A Classic Taoist Tale of Swordplay

Duke Wen of Zhao was so fond of dueling that he kept three thousand swordplayers at his residence. Day and night, they competed against another to entertain the duke. Though more than a hundred were killed every year, the duke’s fondness for swordplay never faded. Three years went by and as the state of Zhao declined, other states plotted to attack it.

Li, the crown prince, was greatly worried. He consulted his officials, promising, “Whoever can persuade the duke to give up swordplay will be rewarded with one thousand pieces of gold.” The officials all agreed, “Only Zhuangzi can accomplish the mission.”

Master Zhuang to Martial Artists: Be Like a Wooden Cock

Ji Shengzi was training a fighting cock for King Xuan of Zhou.

Cock (by Andrzej Barabasz)

After ten days of training passed, King Xuan asked, “Is the cock ready for a fight?”  Ji Shengzi said, “Not yet.  He is still haughty and conceited.”

Another ten days went by.  King Xuan asked again, and Ji said “Not yet.  He is still glaring and domineering.”

After another ten days went by, King Xuan asked once more.  Ji Shengzi replied, “He is about ready for the fight.  When other cocks crow, he is not affected.  He looks like a cock made of wood.  Other cocks dare not challenge him, they will simply run away.”

From the Taoist classic book Zhuangzi.