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Ji Zha: the man who kept promises to himself

Updated: 2015-11-09 09:38

Editor's note: As cases of dishonesty rise, it seems the world's second-largest economy is facing a moral decline. But as a civilization with more than 3,000 years of history, honesty runs deep in the Chinese blood. We will carry a series of stories in coming weeks on how honesty shaped ancient China. This is the fifth part.

Ji Zha: the man who kept promises to himself

A man who keeps his promises to others is an admirable one, but it is even more admirable if he keeps his word to himself when there is no external pressure on him. In this ancient story, such a man is held up as an example for many generations by the Chinese.

Ji Zha was a royal family member of the state of Wu during the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China some 2,000 years ago. He was known as a man of high morality.

In 544 BC, he was sent on a diplomatic mission to some Northern countries. During the journey, he visited the State of Xu and the king of Xu treated him with high respect and gave him a warm welcome.

At the time, according to the diplomatic protocol, an envoy on duty should bring a sword with him. Ji Zha also brought his precious sword, which impressed the king of Xu. Though the king adored and wanted the sword, he did not say anything.

Ji Zha was aware of the king's affection for the sword. As he still had a diplomatic mission to carry out, he did not give the sword to the king. But he told himself to do so after the mission.

When he went back to the state of Xu, Ji Zha found to his surprise that the king was dead. To keep the words he made to himself before, he gave his sword to the king by hanging it on a tree besides the king's tomb before leaving.

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