The most understanding person in history: reaching the peak three times, clearing and restarting three times

Spread the love

In the long river of history, there are all kinds of people, such as emperors, generals, talented women, beauties, heroes, disorderly officials and thieves.

But it is rare for a man like him to have achieved success in his life and to have a thorough understanding of life.

In his life, he reached the peak three times and was reset three times. His position, wealth, power and honor were discarded at any time without any concern. Finally, in the treacherous times, he retired and lived to a long life.

Later, people commented that in the nearly 500 years of the spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period, there was only one person who remained famous.

After his deeds were recorded and spread, he has been the ideal personality mirror of the Chinese people for 2500 years. Although we can’t reach it, we are eager to do so. In every era of history, countless people wanted to refer to his living method, but few people succeeded in imitating it.

Because his life is too perfect, he is regarded as a classic paradigm. Because of this, various titles have been added to him in the history: first-class counselor, politician, militarist, diplomat; Top businessmen, billionaires, philanthropists, and Chinese business saints; One of the spokesmen of Taoism, the folk God of wealth, the interpreter of perfect love, and the skillful winner

He is Fan Li. A legend full of mysteries.



? Fan Li (about 536-448 BC)



Fan Li’s appearance is a classic.

He is from the state of Chu. At the end of the spring and Autumn period, the state of Chu produced many talents. We will see later that in the process of Wu and Yue competing for hegemony, the two groups of counselors behind the battle are basically Chu people.

In the state of Chu, where there were so many talented people, Fan Li, who was born in poverty, had no chance to stand out, although he had talent, knowledge and strategy. How to build popularity and fame? He adopted the usual method used by the great people at that time, that is, “pretending to be crazy, handsome and vulgar” – pretending to be crazy, “when you wake up, you will think you are crazy”.

At that time, the county magistrate of Wan County, where Fan Li was located, was Wenzhong. He was also a hero who had lost his life. Wenzhong’s ambition is to find a best partner and work together for a great cause.

Fan Li’s feigning madness attracted the attention of literary types with extraordinary vision.

Wenzhong first sent a small official to invite Fan Li. The official came back and reported, “Fan Li, a native madman, had this disease.” Fan Li is really sick. It means that you have lost sight of the language.

Wen Zhong laughed after hearing this: “I heard that scholars have the appearance of being virtuous and handsome. I must have feigned arrogance and ridiculed them. I have a clear view inside and an unknown destruction outside. This is not what the two or three sons know.” To put it bluntly, Wen Zhong is gambling whether Fan Li is really crazy or pretending to be crazy, whether he is really ill or pretending to be ill. The probability is fifty-five; In addition, the society at that time was catching up with an era of order collapse and reconstruction, and all people and things tended to come in the opposite direction. Therefore, the literary genre also said that “there are many wise men in the madman, and there are gentlemen in the lowly”. With this calculation, Fan Li’s chances of being a sage feigning madness have greatly increased.

I really bet on the right language.

When he went to visit Fan Li in person, for the first time, Fan Li learned to bark from a dog in front of him and barked at him. He didn’t care; The second time, Fan Li gave up his madness, trimmed his clothes, and appeared in front of the literary genre as a gentleman.

The two men talked throughout the night. They talked more and more and speculated more. They made an appointment to go to Wu and Yue, the emerging countries at that time, to seek opportunities to realize their personal aspirations.

At the end of the spring and Autumn period, the struggle for hegemony among countries led to the flow of talents among countries and the emergence of professional managers and politicians. These mobile politicians, like professional managers now, focus on strategies and means, and despise right and wrong, with the fundamental purpose of helping the monarch establish hegemony. During this period, the rising stars of various countries have gradually turned from the traditional power in the Yellow River basin to the emerging Three Kingdoms in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River – Chu, Wu and Yue. Especially in Chu state, the talent spillover effect is obvious.

Fan Li and Wenzhong left Chu together and went to Wu first. However, in the state of Wu at this time, people from the state of Chu were already in charge there. The famous Wuzixu and taizai were all from the state of Chu.

They felt that they had little chance of succeeding in Wu, so they had to continue to the weaker state of Yue. At that time, the king of Yue accepted them.

This year was about 510 BC, only 35 years from the beginning of the Warring States period. At this time, Fan Li was about 25 years old and in his prime.

The next 40 years’ struggle for hegemony between Wu and Yue was the last battle for the rise of great powers in the spring and Autumn period. Although the two countries have only caught up with the last bus to dominate the world, they are no less wonderful and dramatic.

However, turning to the history of Wu Yue’s struggle for hegemony, we will find that the two groups of people standing at the front stage are basically Chu people. Wu and Yue became the stage for Chu people to display their strategies and wisdom, that’s all.



? map of Chu, Wu and Yue, source: Chinese Historical Atlas



In the struggle for hegemony between Wu and Yue, Fan Li’s greatest skill was brought into full play.

Fan Li once admonished Gou Jian, the king of Yue, and expounded his core thought of governing the country: “when it comes to the affairs of the state, there are profits, inclinations, and matters of restraint. Those who maintain profits are related to heaven, those who incline to people, and those who restrain matters are related to the earth.”

To be specific, a country should conform to the heaven’s way to maintain its prosperity and not overflow; Only by appointing the right people can a country be stabilized from danger; Festivals depend on tunnels. The state should pay attention to economic construction and production, and handle affairs with restraint, so as to lay the foundation for a strong country.

In short, Fan Li’s ability is two words:

One is “knowing the opportunity” — seizing the opportunity, what to do and what not to do, he sees it very accurately;

The other is “knowing each other” — knowing the situation clearly, being soft when it is time to be soft, being tough when it is time to be tough, and having nothing to say.

Let’s take a look at Fan Li’s actual combat operations.

In the initial battle between Wu and Yue, King Helu of Wu was almost a victorious general, but king Yunchang of Yue always lost the battle and finally died with hatred.

Around 496 BC, Goujian, the son of Yunchang, ascended the throne. Helu thought that the new king was unstable. This was the best time to attack the state of Yue. Unexpectedly, the attack on the state of Yue during the national funeral aroused great fighting spirit. It is said that the state of Yue sent out a group of death squads, divided into queues, rushed to the front of the state of Wu with firm steps, and then stopped. Instead of fighting, they shouted loudly for a while and then killed themselves with swords. This cruel way of fighting the dead has stunned the Wu army. Finally, when the main force of the state of Yue launched a real attack, the state of Wu was in disorder and returned home with a great defeat. Even King Helu of Wu was wounded and died.

When he Lu was dying, he told his son fuchai, “never forget the hatred of the state of Yue.” Aiming at revenge, fuchai specially found a man to stand in the yard. As soon as he saw fuchai, he shouted: “fuchai, have you forgotten the king of Yue’s revenge for killing his father?” Fuchai must answer, “I dare not forget!” Through this kind of hate propaganda, the whole Wu Kingdom was filled with a breath of revenge.

Gou Jian, the king of Yue, clamored to take advantage of the situation to destroy the state of Wu. However, Fan Li advised against Yue sending troops to attack Wu, on the grounds that Wu’s revenge will be difficult to defeat once it is aroused. It is not the right time to send troops.

Gou Jian did not listen and launched an attack in 494 BC. Wu and Yue fought fiercely in the five lakes (today’s Taihu Lake). The Yue army was defeated and fled to the state of Yue. The state of Wu pursued the victories and fought a series of victories. Gou Jian retreated again and again. Finally, under the protection of 5000 soldiers, he retreated to Kuaiji mountain. The state of Yue is facing the disaster of national subjugation.

Seeing that the country was in danger, Gou Jian quickly asked Fan Li for advice on how to get rid of the crisis.

Fan Li pointed out that up to now, we can only understand each other, ask for peace from the state of Wu, and be humble and generous. As long as the country is not destroyed, the state of Yue is willing to accept all conditions, submit to Nazhi and enslave the people.

Following Fan Li’s advice, Gou Jian sent Wenzhong to the Wu army to seek peace. Wenzhong bribed taizaiechu with beautiful women and generous gifts, so taizaiechu interceded for Goujian in front of her husband. Wuzixu stood up and resolutely opposed sparing Gou Jian and the state of Yue. He said that heaven wanted to destroy the state of Yue. If the state of Wu did not accept it, it would suffer. After three seconds of hesitation, fuchai finally decided to withdraw and let Gou Jian go.

The condition is that Gou Jian and his wife go to the state of Wu together and become servants of the king Fu Chai of Wu.

Before setting out, Gou Jian should bring his literary style with him. Fan Li said that he would like to take the place of literary genre and go with Gou Jian. He said: “within the four seals, the common people’s affairs… Are not as good as planting. Outside the four seals, the enemy’s system and the decision-making Affairs… Are not as good as planting.” Wenzhong is good at internal affairs and should stay to take care of the defeated country. However, he is good at diplomacy and should set out to accompany the king of Yue as a slave.

In the state of Wu, Fan Li asked Gou Jian, king of Yue, to carry out the word “knowing each other” to the extreme. When fuchai, the king of Wu, was ill, Fan Li instructed Gou Jian to taste fuchai’s excrement in person to confuse and impress fuchai. As expected, fuchai was moved with compassion and allowed Gou Jian and others to return to the state of Yue three years later.

At the same time, the state of Wu, which defeated the state of Yue, expanded to the north, and fuchai was ready to launch a war against the state of Qi. Wuzixu still expressed his opposition and repeatedly stressed to fuchai that he should use his strength to guard against the state of Yue. Fuchai did not listen, but he also won the victory in attacking Qi. In this regard, Wuzixu believed that although he won, it was not a good thing. At this time, another man from the state of Chu, taizai Chu, started a civil strife with Wuzixu. Taizai Chu slandered Fu Chai, saying that Wuzixu was a critic, but not a patriot. He did not love the state of Wu.

Fuchai, the king of Wu, was already confused by the victory. He chose to believe in taizailou and doubted Wuzixu. He ordered Wuzixu to commit suicide and let taizailou take charge of the state affairs. When Wuzixu was dying, he predicted that he would hang my head at the head of the city, and I would see the state of Yue perish the state of Wu. Fuchai doesn’t think so.

Gou Jian, who returned to the state of Yue, accepted Fan Li’s long-term plan of “ten years of reunion and ten years of lessons”. However, Gou Jian’s patience to endure hardships is not as firm as we thought. In the fourth year, he could not sit still and thought of attacking Wu. Fan Li pressed him down and said to him: the time has not come, the time has not come!

Almost every year after that, Gou Jian asked Fan Li: is the time right? Fan Li could only persuade him to wait patiently every time.

After Wuzixu committed suicide, Gou Jian wanted to attack Wu. Fan Li dissuaded him. The time was not over.

When the state of Wu was hit by disasters and the rice harvest was poor, Gou Jian wanted to cut down on Wu again. Fan Li tried to dissuade him, but there was no end to the matter.

Gou Jian was furious when he heard the speech and said, when I talk about personnel with you, you just talk to me; Now when I talk to you, you talk to me about personnel. Are you trying to trick me?

Fan Li explained that personnel must be combined with favorable weather and geographical conditions to achieve success. Now that the state of Wu is suffering from disasters and the people are panicking, the monarchs and ministers will work together to tide over domestic and foreign troubles. The king should still sing, dance and drink to confuse the state of Wu. Seeing this, Fu Chai will not practice moral politics. When the people’s wealth is exhausted and their heart is gray, they can succeed in one fell swoop.

At the Huangchi meeting, fuchai, the king of Wu, achieved the hegemony of the state of Wu, but he did not expect that the so-called peak would be a long decline.

Until 473 BC, the state of Yue finally launched a general attack on the state of Wu. Because fuchai went north to fight for hegemony in the Central Plains for years, the empty state of Wu was soon defeated. Fuchai fled to the Gusu stage and held fast. He sent envoys to beg for peace with Gou Jian, hoping that Gou Jian would be as tolerant as he was 20 years ago, allowing the state of Wu to remain, and that he would serve for him as Gou Jian was in those days.

Gou Jian was really soft hearted.

At this time, Fan Li forcefully drove away the envoys of the state of Wu. He said, “when the heaven was going to destroy the state of Yue, the state of Wu gave up, so there is today’s retribution. Now the heaven is going to destroy the state of Wu, can the state of Yue go against the heaven?” With that, he beat drums to rejuvenate the army and destroyed the state of Wu.

Fuchai, the king of Wu, finally committed suicide masked. The purpose of the mask was to not see Wuzixu after his death. He had no face to see Wuzixu.

After annexing the state of Wu, Gou Jian, the king of Yue, went north to compete for hegemony with the princes, becoming the last hegemony in the spring and Autumn period.



? Wu and Yue vie for hegemony



When Gou Jian, the king of Yue, endured humiliation for many years and finally reached the peak of his life, Fan Li, his life mentor, was no longer around him.

According to the records in Guoyu, on his way back to Yue from the front line of destroying Wu, Fan Li walked to Wuhu and said goodbye to Gou Jian before crossing the border. Yes, when everyone thought that Fan Li should enjoy the glory and wealth of the rise of the state of Yue, this wise man, who had never played cards according to common sense, played all his cards this time — whether it was official position, honor, power or wealth, he threw them away like a shoe.

Gou Jian was worried, half tempted and half threatened, and said, “my son listens to my words and divides the country with my son. If you don’t listen to my words, your body will die and your wife will be killed.” If you don’t go, I will rule by your country. If I have to go, I will never be polite to you and your family.

Fan Li was unmoved and said faintly, “your orders will be followed by your wishes.” Everyone goes his own way.

According to the Guoyu, Fan Li “took a boat to float in the five lakes, and no one knows his end”. It left history with a background of success and retirement. That was all. No one knew where Fan Li would go.

Hundreds of years later, during the period of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, Sima Qian wrote the historical records, and only then did he supplement the experience of Fan Li Gong’s retirement.

According to the records of the historian, Fan Li went to the state of Qi and did not forget Wenzhong, an old friend who shared weal and woe with him. He wrote a letter thousands of miles to persuade Wenzhong to leave the state of Yue as soon as possible to avoid killing himself. The book says, “when all the birds are flying, the good bow is hidden; when the cunning rabbit dies, the running dog cooks. The king of Yue has a long neck and many beaks. He can share weal and woe with us, but he can’t share happiness with us. Why don’t you go?” Wenzhong received Fan Li’s letter. Perhaps he thought that he had made meritorious contributions to the state of Yue, and Gou Jian would not kill him. Perhaps he was really unable to let go of the wealth and wealth around him. Therefore, he did not make an immediate decision to leave the state of Yue, but just “called himself ill and refused to go to court”.

At this time, some people slandered Gou Jian and framed Wenzhong as a “riot”. At this time, Gou Jian was already the overlord of the spring and Autumn period. He could not remember the hard days of sleeping on firewood and tasting gall. He didn’t need any wise men to be able to serve him. So he gave Wenzhong a sword and said, “Zi taught me the seven skills of defeating Wu. I used three of them to defeat Wu. His four was in Zi. Zi tried it for my first king.” It’s so beautiful, but it’s actually very cruel. You taught me the “seven techniques for defeating Wu”. I used three moves to destroy the state of Wu. The world is invincible. You are really powerful. Save the remaining four moves to teach my father who always suffered defeat in the war of Wu! In the present words, it is actually “you go to hell”.

Facing the desperate Gou Jian, Wenzhong finally committed suicide with his sword.

Fan Li had already “floated out of the sea” and changed his name to Li yizipi. First, he cultivated by the sea. His father and son worked together and worked hard. After a short time, he became a new generation of rich people. The people of Qi jointly promoted Fan Li as the Prime Minister of Qi. He thought that his life was too smooth, and he reached the extreme quickly, whether he was an official or a business. This was unlucky, so he returned Xiangyin, distributed his family wealth to friends and villagers, and quietly left with his family.

Finally, Fan Li took a fancy to Tao (now Dingtao, or Feicheng, Shandong Province), and believed that living in the center of the world and connecting all directions was conducive to trade and prosperity. After a while, as expected, he accumulated millions of wealth and was called “Taozhu Gong”.

According to the records of the historian, after Fan Li left the state of Yue, “in the 19 years, he made three gold coins, and then dispersed to make friends with the poor and the poor.”. In other words, Fan Li started his business three times in his old age and became a billionaire three times. Each time, he donated all his money without blinking.

Sima Qian called the transformation of Fan Li’s living space in Yue, Qi and Tao as “three migrations” and “three migrations”. “Historical records” wrote: “Fan Li moved three times and became famous in the world He also said, “Fan Li’s three moves all have a reputation and will be remembered by later generations.” It can be seen that Sima Qian admired Fan Li for his success in restarting his life three times.

Loyalty to the country, wisdom to protect the body, business to get rich. This is Fan Li’s successful life. At every stage, we live clearly.

According to Sima Qian’s records, Fan Li probably lived to 88 years old, quite a long life.



? Fan Li’s painting of boating and seclusion by Wu Bin, a painter of the Ming Dynasty



In my opinion, Sima Qian portrayed Fan Li according to the scale of “the most understanding person in history”.

It is generally believed that Guoyu is a work of the Warring States period, which is closer to the time when Fan Li lived, and Shiji came out twoorthree years later. So the problem came. Guoyu didn’t explain where Fan Li had gone and what he had done after his successful retirement. It just said, “don’t know his end.”. But “historical records” suddenly had a clear account of all this. The farther away from the historical scene, the more detailed the records were. This is what Gujiegang, a master of historiography, put forward to “build history layer by layer”. As the times go on, the image of historical figures will be enlarged and strengthened.

That is to say, at least since Sima Qian’s time, Fan Li has been legendary.

Looking back at the history of the struggle for supremacy among the princes in the spring and Autumn period, it is actually very patterned. It seems that it was written together to explain the same truth. The reason is very simple: if you appoint a virtuous person, you will become a king; if you trust a treacherous person, you will decline. The struggle between Wu and Yue for hegemony has gone through three or four decades, and has experienced two ups and downs, both of which are in the cycle of this principle. In the struggle for hegemony between Wu and Yue, Fan Li had two mirror images: one was Wuzixu of Wu, and the other was the language of Yue.

On talent, Fan Li and Wuzixu, both counselors and masters of their own, were of equal rank; In terms of achievements, Fan Li, who was in charge of the army, could hardly be separated from his literary style. But among the three, only Fan Li got a good end, which is the most missing and rare quality in the whole Chinese History:

Abilities and achievements are easy to replicate, especially in an “axis era” of human civilization in which talent exploded; But those who live clearly will always be rare and even unique. Whether it is 100 years, 1000 years, or even 3000 years, we can not escape from this law.

Every era has its own merits. However, when countless brains live and die to make contributions, the only person who can finally walk out is the one who breaks the law and transcends the times.

Sima Qian wrote about Fan Li, not excluding legends and fictions. He probably wanted to highlight this meaning: people should be masters of their own destiny.

Because the dynasty in which Sima Qian lived was also a part of the historical cycle. The struggle for hegemony between Chu and Han before the establishment of the Western Han Dynasty is a mirror image of the struggle for hegemony between Wu and Yue in the late spring and Autumn period. All kinds of heroes involved can find their corresponding “archetypes” in history:

Liu Bang – Gou Jian;

Xiangyu – fuchai;

Wuzixu fan Zeng;

Language – Hanxin;

Fan Li – Zhang Liang;

The control groups of these characters are very similar in terms of people and experiences. Including what they said and what they said. For example, when Han Xin was falsely accused of rebellion, he shouted that “birds do their best to hide their bows, while cunning rabbits die and running dogs cook.” isn’t that Fan Li’s admonition to literary genres to cling to power and position? After hundreds of years, Fan Li, an ideal personality, finally found the perfect mirror image of Zhang Liang, so that many scholars questioned whether Sima Qian was reshaping Fan Li in the image of Zhang Liang or in the image of Fan Li?



? the struggle between Chu and Han is a reprint of the struggle between Wu and Yue

On the surface, Sima Qian was writing history, but in fact he was writing political fables. Through the personnel disputes in Wu Yue and Chu Han Dynasties, this paper reveals the theory of historical circulation. No doubt, the perfect figures that he reposes to escape from the historical cycle are the mirror images of Fan Li and Zhang Liang. Only by insisting on the power to control one’s own destiny can wisdom contribute to the establishment of an independent personality.

This is why Fan Li was respected by later generations.

In the Eastern Han Dynasty, people made up a partner named Xi Shi for Fan Li (the love between Fan Li and Xi Shi has also become an enduring fictional subject for later generations), and they believed that Fan Li was the reincarnation of immortals and further deified on the basis of legend. During the Tang and Song Dynasties, Fan Li enjoyed the Wucheng king temple, and his status was further improved. Wang Zun, a poet of the Tang Dynasty, wrote a poem called five lakes, which greatly admired Fan Li:

Wu’s overbearing skill has been leveled, and the sails are flying high in the five Lake wind.

Those who do not know the official glory of the Warring States period are like Taozhu.

Huang Zhen, a song native, commented that “for nearly 500 years during the spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period, Fan Li was the only one who has been famous all the time.”.

The most interesting thing is that in the isolated Southern Song Dynasty, Zhaogou, Emperor Gaozong of the Song Dynasty, regarded himself as Gou Jian, the king of Yue, and vigorously promoted the spirit of living on hardships and tasting gall. In the dialogue between monarchs and ministers, he often used the history of Wu and Yue competing for hegemony as an analogy. Zhao Gou once compared LV Yihao and Qin Hui to Fan Li and Wenzhong. And the ministers also used Fan Li’s words to warn the emperor that “personnel are not finished” and “time is not finished”, when to be tough and when to compromise, etc. In this political context, Fan Li became a historical resource for the mutual use of monarchs and officials in the Southern Song Dynasty. It is a pity that the pattern of the times finally presented in the Southern Song Dynasty turned out to be the opposite of the history of the rise of the state of Yue.

In modern times, as we know, Fan Li was widely regarded as the “God of wealth” by the people because of his commercial success.

However, in the final analysis, these titles are just the “Matthew effect” of history on successful figures. The people who break cattle are more and more broken under the layer by layer creation.

Although few people can do it, it is undeniable that Fan Li is the ideal mirror image that the Chinese people have been striving for.

Like a mirror, it shows that the world is full of people who live in a muddle headed way and die in an ambiguous way.

Fame has always been a crisis. Who is like a gentleman brushing his clothes early? (Zhao Mengfu’s “on Fan Li, five lakes, Du Ling, Huanhua”)




[Han] Sima Qian: historical records, Zhonghua Book Company, 1982

Shangxuefeng et al. Translated note: Guoyu, Zhonghua Book Company, 2007

Raohengjiu: Research on Fan Li’s life, social science front, 2000, issue 6

Tian Suyi: a study of Xi Shi and Fan Li, Qilu journal, 1993, issue 5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *