Zhuge Liang, (181-234 AD), is a great historical figure who lived during the Three States Period. When he was young, Zhuge Liang’s teacher, Sir Shuijing, lived a reclusive life in the Village of Shuijing. Sir Shuijing kept a rooster that would strut about in his yard. Everyday at noon, the rooster would crow three times and Sir Shuijing would end his lessons at the sound of his crow.

Zhuge Liang, however, loved to study and always wanted to listen to his teachings for far longer than the rooster’s crow would allow. So, he came up with an idea. He stitched a small pocket into his pants and filled it with rice. When the rooster was about to crow, signaling the end of the lesson, he would quietly spread the rice outside the window. By the time the rooster has finished eating all the rice, and hour or two would have passed.

Eventually, Sir Shuijing found out about his secret tactic and when he did he took it badly. He thought Zhuge Liang was playing a trick on him, and sent him home immediately.  

After Zhuge Liang left, Madame Shuijing spoke on his behalf. She said, “Zhuge Liang did this solely for the purpose of getting more out of the lessons you give. You should forgive him this time.”

Sir Shuijing knew that Zhuge Liang was extremely sharp and diligent, he liked him alot. He wanted to call him back but before he did Sir Shuijing decided to find out more about his character. He sent one of his young servants to Longzhong (now Nanyang City, Henan Province), where Zhuge Liang lived, to privately investigate.

The young servant came back with three stories about Zhuge Liang.

The Three Moving Stories of Zhuge Liang

The first story told of Zhuge Liang’s loyalty as a son. His mother could not endure the cold weather, so every night he would go into the mountains to collect a rare type of grass to spread out over his mother’s bed. Every evening, he would first lay down in the bed to warm it up before his mother got in, to spare her the coldness of an empty bed.

The second story told of his consideration for his neighbors. There was a well near Zhuge Liang’s home. In order to get to the well, he needed to pass two patches of vegetable fields. But since he was not tall, he worried that the water buckets that he carried might hang down too low and damage the vegetables his neighbors were growing. So he came up with a painstaking solution. He always took a detour, and walked an extra mile around the base of the hill, just to spare their crops.

The third told of his humility. Before learning from Sir Shuijing, Zhuge Liang sought answers from a young man who lived nearby. Later on, although Zhuge Liang had become much more learned than the young man, he still respected him and treated him humbly. Out of respect for the lessons he had taught him.

The Teacher’s Response

After Sir Shuijing heard the three stories, he nodded in appreciation. “Zhuge Liang will be an outstanding fellow!” He immediately asked the young servant to take him to Longzhong so he could invite Zhuge Liang back in person.

Sir Shuijing appreciated and recognised Zhuge Liang’s impeccable character and happily passed on to him all of his knowledge.

Later, Zhuge Liang became an outstanding politician and military strategist. Besides his breadth of knowledge, he was respected by others for his exceptional moral character. A truly ‘outstanding fellow’, indeed.

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