Historical Story: A story of a drop in the bucket


Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty heard that Li Ling took his troops deep into the borders of the Huns. His morale was strong and he was very happy. At this time, many ministers congratulated the emperor on his wisdom and good employment. Later, when Li Ling was defeated and surrendered, Emperor Wu was very angry. The original minister who congratulated Li Ling scolded Li Ling for being useless and disloyal.

A story of a drop in the bucket

At this time, Sima Qian stood silent. Emperor Wu asked him his opinion on the matter. Sima Qian frankly said that Li Ling had only 5000 infantry, but was surrounded by 80000 Hun cavalry. However, he fought for more than ten days and killed more than 10000 enemies. He was really a great general. Finally, when the arrows ran out of food and the way home was cut off, Li Ling stopped fighting. Li Ling didn’t really surrender, but was waiting for an opportunity to serve the country. His credit can still make up for his failure. Emperor Wu listened to him defend Li Ling, and satirized the emperor’s close relative Li Guangli’s failure to attack the yongru of the Xiongnu from the front. He angrily moved Sima to prison. The following year, it was falsely rumoured that Li Ling was training troops for the Huns. Emperor Wu killed Li Ling’s mother and wife without clarifying the matter.

In order to cater to the emperor and frame Sima Qian for the crime of framing the emperor, Ding Wei Du Zhou actually imposed Sima Qian on the cruelest and most humiliating “corrupt punishment”. Sima Qian wanted to commit suicide after suffering from this kind of devastation; But on second thought, the death of a person of low status like him, in the eyes of many rich and powerful people, is just like “nine hairs die and one hair”, which will not only get no sympathy, but also make people laugh.

So he decided to endure the humiliation and use his life and time to finish the writing of the great “historical records” hard and tenaciously. The ancients said that people with great courage had great wisdom, and Sima Qian was such a person. He knew that in his time, the death of a man with no status and fame like him was worse than the death of a dog. Therefore, he bravely lived and finally completed the unprecedented great historical work – “historical records”.

The meaning of “nine oxen and one hair” is: it refers to the extremely small quantity in a huge quantity, which is insignificant.

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