The following two stories reveal how courage and wisdom can be used to defend oneself.
1. How Zheng outwitted an immoral king
During the Tang Dynasty of Ancient China, King Teng was known for his highly lewd and immoral disposition. For instance, he swore to sleep with all the beautiful wives of the officials. To lure the wives, he cunningly used his various concubines under the pretext of being invited to the palace by them. The King then carried out indecent assaults and raped many women whom he considered beautiful.
During this time, an official named Cui Jian was waiting for the arrival of his new wife, Zheng, who was traveling from her hometown. Upon hearing this news, King Teng sent his men to invite her to the palace. Cui Jian was in a dilemma, worried that if he let his wife go to the court, she would be attacked; if he didn’t let her go, King Teng would destroy his family. Sympathetic to her husband’s concerns, Zheng exclaimed: “Don’t worry, I will not let King Teng get his hands on me!”
Arriving at the palace, Zheng followed a servant who escorted her into a small pavilion outside the door of the King’s residence, where King Teng was waiting. He saw Cui Jian’s beautiful wife coming in and pounced on her. Zheng, who was prepared for the King, drew the attention of the people standing nearby and shouted, exclaiming: “Everyone come here quickly and see! How can a King do this kind of thing? He must be a slave of bad character!”
As Zheng continued shouting, she took off a shoe and struck the King’s head so hard that it bled, then scratched his face, which made him look disfigured. Adding further insult to the King, Zheng bit his ears and nose. King Teng’s screams alerted the Princess, who came to investigate. Zheng took this opportunity to leave the palace.
Zheng’s unexpected assault left the King looking very embarrassed. Since he did not want to lose face in front of his concubines, he could not do anything about the attack. The incident left him so angry that he couldn’t face dealing with official affairs for over 10 days.
Upon returning home, Zheng told her husband what had happened in the palace. In the days following, Cui Jian spent them in fear of the King coming to punish him. He later learned that the Emperor convicted King Teng. Cui Jian took this opportunity to go to the court to apologize.
Those wives who had been raped later learned how Zheng defended herself and refused to be bullied and taken advantage of by the King. Her courage and wisdom left them in awe and admiration.
2. Minister Cui turns the tables on his accuser
Imperial Censor Huang accused Minister Cui of plotting a rebellion during the Tang Dynasty.
Minister Cui knew someone wanted to remove his power and tried to frame him. He could not defend himself because his concubine Xiuying had disappeared, and to clarify his situation, he needed to find the concubine.
Cui gathered together a few of his trusted helpers to discuss the matter. He said, “I will pay a lot of money to recruit anyone with the wisdom and valor to find Xiuying. Many of those among my helpers are experienced in looking for lost people and were eager to try, but none have been successful.”
Over time, he realized that every discussion with the helpers made this information known to Huang. He suspected someone was tipping off Huang. He devised a plan. Once more, the helpers were called together. This time, Cui deliberately told them: “Since we can’t find Xiuying, let’s kill the Imperial Censor Huang! The reward is 100 taels of gold.”
Since the Minister expected that the news would reach the Censor soon, he quietly hid near Huang’s house. As expected, he saw one of his trusted helpers, Shu Zhanwen, walk into the house, and not long after, the security around the house increased. It was also openly declared within the official circle that the Cui family would assassinate Imperial Censor Huang.
Minister Cui brought Shu Zhanwen to him and reprimanded him: “You shameless fool!” “If I am convicted of treason, not only will I, my family, and my clan be in danger of being killed, but my helpers, including you, will also be implicated. Why are you helping others to harm me?”
Shu Zhanwen was both shocked and frightened when he heard these words. He confessed: “I only knew Censor Huang was greedy for Xiuying’s beauty, and he bribed me with money to hide her in his house.”
Then Cui said: “I promise to reward you with 100 taels of gold to bring back Xiuying from the house of Censor Huang.” Shu managed to retrieve Xiuying from the Censor’s house, and the concubine’s return made it impossible to substantiate the evidence regarding Minister Cui’s treason. Instead, the Emperor eventually dismissed Censor Huang for abducting a woman from a good family.
Minister Cui paid Shu 100 taels of gold as he had promised. He then dismissed all of the helpers and sent them away. The helpers who lost their jobs blamed Shu. They spent their days at Shu’s house eating and drinking and soon used all the reward money. Shu Zhanwen became a poor man known for betraying his Master’s trust!