Stories behind Idioms: "The More the Better"

PureInsight | November 22, 2007

[] Han Xin was
from Huaiyin during the Qin-Han Period. He was a low-ranking officer
under Xiang Yu, the chief rival of Liu Bang. Xiang Yu disliked him and
was unwilling to put him in an important position.  

Han Xin was a very talented person and had mastered military
strategies. Even though he was a humble person when he was young, it
didn't influence his great ambition.

Since Xiang Yu didn't offer him a significant position, he offered his
services to Liu Bang, who later founded the Han dynasty with the help
from Han Xin. But Liu Bang didn't give him an important position
either. Before long, Han Xin left Liu Bang's army. When Xiao He, a
high-ranking officer of Liu Bang, found out about it, he chased after
Han Xin for several days without reporting to Liu Bang first.

On the third day, Xiao He brought Han Xin back and then went to see Liu
Bang. Liu Bang asked him immediately: "Where have you been for the last
few days? Why didn't you first tell me?"

Xiao He answered: "There was a very important thing I needed to do for
my lord that I didn't have the time to report to you first."

Liu Bang asked: "What have you done for me?"

Xiao He told him that he was chasing after Han Xin. Upon hearing this,
Liu Bang was furious and said: "So many people have left my army but
you didn't go after them. Why do you care so much about such an
unimportant person?"

Xiao He said: "Others are easy to get, but Han Xin is hard to find! He
has extraordinary ability and high aspirations. If my lord wants to
conquer the country, he is the only person who can lead your army."

Liu Bang asked: "Shall I appoint him as supreme commander?"

Xiao He said: "Of course, even if you give an order appointing him as
the supreme commander, he may not necessarily accept it. You must
prepare an altar to confer the position of supreme commander on him and
then he will be willing to accept it."

Liu Bang, then, held a grand ceremony to honor Han Xin as his supreme
commander. Later, Han Xin helped Liu Bang defeat his most formidable
adversary, Xiang Yu. Liu Bang became the Emperor of the Han dynasty,
with the help of Han Xin .

Liu Bang frequently discussed the abilities of his commanding generals.
Once, Liu Bang asked him: "How many soldiers do you think I can lead?"

Han Xin replied: "My lord can lead one hundred thousand soldiers."

Liu Bang asked again: "How about you?" Han Xin answered: "For me, the more the better."

Liu Bang laughed: "If that is the case, why do you serve under me?"

Han Xin said: "Although my lord is not good at leading troops, you are
skilled in ruling the commanding generals. That is the reason I submit
to you as your subject. God gives you that ability, which can not be
expected in ordinary people."

Afterwards, "the more the better" became an idiomatic expression.

Translated from:

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