Better Bend than Break, The Ancient Chinese Philosophy

In Chinese traditional culture, forbearance has always been a symbol of wisdom. What we mean by “forbearance” is not blindly seeking perfection without any bottom line, it is to hide all or part of one’s true ability for the great goal in one’s heart, to exercise strong restraint and patience, and not to express it. Patiently wait until the right time, and then take action to retake the lost dignity. Up to now, it is still regarded as an important dimension of one’s emotional intelligence and one of the indispensable abilities to achieve a career in the workplace. Today, we will make history as a mirror to see what kind of sufferings the people who have made great achievements in history have experienced and how they have finally achieved success through forbearance.

Gou Jian, King of Yue- Sleep on Brushwood and Taste Gall Bladder

In the spring and Autumn period(771 BC – 476 BC), Gou Jian was trapped in the state of Wu as a hostage because of his defeat. A king became a servant of the enemy.

In order to humiliate Gou Jian, the king of Wu ordered him to do the work of servants, to guard the tomb and feed the horses. Although Gou Jian was not convinced, he still tried to pretend to be loyal and obedient. When the king of Wu went out, he walked in front of him and led his horse. When the king of Wu was ill, he tried to take care of him in front of his bed. Seeing that Gou Jian served himself wholeheartedly, the king of Wu felt that Gou Jian was very loyal to him, and finally allowed him to return to the state of Yue.

After returning to his own state, Gou Jian never forgot the humiliation and decided to wash away the humiliation of being a prisoner in the state of Wu. In order to remind himself not to forget revenge and hatred, he slept on the hardwood every day and hung a gall bladder on the door. Before eating and sleeping, he would taste it so that he can remember what he suffered. He was dressed in coarse cloth and ate coarse food every meal. He followed the people to farm in the fields. Gou Jian’s wife led the women to raise silkworms and wove cloth and developed production. Gou Jian and his wife worked together with the people of the whole country, which encouraged the whole country to make concerted efforts and strive for strength, hoping to pay off old scores with Wu early. At the same time, Gou Jian strengthened the training of the army and improved its combat effectiveness.

After ten years of hard work, the state of Yue became rich and powerful, then Gou Jian- king of Yue personally led the army to attack the state of Wu, and successfully won the victory. The king of Wu, Fu Chai was ashamed to commit suicide after the defeat. Later, Yue took advantage of the victory to march into the Central Plains and became a great power at the end of the spring and Autumn period.

Sun Bin- Feign Madness Without Being Insane

Sun Bin was a famous strategist in the Warring States Period(475 BC – 221 BC). When he was young, he and Pang Juan learned the art of war from Guiguzi. Later, Pang Juan became a general in the state of Wei and won the trust of the king of Wei. However, he felt that his ability could not catch up with Sun Bin. He was afraid that Sun Bin would replace him one day, so he designed a trap to trick Sun Bin into his place and then deliberately framed Sun Bin in front of the king of Wei Hui. The king of Wei Hui was very angry at Sun Bin and severely punished him. Sun Bin’s face was stabbed and two kneecap bones were gouged out. At that time, Sun Bin was trapped in prison and tortured. But he didn’t despair. He thought about how to escape from the predicament every moment. In order to eliminate Pang Juan’s desire to kill him, he decided to feign madness without being insane to eliminate Pang Juan’s vigilance.

One day, Pang Juan sent a guard to send food to Sun Bin. Sun Bin suddenly fainted and vomited after picking up the chopsticks. Then he began to shout. Pang Juan didn’t believe that Sun Bin is insane. He commanded people to throw Sun Bin into the pigsty. Sun Bin was filthy, with disheveled hair and playing in the pigsty. His eyes were dull, kept crying and laughing. When there was no one at night, Pang Juan sent another person to give food to Sun Bin again. Sun Bin knocked over the rice bowl. The guard was so angry that he picked up the pig manure and mud to Sun Bin. But Sun Bin took it and put it in his mouth directly, pretending that he was insane and had no cognition. The guard reported to Pang Juan that Sun Bin was mentally handicapped in truth. Pang Juan was just relaxing his vigilance.

From then on, Sun Bin was allowed to climb everywhere with feces and water covered. Sometimes he was in the street, sometimes he was lying in a horse sty or a pigsty. At this point, Pang Juan was completely relieved, and his vigilance for Sun Bin was much more relaxed than before. Finally, Sun Bin, who pretended to be insane, escaped from the state of Wei with the help of general Tian Ji of the state of Qi. After that, Pang Juan and Sun Bin met on the battlefield for many times. Pang Juan was not matched with Sun Bin in military strategy and tactics. He was defeated in the battle of Guilin first and then died in the battle of Maling.

Therefore, in general, a temporary forbearance is not a failure, a temporary loss doesn’t count forever. We must know ourselves and the enemy. Before fighting, if we can master more information about each other, the winning rate will be greatly improved. This is why those people can endure suffering because they have the final victory in mind.

Forbearance- Better bend than break, to hide things in your heart, to exercise great restraint and forbearance, not to express your real emotion, just wait patiently and bide the time. Life has never been smooth, and everyone will encounter various difficulties in life. Some people face difficulties, choose to give up, but the real strong mind people will keep accumulating strength and experience.

This is the foundation of our inner strength. When we know how to endure the pain of life and constantly strengthen ourselves, we can become powerful.

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