Cultural China: Reverence for seniors, teachers -- The story of Zhang Liang and his mentor

2022-January-7 14:54 By: Xinhua

BEIJING, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Revering the elders and their wisdom has long been a social norm in China. The point is made clear by the well-known story of how Zhang Liang, a Chinese military strategist and politician in the Han dynasty (202 BC-220 AD), met his mentor.

One day, Zhang took a stroll on a bridge and met an old man there. The man walked toward Zhang and chucked his shoe down the bridge on purpose, after which he yelled at Zhang, "Hey boy, go down and fetch me my shoe!"

Zhang was astonished and unhappy but obeyed silently. The old man then lifted his foot and ordered Zhang to put on the shoe for him.

Zhang was furious but he controlled his temper and meekly obliged. The man did not show any sign of gratitude and walked away laughing.

The old man came back after walking a distance and praised Zhang: "This child can be taught!" He asked Zhang to meet him at the bridge again at dawn five days later.

Zhang was confused but agreed. Five days later, Zhang rushed to the bridge at the stroke of dawn but the old man was already waiting for him there.

The old man chided him, "How can you be late for a meeting with an elderly man? Come back again in five days!"

Zhang tried his best to be punctual the second time but the old man still arrived earlier than him, and he was scorned by the old man once more and told to return again five days later.

The third time, Zhang went to the bridge at midnight and waited until the old man appeared.

This time, the old man was impressed with Zhang's fortitude and humility. He presented Zhang with a book, saying, "You can become the tutor of a ruler after reading this book. Within 10 years, you can use your knowledge from this book to build a successful career. Meet me again 13 years from now. I'm the yellow rock at the foot of Mount Gucheng."

The old man was Huang Shigong, or "Yellow Rock Old Man." The book was titled The Art of War by Taigong and is believed to be the Six Secret Teachings by Jiang Ziya, a great ancient figure.

Zhang read the book diligently and learned a lot of skills. Later on, he became a renowned minister and military strategist and made a lot of accomplishments.

The respect for teachers, as represented in Zhang's story, still remains relevant and important in Chinese society as well as government policies.

The country's leadership has noted that the Communist Party of China and the entire society need to promote the social norms of respecting teachers and valuing education.

China has 17.93 million teachers, statistics released by the Ministry of Education in September 2021 showed.

The country will roll out a host of measures to attract more high-caliber professionals to teach in rural areas and improve education quality, according to a State Council meeting last month.

Editor: JYZ
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