Stories from Ancient China: Zhuge Liang and His Teacher

Zhuge Liang, 181-234 A.D., was a great historical figure that lived in the Three States Period. Zhuge Liang's teacher was Sir Shuijing, who lived a recluse life in the Village of Shuijing in ancient China. Sir Shuijing had a rooster that strutted about in his yard. Everyday at noon the rooster would crow three times and Sir Shuijing would end his lesson as soon as he heard the rooster's crows. Zhuge Liang loved studying and always wanted to listen to a little more. He did not like the rooster that always called on time. He came up with an idea. He stitched a little pocket on his pants and filled it with rice. When the rooster was about to crow, Zhuge Liang quietly spread the rice outside the window. By the time the rooster had finished all the rice, an hour or two would have passed.

Eventually, Sir Shuijing found out about this secret tactic. He took it as if little Zhuge Liang was playing a trick on him, and he sent him home. After Zhuge Liang left, Madame Shuijing spoke on his behalf. She said, "Zhuge Liang did this solely for the purpose of getting more out of the lessons you give. You should forgive him this time." Sir Shuijing knew that Zhuge Liang was extremely sharp and diligent. He also liked him. But before calling him back, Sir Shuijing decided to find out more about his character and so he sent one of his young servants to Longzhong (now Nanyang City, Henan Province), where Zhuge Liang lived, to privately investigate.

The young servant came back with three stories about Zhuge Liang. The first story was that Zhuge Liang's mother did not like cold weather, so he would go into the mountains to get a rare type of grass to spread in his mother's bed. Each evening, he would first lay in his mother's bed until the mattress was warm. The second story was that Zhuge Liang's home was only two patches of vegetable fields away from a well. But since he was not tall, he worried that the water buckets that he carried might hang down too low and damage the vegetables his neighbours were raising, so he always took a detour by going an extra mile around the base of the hill. The third story was that Zhuge Liang sought answers from a young man who lived nearby. Later on, although Zhuge Liang had become much more learnt than the young man, he still respected the young man and treated him humbly.

After Sir Shuijing heard the three stories, he nodded in appreciation, "Zhuge Liang will be an outstanding fellow!" He immediately asked the young servant to take him to Longzhong to invite Zhuge Liang back in person.

Sir Shuijing appreciated Zhuge Liang's character and passed onto him all his knowledge. Later Zhuge Liang became an outstanding politician and military strategist. Besides his breadth of knowledge, he was respected by others for his moral character.

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