The Story Behind the Chinese Idiom – "As Poor as Fan Sui"

Yi Dou

PureInsight | September 20, 2004

[] During the Warring States period1, a man named Fan Sui lived in the State of Wei. He was very talented and wanted to serve the King of Wei. But he had no money or connections, and nobody would recommend him to the king. So Fan Sui went to work for Xu Jia, a senior official in the Wei court. Xu Jia was sent to the state of Qi on a diplomatic mission and Fan Sui went with him. Several months passed, but they were not able to accomplish their mission. However, King Xiang of Qi grew to admire Fan Sui's eloquence and presented him with 10 pounds of gold along with some wine. Fan Sui refused the gift. When Xu Jia learned about this, he was very angry. He thought that Fan Sui had betrayed his country of Wei. Upon returning to Wei, he reported Fan to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister ordered Fan Sui to be whipped. Fan Sui's ribs were broken and his teeth were knocked off. He pretended to be dead and was thrown into an outhouse. With the help of friends, he escaped to the state of Qin, where he began to use the alias of Zhang Lu to disguise his identity.

Through recommendations, Fan Sui met Zhao, the king of Qin. King Zhao was impressed by Fan's talent and eventually made him the prime minister of Qin. Years later, when the state of Wei learned that Qin was going to attack Wei, they sent Xu Jia to Qin to make peace. At night, dressed in old clothes, Fan Sui came to visit Xu Jia at the Qin guest house. Xu Jia was surprised to see that Fan Sui was still alive. He felt sorry for Fan since he appeared to be very poor and pitiable. He took out a silk gown and gave it to Fan Sui.

When Xu arrived at the Prime Minister's Palace of Qin, he found that Zhang Lu was Fan Sui. He hurried to grovel at Fan Sui's feet to ask for forgiveness. Fan Sui forgave him because of the silk gown.

Yi Han Ru Ci (As Poor as Fan Sui; this poor) means extremely miserable, shabby and frustrated.

From Historical Records- Biography of Fan Sui

1 Warring States Period: The Warring States Period was part of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty. It lasted from 403 BC to 221 BC. Please see for more information

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