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A Repeated Slander Makes Others Believe

In the Warring States Period (475-221BC.), there were countless wars and alliances between the many small states in China. Now, the State of Wei and the State of Zhao were getting ready to sign a treaty of alliance. As was usual at the time, the king of Wei had to send his son to Zhao as a hostage. A minister, Pang Cong, was to accompany him.

Before they left, Png Cong said to the king : “if someone told you that there was a tiger in the street, would you believe it?”

“No, I wouldn’t,” replied the king.

“If 2 people said that, would you believe it?” the minister asked.

“In that case, I would hesitate. I’d have my doubts,”answered the king.

The minister went on,”if 3 people said there’s a tiger in the street, would you believe it then?”

“Of course I would,” was the answer.

The Pang Cong said : It is strange, isn’t it, that even when it’s obvious there’s no tiger in the street, you would believe there is one just because 3 people say no. Now, we’re going to live in the State of Zhao that is far futher away from Your Majesty’s palace than the street. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of rumors about me when I’ve gone. So I hope Your Majesty will be perceptive.”

Hearing this, the king said,”I know that. You can rest assured that I have every trust in you. Don’t worry. Off you go.”

After Pang Cong left with the prince, sure enough, his enemies spoke ill of him in front of the king. 1 after another they told theirs stories. At 1st, the king paid no attention to them. But after the while, when he had heard enough rumors about the minister, he began to suspect Pang Cong.

When the prince and the minister were finally freed as hostages, they returned to the State of Wei. The king didn’t even summon Pang Cong to the place!

From that story comes the idiom San Ren Cheng Hu. The idiom also suggests that gossip can be as ferocious as a tiger.

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