The people of China have long valued the virtues of compassion and forgiveness, their ancient stories, passed down through history, are evidence of this. Many valuable lessons can still be drawn from them to this day.
The story below happened during the Spring and Autumn period. The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history from approximately 771 to 476 BC (or according to some authorities until 403 BC) which corresponds roughly to the first half of the Eastern Zhou Period.
At the time, Song Jiu was a County Magistrate of the Liang Kingdom. His county laid next to the Kingdom of Chu. Both kingdoms stationed soldiers on the borders of their territories.
Soldiers on both sides planted melons along the border line. However, Liang’s soldiers melons grew far better than Chu’s, because they would diligently water them everyday.
Chu’s soldiers’ melons grew poorly since they would barely water them at all. The Chu County Executive scolded his men for not growing their melons as well as the Liang soldiers did.
In response, Chu’s soldiers decided to sneak into Liang’s military camp at night to destroy their abundant crop. When Liang’s soldiers found out what had happened they asked Song Jiu to allow them to go into Chu’s camp to seek revenge.
“That is not a good solution,” Song Jiu proclaimed, and in his wisdom stated that, “Building up hatred only creates trouble for yourself. You can not do bad thing just because other people do bad things to you.”
Instead of seeking revenge he advised them to respond in a different way.
“Let me give you a good solution. From now on, send someone into the Chu camp every night to water their melons. But don’t let them know. It must be done in secret.”
Liang’s soldiers did as they were told, and soon enough, the Chu soldiers saw that their melons were growing stronger and in more abundance than before. Eventually, they found out that it was due to Liang’s soldiers secretly watering them in the night.
The Chu County magistrate reported the incident to the King of Chu, who was greatly embarrassed by the turn of events. He sent a great pile of gifts to Song Jiu as an apology and signed a friendship treaty with the King of Liang.
The lessons of these events are echoed in the words of the great Laozi, ‘return a bad deed with a good one’. And also in ancient Chinese sayings, ‘turn loss into victory’, ‘obtain profit from misfortune’.
This simple but profound piece of wisdom still applies in today’s world.
Respond to hatred not with hatred but with love.