History Lessons

The Three Warrens

Keep your options open?

During the Warring States Period (476-221 BC), Lord Mengchang, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Qi, sent his advisor Feng Yuan to his fief in Xue to collect debts. When Feng got there, he found that the people were very poor and could not repay loans. So instead, Feng forgave all the debts, telling the people in the village that he was doing this on Mengchang’s orders. Upon his return, Feng told his master of his benevolence. Although Mengchang was unhappy, what was done was done, so he let it go.

A year later, Mengchang fell out of favour in court and had to return to his native village. When he was still miles away, the local people, young and old, all came out to welcome his return. Mengchang was greatly moved and expressed his gratitude to Feng, who only replied, “Jiao tu san ku” (a Chinese proverb that means a cunning rabbit has three warrens in which to hide). “You only have one warren. I am going to find you two more.” Feng then secured an offer for Mengchang to be prime minister of the Kingdom of Wei. Hearing this, the King of Qi quickly reinstated Mengchang as his prime minister. Feng told Mengchang: “Now that all three holes are in place, you may relax and live in peace.”

The lesson? Be nice on the way up, as you don’t know who you’ll need on the way down. And put your eggs in three baskets.


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