. Prime Minister Meng-chang was curious and wondered about his identity. The servants said, "He is the one who sang, 'Long sword! Let us go home!'" The prime minister said with a smile, "This shows that he is very talented. I am sorry that I barely know him." He asked Feng to come and then apologized to him by saying, "I am busy with work and burdened with sorrow. I am weak, foolish, and only care about my work for the country. I am sorry that I did not treat you well. However, despite my mistreatment, you are still willing to collect debt for me in Xue City, aren't you?" Feng said. "Yes!"

    Consequently, Feng reserved a carriage, prepared his luggage, and carried the promissory notes with him. Before he started his trip, he went to say farewell to Prime Minister Meng-chang and asked, "After I collect the debt, what shall I buy when I come back?" The prime minister said, "Look around my house! If you find we lack anything, then go buy it!" Feng took the carriage to Xue City and ordered officials to assemble the citizens. The debtors all came to check their contracts. After they knew the amount they owed, Feng forged prime Minister Meng-chang's order to void all the contracts as the prime minister's gift. Indeed, Feng burnt all the contracts. People all shouted, "Long live Prime Minister Meng-chang!" Then Feng took a long ride home. Next morning Feng went to see the prime minister. Prime Minister Meng-chang was amazed that he had returned so fast. He dressed up, met Fung and asked, "Did you collect all the debt? How could you have returned so fast?" Feng replied, "Yes. I collected all the debt." Prime Minister Meng-chang asked, "What did you purchase when you come back?" Feng said, "You wanted me to purchase something lacking in your house. I saw that your warehouse is filled with treasure, that your stable is filled with dogs and horses, and that your harem is filled with beautiful women. The only thing lacking in your house is virtue. Therefore, I bought virtue for you." Prime Minister Meng-chang asked, "How did you purchase virtue?" Feng replied, "Now you have Xue City in your domain. You should love your people like your children rather than squeezing profit from them. Consequently, I forged your order to void their debts as your gift. In fact, I burned all the contracts and people shouted, 'Long live Prime Minister Meng-chang!' This is how I bought virtue for you." The prime minister was not happy, so he said, "Hmm! You may go rest now!"

    After a year, a new king succeeded to the throne. He told Prime Minister Meng-chang, "I dare not use my father's officials as my officials." Thus, Mr. Meng-chang lost his position as prime minister and returned to Xue City. Fourteen miles before he reached the city, people brought their old and young and waited along the roadside to welcome him. Mr. Meng-chang turned to Feng and said, "Today I finally see the virtue that you had bought for me."

    Feng said, "A smart rabbit has three holes to run for its life. Now you have one hole, but your situation is not satisfactory. I will dig two more holes for you." Mr. Meng-chang gave Feng 50 carriages and 276 pounds of gold to persuade the King of the State of Wei to appoint him as prime minister. Feng told the king, "The State of Qi forced Mr. Meng-chang to retire. Any country who appoints Mr. Meng-chang first will become rich and strong." After listening to Feng's advice, the King of Wei transferred his prime minister to the position of commander in chief so that the prime minister position would be vacant. He sent a messenger with 552 pounds of gold and 100 carriages to offer Mr. Meng-chang the position of prime minister. Feng rushed to Xue City and told Mr. Meng-chang, "A large amount of gold is a heavy gift and 100 carriages show a great regard for you. The people in the State of Qi will hear this news." The messenger of the State of Wei came to offer Mr. Meng-chang the position of prime minister three times, Mr. Meng-chang firmly rejected the offer each time.

    After the King of Qi heard the news and told the entire court, they are fearful. The king sent a special messenger to offer Mr. Meng-chang 552 pounds of gold, two colorful carriages and one sword. The messenger also carried the king's letter to ask for Mr. Meng-chang's forgiveness. It said, "It was my fault. I was tricked by temple ghosts and fooled by corrupt officials so that I mistreated you. I am not talented enough, and hope you will come back to take charge of our country in the name of the deceased kings." Feng advised Mr. Meng-chang, "Move all the sacred objects from the capital to Xue City and build a new temple for the deceased kings here." After the temple was built, Feng told Mr. Meng-chang, "The three holes have been completed. Now you can relax and enjoy a happy life."

    Afterwards, Mr. Meng-chang had no problems with the king and was his prime minister for forty years. This was because of Feng's strategy.


1 During the Warring States Period, a dignitary usually kept more than 1000 house guests. These house guests received free meals, free housing and some allowances. They had no daily duties. However, when the dignitary had a problem, these house guests would offer advice to solve it.

2 During the Warring States Period, China was divided into seven states: Han, Zhao, Wei, Qi, Chu, Yan and Qin.