[FOUNTAIN]New seats and empty desksGou Jian, the king of Yue, was defeated in battle and captured by Fu Chai, the king of Wu. Being held hostage, he suffered the insult of being forced to work as a grave keeper and a stableman. When he returned home after three years, he planned his revenge, something that would take over 20 years.
Wen Zhong, a clever strategist, came up with a few tricks, and the core of the revenge plan was to use beautiful women to lure his enemy. Using a woman to seduce and ensnare a man is Strategy 31 in the ancient Chinese book, “The 36 Strategies.” Fan Li, who had been captured in the state of Wu with Gou Jian, searched for a suitable femme fatale. Fan Li recommended his lover Xi Shi, one of the famous four beauties of ancient China, along with Yang Guifei, Wang Zhaojun and Diao Chan. Naturally, the tactic of using the beautiful Xi Shi was highly successful.
In 473 B.C., Gou Jian of Yue defeated the state of Wu, and Fu Chai killed himself. While the greatly pleased Gou Jian was busy distributing rewards to those who contributed to the victory, Fan Li resigned and suddenly left the royal court. He said Gou Jian was the kind of ruler one could suffer with but could not share pleasure with. In contrast, Wen Zhong remained in office despite Fan Li’s advice to step down. But Wen Zhong had to take his life when Gou Jian grew suspicious of him.
In 196 B.C., Han Xin helped Liu Bang to overthrow Hsiang Yu. He might have been unaware of the precedence of Fan Li and Wen Zhong, or pretended not to know. When the war was over and the Han Dynasty was established by the family of Liu, he was considered a threat and became a target for removal. “When all the fast rabbits are caught, the hunting dogs are killed for meat, and when all the flying birds are caught, even good bows are put away in the barn.” Han Xin regretted being in the useless hunting dog situation, but it was too late.
The season of appointment and promotion has arrived. The government is expected to announce the appointments of vice ministers before the Lunar New Year. The personals sections in newspapers are filled with executive appointments of companies and organizations, mostly announcing promotions. But new appointments mean people have left those positions. While those promoted are showered with orchids and flowers, those resigning are quietly cleaning out their desks.
They could have saved themselves from heartbreak if they had been wise enough to follow the example of Fan Li. However, it is always easier to say yes than to choose to step down. It is only human to be anxious if you don’t have a stable job and a regulary salary.
by You Sang-chul
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.