This Young Man Can Be Taught

While hiding in the countryside to avoid capture, Zhang Liang met a mysterious old man. (Image:  wikimedia /  CC0 1.0)
While hiding in the countryside to avoid capture, Zhang Liang met a mysterious old man. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

In the early Han Dynasty, an important official named Zhang Liang started life as an aristocrat from the State of Han during the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.). The Han Dynasty is not the same as the State of Han. They existed 24 years apart. After the State of Han was conquered by the State of Qin, Zhang Liang wanted revenge for his State. So he employed an assassin in an attempt to assassinate the First Emperor of Qin. After the attempt failed, he became a wanted man, so he had to hide in the countryside to evade capture.

One day, Zhang Liang, while out on a stroll on a bridge, met an old man wearing brown clothing. The old man purposely threw his shoe under the bridge and said: “Young man, help me fetch my shoe!” Zhang Liang was shocked and wanted to hit him. However, Zhang Liang saw that he was aged, so he resisted with great difficulty and went to the bottom of the bridge to fetch the shoe. After he brought the shoe back, the old man said: “Help me put it on.” So Zhang Liang knelt down to help the old man put back on his shoe. The old man smiled and left. Zhang Liang was surprised and his eyes followed him off into the distance.

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Zhang Liang restrained his temper and went to the bottom of the bridge to fetch the shoe. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The old man walked a li (three-tenths of a mile) and returned to say: “This young man can be taught! After five days, come and meet me here at sunrise.” Zhang Liang knelt down and promised to do so.

After five days, Zhang Liang went as agreed, but the old man was already there and criticized him, saying: “In the agreement between a young man and an old man, you came late. What’s wrong?” He told Zhang Liang to go home and come back after another five days. Five days later, Zhang Liang left earlier than last time, but was still late. The old man criticized him again, saying: “Late again, what’s wrong?” The old man told him to go back and come back in another five days. After a further five days, Zhang Liang left at midnight to wait for the old man on the bridge and waited for a long time until the old man arrived. The old man happily said: “It’s only right for a young man to be like this!” He took out a book and handed it to Zhang Liang, saying: “This book is a gift to you. Study it carefully and in the future, you can become the Emperor’s teacher. After ten years you can accomplish great things that are one of a kind. After thirteen years come to Ji-Bei to find me. I am the yellow rock you will find at the foot of Gucheng Mountain.” After this, the old man left and was never seen again.

Zhang Liang returned home to read the book and discovered that it is was the Three Strategies of Huang Shigong. Zhang Liang felt amazed and repeatedly read the book. Finally, he became the strategist of Liu Bang and helped him establish the Han Dynasty.

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After Zhang Liang passed away, he was buried with the yellow rock. (Image: Gisling via CC BY-SA 3.0)

After 13 years, Zhang Liang passed Ji-Bei with Liu Bang. There really was a yellow rock at the foot of Gucheng Mountain. Zhang Liang took the yellow rock home and offered sacrifices to it like it was a valuable treasure. After Zhang Liang passed away, he was buried with the yellow rock. From then on, when the time to offer sacrifices came, family members would visit the grave and offer sacrifices to Zhang Liang and the yellow rock.

Translated by Fu Ming

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