Monday, August 11, 2008

The Way of the General - Part VI

Cultivating Oneself

The practice of a cultivated man is to refine himself by quietude and develop virtue by frugality.

Without detachment, there is no way to clarify the will; without serenity, there is no way to get far.

Study requires calm, talent requires study. Without study there is no way to expand talent; without calm there is no way to accomplish study.

If you are lazy, you cannot do thorough research; if you are impulsive, you cannot govern your nature.

The years run off with the hours, aspirations flee with the years. Eventually one ages and collapses.

What good will it do to lament over poverty?

Cao Cao’s disastrous defeat at the Battle of Red Cliff was a huge setback for the Wei Kingdom.The burden to reunite the Han Empire would lie with Cao Cao’s successor as such a monumental task would take decades to achieve.

The Foremost
Of all of Cao Cao’s progeny, Cao Chong could be called the foremost. Cao Chong’s benevolence, humane kindness and recognizable intelligence was unsurpassed. Often, Cao Chong would review cases of indicted criminals for any injustice. At a tender age of five, his thoughts were already extensive and full of wisdom. Impressed by his exploits, Cao Cao had on many occasions expressed to his ministers, his desire to appoint Cao Chong as his successor.

An Elephant and Archimedes
After the end of the Battle of Red Cliff, the Three Kingdoms were in a stalemate. During this time, Cao Cao received tribute from Sun Quan in the form of an elephant. The people of Wei had never seen such an animal before and were amazed at its’ size. Cao Cao was curious as to the weight of the animal. However, none of his ministers were able to propose a solution on how to weigh the animal.

Cao Chong, then merely five, offered the following solution. He asked for a boat and made a mark on the water line of the boat. He then asked that the elephant be taken onto the boat. With the additional weight of the elephant, the boat submerged further into the water. A second mark was made. The elephant was then replaced with smaller weighable objects until the boat was submerged to the same level as indicated by the second mark. The weight of the elephant could then be found out by summing up the weights of all the objects.

A Rat & a Ruse
In another incident, Cao Cao's saddle was chewed through by rats. The storekeepers were in great fear for their lives as laws were strict during those times of war.

When Cao Chong learnt of their plight, he took a knife and cut holes in his clothes as if rats had bitten through them. He then went to see his father and complained that he feared ill luck brought by the rat bites. Cao Cao consoled him, saying it was only a superstition.

Soon after, the storekeepers came to report the rat bites in Cao Cao’s saddle. Laughing, Cao Cao pardoned the storekeepers, saying thus:

‘Even when my son's clothings were just by his side, they could not be spared from the rats, let alone the saddle in the store.’

Life Is Uncertain
Alas! In AD208, Cao Chong died of illness at the age of thirteen, causing Cao Cao to lament and grieve. When Cao Pi tried to console his father, Cao Cao replied thus to his ultimate successor:

‘This is my misfortune but your good fortune!’

Cao Chong, at the mere age of thirteen, had achieved much. Yet, I have lived almost thrice at long. What have I achieved?

Beneath the starry night and bright moon, as I look at the expansive sky and reflect on my purpose in life, I realize that the number of days that I have too, is limited. If I do not make full use of every day, shall it not be a priceless gift that I have wasted forevermore? What use is it for me to seek fame and gain, if all the treasures and wealth in the world cannot procure a single minute of my life?



Great post. Makes me think twice about my life's purpose.


Dear Sleeman,

Thanks for visiting. Yes, sometimes it's good to just sit back and ponder for a moment as to the meaning of life.


Marketing Deviant

Best not to compare yourself with others, or else you will lament all your life


Dear Marketing Deviant,

I believe your comments are true for those areas that we largely have no control over such as one's appearance or family background.

Yet, for those areas we are able to control, it is best to look up to those people who have achieved much in life, not so much to compete against them...but to motivate ourselves to improve further.


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