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(NPPLC) Chapters #14 & 15 Assassin-Retainers: 豫让(1&2)

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somethingfunny

Hello!

 

This thread is for the discussion of chapters fourteen and fifteen in A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese by Paul Rouzer.

 

In order to save some space, I will be grouping threads into units or sub-units from now on.  When replying, please indicate which part you are replying to!  Simply start your reply with something like "In chapter 14..." or "In part 2..."  This way it will be easy for everyone to follow and refer back to the relevant material.

 

Here is the original text for part 1:

 

其後七十餘年而晉有豫讓之事。

  豫讓者,晉人也,故嘗事范氏及中行氏,而無所知名。去而事智伯,智伯甚尊寵之。及智伯伐趙襄子,趙襄子與韓、魏合謀滅智伯,滅智伯之後而三分其地。趙襄子最怨智伯,漆其頭以為飲器。豫讓遁逃山中,曰:「嗟乎!士為知己者死,女為說己者容。今智伯知我,我必為報讎而死,以報智伯,則吾魂魄不愧矣。」乃變名姓為刑人,入宮塗廁,中挾匕首,欲以刺襄子。襄子如廁,心動,執問塗廁之刑人,則豫讓,內持刀兵,曰:「欲為智伯報仇!」左右欲誅之。襄子曰:「彼義人也,吾謹避之耳。且智伯亡無後,而其臣欲為報仇,此天下之賢人也。」卒醳去之。

  居頃之,豫讓又漆身為厲,吞炭為啞,使形狀不可知,行乞於市。其妻不識也。行見其友,其友識之,曰:「汝非豫讓邪?」曰:「我是也。」其友為泣曰:「以子之才,委質而臣事襄子,襄子必近幸子。近幸子,乃為所欲,顧不易邪?何乃殘身苦形,欲以求報襄子,不亦難乎!」豫讓曰:「既已委質臣事人,而求殺之,是懷二心以事其君也。且吾所為者極難耳!然所以為此者,將以愧天下後世之為人臣懷二心以事其君者也。」

 

Text again stolen from here.

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somethingfunny

So, this is probably how this is going to work from now on.  I'll make the first post with the original text and then make a second post with my translation, analysis and questions.

 

Two things are now becoming clear to me.  Firstly, these texts are actually quite long and take up more time and space when translating than you'd thing.  Secondly, it is almost impossible for me to fully understand the source text without referring to additional material.  So, this translation would be meaningless without the help I found here, here and here.

 

Please note: I am not an expert and the following translation almost certainly contains mistakes and inaccuracies.  I will also take fairly large liberties when translating to make it more readable and in line with my own tastes - I do not enjoy direct, "faithful" translations which are just as terse as the original Chinese.  

 

 

More than 70 years later we have the story of Yu Rang.  Yu Rang was a man of Jin.  Previously having worked for the Fan and Zhonghang clans, he still had not managed to make a name for himself.  He left and went to work for the Earl of Zhi, who came to respect and favour him to a great degree.  When the Earl of Zhi came to attack Viscount Xiang of Zhao, Viscount Xiang joined in alliance with the Han and Wei clans to defeat the Earl and kill his heirs and split his land into three pieces.  Viscount Xiang of Zhao held the most severe grudge against the Earl of Zhi and even turned his likeness into a drinking vessel. applied a varnish to his skull in order to use it as a drinking vessel.

 

Yu Rang had fled to the mountains where he said, "Alas! A knight dies for the one who knows him, a woman wears makeup for the one who finds pleasure in her.  The Earl of Zhi knows me well so I must take revenge against his enemies and in doing so, sacrifice my own life.  Then I will feel no shame in my soul!"  He then changed his name to that of a convict and entered the palace outhouse with a concealed dagger intending to use it to assassinate Viscount Xiang.  The Viscount proceeded to the outhouse but was struck by suspicion so grabbed the convict and discovered that it was Yu Rang.  Clutching his knife, Yu Rang declared, "For the Earl of Zhi I take revenge against his enemies!"  The surrounding courtiers wanted to execute Yu Rang but the Viscount said, "He is a just man, I will just be careful to avoid him in future.  Furthermore, when the Earl of Zhi is dead and he has no heir, his ministers will seek revenge on his part, they are all worthy men."  He then released Yu Rang.

 

A short while later Yu Rang painted himself with lacquer causing sores and blisters to appear on his skin and swallowed ash to make his voice hoarse.  In this way, he would be unrecognisable.  He went into the market to beg where even his own wife did not recognise him.  He was seen by his friends, and they recognised him and asked, "Are you not Yu Rang?" to which he replied, "Yes, I am."  His friends wept for him and said, "With your talents, entrust yourself to the employ of Viscount Xiang, he will surely keep you close and favour you, once you are close and favoured, you can act out your intentions, would this not be easier?  Why decimate your body and maintain a bitter appearance to act out revenge against Viscount Xiang?  This indeed must be difficult."  Yu Rang said to them, "To entrust yourself to the service of someone and want to kill them is to harbour disloyalty against your Lord.  Furthermore, everything that I do is difficult.  The reason that I do this is to bring shame on later generations who work a ministers for a person while harbouring disloyalty against them in order to serve their rulers."

 

OK.  I found this one pretty difficult.  As usual I will make a few notes below which can be used as discussion points.

 

  1. "其后七十餘年" Starting simple.  Not sure what 餘 is doing here but I guessed and translated it "more".
  2. "漆其頭以為飲器" Couldn't translate this without reading one of those websites, my original translation reads, "he painted his head (Earl of Zhi) to resemble a drinking vessel."  I was doing this in a cafe and let out an audible gasp of frustration/relief when I read what it really meant.
  3. Why does Yu Rang flee to the mountains?
  4. Is there any relationship between Yu Rang's comments about women and make-up and the Viscount painting his drinking vessel?  Or is this just Yu Rang's musings on what it means to be a good knight and what it means to be a good woman?
  5. 涂厕 Did he enter the outhouse made of mud, or did he go to plaster the outhouse with mud.  Honestly, this right here makes me want to bang my head against the table.
  6. 左右欲诛之 Does the Viscount go to the toilet with all of his courtiers together?  Or has Yu Rang been taken into custody?
  7. What on earth is the Viscount talking about?  How can he call the man trying to kill him principled?  If he's going to kill the Earl of Zhi and his heirs and he knows this will cause his ministers to come after him, why does he let Yu Rang go!?  I must have translated his little speech wrong because it makes no sense.
  8. Yu Rang's closing speech is also very confusing. 既已委质臣事,而求杀,是怀二心以事其君也. So, the first two people in this sentence are the same person, namely Viscount Xiang in this case, but then 其君 I guess refers to the Earl of Zhi.  In which case, how can this be classed as "harbouring disloyalty in your work for your Lord." Surely, working for Xiang while wanting to kill him means that you are always ultimately loyal to the Earl of Zhi?  Same problem occurs in the following line.

A lot of questions I know.  Just choose one that looks interesting and make some comments.

 

These stories are pretty wacky, but I'm enjoying them, even if it is very difficult to translate them.

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somethingfunny

In response to point number 2, I now realise I've made a grave error.  The correct translation should be, "he applied a varnish to his skull and used it as a drinking vessel".

 

Pretty grim stuff!

 

This now makes the rest much clear as it implies (very strongly) the death of the Earl of Zhi at the hands of Viscount Xiang, without ever actually saying it.  I was mislead by 谋 meaning to plan/plan against and the implication that this was yet to happen.  The rest of the story taking place with the Earl now dead makes things much clearer.

 

I feel like this misinterpretation of the temporal sequence of events is similar to the mistake I made in Lesson 12 and is obviously something I'm going to need to be more vigilant about.

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somethingfunny

Well, well, well.  Looks like we've got a mid-autumn festival buy-one-get-one-free special offer.  Get your mooncakes in (I like to ignore the labels and play roulette - whoever gets the salty egg yolk loses) and sink your teeth into part 2:

 

既去,頃之,襄子當出,豫讓伏於所當過之橋下。襄子至橋,馬驚,襄子曰:「此必是豫讓也。」使人問之,果豫讓也。於是襄子乃數豫讓曰:「子不嘗事范、中行氏乎?智伯盡滅之,而子不為報讎,而反委質臣於智伯。智伯亦已死矣,而子獨何以為之報讎之深也?」豫讓曰:「臣事范、中行氏,范、中行氏皆眾人遇我,我故眾人報之。至於智伯,國士遇我,我故國士報之。」襄子喟然歎息而泣曰:「嗟乎豫子!子之為智伯,名既成矣,而寡人赦子,亦已足矣。子其自為計,寡人不復釋子!」使兵圍之。豫讓曰:「臣聞明主不掩人之美,而忠臣有死名之義。前君已寬赦臣,天下莫不稱君之賢。今日之事,臣固伏誅,然願請君之衣而擊之焉,以致報讎之意,則雖死不恨。非所敢望也,敢布腹心!」於是襄子大義之,乃使使持衣與豫讓。豫讓拔劍三躍而擊之,曰:「吾可以下報智伯矣!」遂伏劍自殺。死之日,趙國志士聞之,皆為涕泣。

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somethingfunny

This part was significantly easier than the first part.  Here is my translation:

 

 

After a while, when Viscount Xiang was going out, Yu Rang lay in ambush below the bridge that the Viscount should cross.  When the Viscount arrived at the bridge, his horse was startled and he exclaimed, "This must be Yu Rang!"  He sent a man to investigate and found that it was indeed Yu Rang.  With this, he said to Yu Rang, "Were you not in the employ of the Fan and Zhonghang clans?  The Earl of Zhi destroyed them and yet you did not seek revenge on their part, rather you entrusted yourself to, and worked as a minister for, the Earl of Zhi.  The Earl of Zhi is already dead, yet why is it that only you alone go to such great lengths to avenge his death?"  Yu Rang replied, "When I worked for the Fan and Zhonghang clans, they treated me as a commoner, so I repaid them as a commoner would.  The Earl of Zhi treated me as a great knight, so I will repay him as a great knight would."  Viscount Xiang sighed deeply and, weeping, said, "Alas, Master Yu!  By the way that you act for the Earl of Zhi, you have already made a name for yourself.  However, I have granted you you sufficient pardon already... Prepare to die!  I will not let you go free again"

 

With this, the Viscount send troops to surround Yu Rang who said to the Viscount, "I have heard that the enlightened master does not conceal a person's beauty, and a loyal servant - in death - has a just name.  My Lord, you have shown tolerance before in your forgiveness, there is no-one in the world that will not praise your wisdom.  Today's events, I will humbly submit to.  But I wish for My Lord's clothes so that I may strike them at this place and with this symbolise the completion of my revenge.  Then, although I will die, it will be without any regret.  It is not that I dare to hope for this, but rather that I dare to reveal my innermost feelings."

 

The Viscount demonstrated his righteousness and sent a man to give his clothes to Yu Rang.  At this, Yu Rang drew his sword and in three jumps had struck the Viscount's clothing declaring, "With this I repay the Earl of Zhi!"  He then proceeded to fall onto his own sword, killing himself.  On the day of his Yu Rang's death, all those in the state of Zhao that heard this news wept.

 

Comments/Discussion points:

 

  1. The first two characters, 既去, what do they mean?
  2. 忠臣有死名之義. What?  The loyal servant has a just death name?  What is Yu Rang talking about?
  3. 今日之事,臣固伏誅. I was really reaching with my interpretation of this line.  Is this Yu Rang saying that he is willing to submit to the course of events, in other words to allow the Viscount to kill him?
  4. 然願請君之衣而擊之焉 Whaaaaaat?  One thing thats starting to frustrate me about Rouzer is he's sometimes way off the mark in his commentary.  This is obviously a difficult sentence, but it crops up in the comments so you think it's going to be ok, but he just ends up telling you that “焉 still means 于之!” Thanks.  What about all this rubbish with the clothes, and hitting the clothes, and, just, 然, always just 然 making no sense, maybe you could explain some of that.  It's starting to feel a lot like this textbook is just a really good accompaniment to his classes.  Anyway, the modern translations from the links I gave in the translation to part 1 shed some light on the whole clothes issue which had me totally lost in the original - and still does really. 
  5. 非所敢望也,敢布腹心 Yu Rang really going for it with the not-making-any-sense-at-all final speech here.  Is he saying that this is not what he'd hoped for, or is he saying he dare not hope that Xiang will really give him his clothes?  I'm inclined to think the latter.
  6. 於是襄子大義之 This, I think Rouzer has covered, and is basically the same as something like "鼻子大" and is saying that Xiang is principled, although I'm not sure why there is a 之 on the end and not a 也.
  7. 使使持衣與豫讓 Here's that sly use of 與 to mean "to give" cropping up again, had me fooled first time round.  Then there's the double 使... first one verb, second one noun?  I guess.  Also a strange use of the verb 持 here.
  8. 死之日,趙國志士聞之,皆為涕泣 So, what's this 志士 all about?  And are all of Zhao people crying for Xiang or Yu Rang?  I'm guessing Xiang, but I don't know why (see below).

And with that, we conclude the story of Yu Rang.  Once again, Viscount Xiang is a massive schoolboy.  Honestly, he's got Yu Rang surrounded by troops and still manages to get himself killed.  If I was one of his subjects, maybe I would be crying because my king was such an idiot.  I have to say that I'm much less impressed by Yu Rang's actions than with Zhuanzhu.  One of them hides a knife in the belly of a fish, while the other hangs around toilets, pretends to be a leper, and generally just talks a big game.

 

As I alluded to, some of the shortcomings of the Rouzer book are starting to become clear, but I'm still enjoying it and really value the exposure to real, original texts.

 

I'll probably do the same thing again and turn out chapters 16, 17 and 18 in quick succession one day during the national holiday.

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somethingfunny

Had a bit of a think about this yesterday when I was in a bookshop - you can get 精华 versions of pretty much all these old classics that have translations into modern Chinese and I think thats where the translations in the links I provided might come from actually.

 

When Viscount Xiang says this:

 

 且智伯亡無後,而其臣欲為報仇,此天下之賢人也。

 

I think the point he is trying to make is that it's only natural for the Earl of Zhi's ministers to avenge his death in the way that Yu Rang is and that his actions are actually the sign of a "worthy man".  It is then presumable that he is willing to forgive him on these grounds.  Had his motivations been different, say for personal gain, then I'm assuming he wouldn't have shown such leniency.

 

Xiang is clearly a bigger man than I would have been.  If someone was trying to kill me during a visit to the toilet in ancient China, I wouldn't be thinking twice about adding to my skull drinking cup collection.

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evn108

In the end of the story, it is Yu Rang who dies, not Viscount Xiang. At this point he is surrounded, there's no way he could get away with killing him (though, of course, he could just do as Zhuan Zhu and go out in a blaze of glory). As he explains in the first part, what he is "striking" is only the Viscount's cloak, not the Viscount himself, it's a symbolic gesture intended to represent the fulfillment of his previous task.

 

I think the reason he does not do as Zhuan Zhu does is because he also recognizes that Viscount Xiang has done him a great favor by not killing him immediately. It's the same 知己 business as we see in other stories--Xiang understands Yu Rang's commitment and loyalty, and moreover has spared Yu Rang's life a number of times. So to kill him at this point would also be some kind of betrayal. He's also unwilling to simply feign loyalty to Xiang to get close to him--that is how seriously he takes oaths that he makes for the sake of others.

 

Also, I think another reason the people cry when they hear Yu Rang's story is because of how selfless he was, remaining dedicated to his task even though it required him to torture and mutilate himself. By disfiguring his body, which is already an unfilial act, he also makes himself unrecognizable to his wife. So basically he's willing to cut off all of his familial relations for the sake of his relationship to his former lord. 

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somethingfunny

 

 

In the end of the story, it is Yu Rang who dies, not Viscount Xiang.

 

You're 100% right, can't believe I messed that up so bad.  I understood the point about the symbolic gesture but had interpreted it as a trick to distract Xiang giving him the opportunity to strike a blow.  I guess such devious actions wouldn't be in keeping with his usual high moral standards though.  It does make me wonder why he gets included in the "Assassin-retainer" section when he wasn't really very good at assassinating anybody.

 

Thanks for clearing this up and your other comments, very helpful indeed!

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*~Leo~*

This is my first post so I'm super sorry if I've done anything wrong!

 

Ok so I'm talking about part 1 here

I translated 襄子如廁,心動,執問塗廁之刑人,則豫讓,as 'Viscount Xiang went to the outhouse and was suspicious so he grabbed the convicts painting the outhouse to question them, and then he grabbed Yu Rang'

I thought that the situation was that there were a bunch of convicts brought in to work painting the outhouse and Xiang went there (maybe to inspect it?) and got suspicious so he wanted to question them all.

 

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*~Leo~*

Okay so I've done the next one now too. I've only said things where I think I might have something useful to add, but I share much of your confusion. Also I tend to forsake having it sound good in english in my translations so if I've said something which you knew but just were using good english then I'm sorry!

 

Quote

The first two characters, 既去, what do they mean?

I took this to be referring to Yu Rang having been sent away, so the beginning would be 'A short while after he was sent away when Xiang went out,"

 

 

Quote

忠臣有死名之義. What?  The loyal servant has a just death name?  What is Yu Rang talking about?

I read this as 'For a loyal servant there is propriety in dying for reputation' As in, Yu Rang thinks its worth dying in order to prove his loyalty.

 

 

Quote

非所敢望也,敢布腹心 Yu Rang really going for it with the not-making-any-sense-at-all final speech here.  Is he saying that this is not what he'd hoped for, or is he saying he dare not hope that Xiang will really give him his clothes?  I'm inclined to think the latter.

I agree that it's the latter

 

 

Quote

於是襄子大義之 This, I think Rouzer has covered, and is basically the same as something like "鼻子大" and is saying that Xiang is principled, although I'm not sure why there is a 之 on the end and not a 也.

I'm pretty sure it's Yu Rang who is principled here. I think the 之 refers to Yu Rang and is acting as object to 義, so 義 here is in the putative sense. So Xiang considered Yu Rang to be greatly principled. 

 

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realmayo

Resurrecting this post :)

 

豫讓者,晉人也,嘗事范氏及中行氏,而無所知名

I wasn't sure what the was doing here. Does it link his being from to the fact that he was employed by two  clans?

 

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somethingfunny
On 9/27/2015 at 6:19 AM, somethingfunny said:

Previously having worked for the Fan and Zhonghang clans

 

This is how I had it. 

 

故 -> previously, 尚 -> already/once.

 

I don't think you need to read it in relation to the fact that he was from 晋.

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realmayo

Got it, thanks

 

How about   「既已委質臣事人,而求殺之,是懷二心事其君也

 

I can't get work out the relationship between "harbouring treacherous thoughts" and "serving his (true) lord".

(I'm asssuming it's his former lord he's referring to at the end.)

 

 

 

 

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evn108
On 5/28/2018 at 10:23 AM, realmayo said:

How about   「既已委質臣事人,而求殺之,是懷二心事其君也

 

I can't get work out the relationship between "harbouring treacherous thoughts" and "serving his (true) lord".

(I'm asssuming it's his former lord he's referring to at the end.)

 

"In order to" 

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somethingfunny

You can see my attempt at translating that line in the second post above.  Also, in that post in point eight, I discuss this line.

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rylixe

Thanks to everyone for your contributions. Here is my translation of part 1. Part 2 coming soon.

 

Over seventy years later, the matter of Yu Rang took place in Jin. Yu Rang was a man of Jin. He had once served the Fan Clan and the Zhonghang Clan, but he was not known for that. After he left their service, he went to serve Earl Zhi. Earl Zhi greatly honored and favored him. When Earl Zhi attacked Viscount Xiang of Zhao, Viscount Xiang, together with the Han and Wei Clans, conspired to destroy Earl Zhi, to kill his descendants, and to divide his territories among the three of them. Viscount Xiang of Zhao hated Earl Zhi the most, and painted his head to use as a cup for drinking.

 

Yu Rang fled into the mountains, saying: Alas! A knight dies for one who knows him, as a woman dresses up for those who find joy in her. Now, Earl Zhi knew me, so I must die to avenge him, and by avenging him, have no regrets in my soul!

 

Thus, he changed his name and became a criminal convict engaged in forced labor. He entered the palace to paint toilets. He carried under his arm a dagger, wanting to use it to stab Viscount Xiang. Viscount Xiang went to the toilet but was suspicious. He seized the convict painting the toilet and interrogated him. Then Yu Rang, holding the knife inside his clothes, said: I want to avenge Earl Zhi! The retainers wished to execute him, but the Viscount Xiang said: That is a righteous man. I will simply be careful to avoid him. Furthermore, Earl Zhi died without leaving behind any descendants. His retainer wishing to avenge him is a worthy man in this world! In the end, he let him go.

 

A short while later, Yu Rang once more painted his body with blisters, swallowed ashes and became a mute, and changed his appearance so that no one could recognize him.  He went around begging in the city, and his wife could not recognize him. When he went to see his friends, however, his friends did recognize him, saying: Aren’t you Yu Rang? He said, I am he. His friends responded, weeping for him: With your talents, were you to entrust yourself and serve Viscount Xiang, he would come to trust and favor you. And when he came to trust and favor you, would it not be easy to do what you want? But now that you have decimated your body and take on this cruel appearance, is it not quite difficult to take revenge on Viscount Xiang? Yu Rang said: Having entrusted oneself to serve another as a retainer, but still wanting to kill that person, is to serve one’s lord half-heartedly. This is extremely difficult for me to do. But this is why I have done what I have: to shame all those follow me in this world who become someone’s retainer and serve one’s lord half-heartedly.

 

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rylixe

Part 2.

 

A short while after he [Yu Rang] had left them [his friends], Viscount Xiang was supposed to go out. Yu Rang laid in ambush under the bridge that the Viscount was supposed to cross. When Viscount Xiang arrived at the bridge, his horse startled. Viscount Xiang said: This must be Yu Rang! He had his men look into this, and as expected, it was Yu Rang. Then Viscount Xiang rebuked Yu Rang, saying: “Did you not serve the Fan and Zhonghang Clans? When Earl Zhi destroyed them, you did not seek to avenge them. Rather, you entrusted yourself to Earl Zhi and became his retainer. Now that Earl Zhi is already dead, why do you alone take the matter of his revenge so seriously?”

 

Yu Rang said: “I did serve the Fan and Zhonghang Clans, but they both treated me like a rank-and-file retainer, and so I repaid them as a rank-and-file retainer would. As for Earl Zhi, he treated me as a knight renowned throughout the land, and so I repay him accordingly.”

 

Viscount Xiang sighed deeply and wept, saying: “Oh, Yu! You had already tried to avenge Earl Zhi and so preserved your reputation. I forgave you then but no more. You should have made plans for your own sake! For I will not let you go again.” And so he had his soldiers surround him.

 

Yu Rang said: “I have heard that the wise ruler does not obstruct the virtues of other men, while the loyal retainer possesses the righteousness of an acclaimed death. Before, you generously forgave me, and so the world will surely praise you as worthy. As for today’s matter, I will surely be executed. Yet, I wish to ask for your clothes so that I can strike them. Then I can fulfill my intent for vengeance and die without regret. I do not dare to hope for this, but I have told you my innermost thoughts.”

 

Then, Viscount Xiang was magnanimous and held out his clothes toward Yu Rang. Yu Rang drew his sword, took several bounding steps, and struck the clothes, saying: “Now I can go down to the Underworld to report to Earl Zhi!” Then he leaned against his own sword and committed suicide.

 

When the good men in Zhao learned of this, they all wept.

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