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Chinese Legends: A Smart Envoy

In China’s history, a princess marrying the king of another state to secure its loyalty was not unusual. A good example of this was when Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty was married to Tibetan King Songtsan Gampo.

According to legend, envoys from five different countries brought precious gifts to Chang-An to ask for the hand of Princess Wencheng in marriage. Emperor Tang Taizong had a really difficult time deciding whom the princess should marry. So he decided to test the intelligence of the envoys first. He presented some difficult tests. The first test was to pull a silk thread through a pearl.

Tang Taizong asked the envoys to the palace and brought out a piece of jade and some silk threads. It turned out there was hole in the jade that had a winding path. Taizong asked the envoys to pull the thread through one end of the hole to the other. He added that Princess Wencheng would marry the king whose envoy could win all the tests.

Portrait painting of Emperor Yang of Sui, commissioned in 643 by Taizong, painted by Yan Liben (600–673) (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)
Portrait painting of Emperor Yang of Sui, commissioned in 643 by Taizong, painted by Yan Liben (600-673). (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Songtsan’s envoy Gar found an ant and tied a hair from a horse’s tail around its waist. He put the ant into the jade from one end and put honey at the other end. Meanwhile, he blew air into the jade. Soon, the ant came out of the other end. He then tied the silk thread to the horse tail hair. He pulled the hair lightly and the thread came out of the other end. Taizong was very pleased to see him acting so intelligently.

The second test was pairing 100 mares with their newborn foals. Gar separated the mares and the foals for one day and cut the foals off from all food and water. The next day, he let the foals out again. The foals were hungry and panicky, and they quickly ran to their mothers. As a result, the pairing was complete.

The next test was to pick out Princess Wencheng from among 2500 young and beautiful women. Gar took a few honey bees that he had brought along. He inquired ahead of time and knew that Princess Wencheng liked to wear a certain fragrance. So the bees flew directly to Princess Wencheng’s head among the 2500 beautiful young women.

Palace ladies in a garden from a mural of Prince Li Xian's tomb in the Qianling Mausoleum, where Wu Zetian was also buried in 706. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0) (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)
Palace ladies in a garden from a mural of Prince Li Xian’s tomb in the Qianling Mausoleum, where Wu Zetian was also buried in 706. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)
(Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The last test was how to get in and out of the palace without getting lost. One night, the drumming was loud and strong in the palace, and Taizong sent a message to gather all the envoys together. Gar knew that he was not familiar with the roads in Chang-An, so he marked a few important points so he would not get lost. After all the envoys arrived at the palace, Taizong told them to go back. In the end, Songtsan’s envoy won again.

Gar, using his wisdom, won every test. Tang Taizong thought:

Thus, he allowed Princess Wencheng to marry Songtsan Gampo as promised.

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Vision Times Staff
Vision Times is a kaleidoscopic view into the most interesting stories on the web. We also have a special talent for China stories — read About Us to find out why. Vision Times. Fascinating stuff.

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