Expensive Prosthetics and Cheap Shoes

Yi Dou

PureInsight | October 21, 2007

[PureInsight.org] Yan Zhi was a high ranking official of the State of Qi during the Spring and Autumn Period.

One time, Qi Jing Gong, the King of the Qi State, was very angry that
his favorite horse suddenly died. He ordered his horse keeper to be

Yan Zhi said, "I don't know how Emperors Yao and Yu* would dismember the body."

Jing Gong was somewhat embarrassed and said, "Just put him in jail first."

Yanu Zhi said, "Let me announce his crimes first, so he will know what
he did wrong. Then we'll put him in jail. Is that all right with Your

Jing Gong replied, "Yes."

Yan Zhi said to the horse keeper, "You have committed three capital
crimes: 1. Your Emperor asked you to take care of his horse, but you
failed. 2. That was the Emperor's favorite horse. 3. After you are
killed, everyone will resent the Emperor for taking your life and the
nobles will laugh at him. Now we are going to put you in jail first."

Jing Gong sighed and said, "Let him go!"

When Yan Zhi became the prime minister, Jing Gong said, "You live very
close to the city market which is very noisy and dusty. Let me give you
a different place to live."

Yan Zhi declined and said, "Other people live there just fine and so
can I. Otherwise, others would say that I am being extravagant.
Besides, I can buy goods easily. There are a lot of advantages!"

Jing Gong said, "Being so close to the market, you probably know what is expensive and what is cheap."

Yan Zhi said, "Yes, indeed."

Jing Gong asked, "What is expensive and what is cheap nowadays?"

Yan Zhi said, "The prosthetics are expensive and the shoes are cheap."

Jing Gong was astonished and decided to abolish the punishment of cutting people's legs off.

The idiom, expensive prosthetic and cheap shoes, means harsh punishment and relentless laws.

 (FromYan Zi Spring and Autumn)

* Emperors Yao and Yu were legendary emperors in Chinese history.
Emperor Yu even cried for his mistakes when his subject committed a
crime. (Of course, neither one of them would punish people severely,
let alone dismember people!)

Translated from:


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