General Zuo Zongtang (1812-1885) of the Qing Dynasty was a fan of the strategic board game Go and also an expert at the game himself.
One time, while leading soldiers to battle with an enemy, General Zuo and his troops passed by a hut that had a sign hanging on its beam stating: “World’s best go-player.” The general was not convinced and prepared to challenge the resident. He stepped in and played three games with the host of the hut.
The host lost all three games.
General Zuo laughed and said: “Now you can take down that sign!” He then left feeling confident and pleased.
General Zuo won the battle decisively. On the way back, they passed by the hut again. The general was curious to see if the sign had been taken down but found it still hanging on the hut. He stepped in and had three games with the host one more time.
General Zuo lost all three games.
He was shocked and asked the host how that could be.
The host replied: “Your mission was to lead an army into battle last time so I didn’t want to break your spirit. Now you are back from victory and I decided to go all out!”
Real masters are ones who can win, but do not necessarily have to win. They have the ability, but also the breadth of mind to accommodate others’ needs and situations and adjust themselves accordingly.
Translated by Cecilia and edited by Helen