Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where friendship ends

Whether we like it or not, the rich and powerful certainly have an advantage to the selection of friends and relatives. They undoubtedly have more friends and relatives than others. But once they fall from power or become poor, their friends and relatives will thin. Readers may be surprised to learn that this phenomenon is nothing new and already existed more than two thousand years ago.

Take the cases of worthy Chi An and Cheng Tang-shih who had friends by the score when they were in power during the Han dynasty and none when they fell from power. How must it be with ordinary men!

Lord Chai of Hsiakuei said that when he was chief justice guests thronged his gate, when he was dismissed you could have trapped birds at his door, but when he became chief justice again, his old protégés hoped to come back. Then he wrote in large characters on his gate:

When a lifelong friend is dead,
Friendship has fled;
When a rich man becomes poor,
Friendship is no more;
When a noble is brought low.
Friendship must go.

Chi An and Cheng Tang-shih might have said the same, alas!”

[Comments from the Grand Historian – Sima Qian]

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