Good Stories from China: Humiliation of Crawling between a Ruffian's Legs

August 16, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: August 16, 2006 12:00 am

Han Xin, a famous general during the Han Dynasty about 2,200 years ago, made great contributions in helping Emperor Liu Bang to establish the dynasty. Han Xin's achievements have been praised by Chinese till this day, so is his great capacity to endure humiliation.

As a youth, Han Xin was skilled at playing the sword. One day as he was walking on the street carrying his sword, he was stopped by a few men, apparently of a gang. One of them, intimidating and rude, shouted at Han Xin, “Hey, look at you, you look like such a coward! What do you carry a sword for?”

Han Xin did not want to answer him. He was just about to leave, the ruffian challenged him even more. “Do you dare to kill me with your sword? If you are not afraid, then use your sword on me! But if you dare not, if you are a coward, then you have to crawl between my legs.”

By this time, many people gathered to watch the exchange, all waiting to see what Han Xin would do. The ruffian stood in front of Han Xin with his legs parted.

Holding tightly the handle of his sword, with anger on his face, Han Xin gazed at the ruffian intently. But slowly, he let go of the sword handle, stoop down and crawled between the ruffian's legs. The on-lookers laughed at Han Xin's cowardliness.

Later, Han Xin became a leading general for Emperor Liu Bang. His ability to endure humiliation during his youth became recognized as a virtue, a character that helped to lay the foundation for his achievements.

Source: Zizhi Tongjian (Comprehensive Lessons for the Government) by Sima Guang (1019-1086).