Mistaken Identity, 2

From the Intrigues of the Warring States.


A man from the state of Wen traveled to the state of Zhou, but the Zhou would not admit him. “Do you come as a foreign visitor?” He answered: “No, as a resident.” When asked for his address he could not provide any, so they imprisoned him. The ruler sent officials to question him. They said: “You’re not from Zhou, so why did you deny you were a foreigner?” He answered, “As a boy I learned to recite from the Book of Odes, where it is written: ‘Under the wide heaven / No land but is the king’s land; / To the edges of the earth, / No man but is the king’s subject.’ Today the Zhou rule over the world*, so of course I am a subject of the Son of Heaven, and you want to treat me like a foreigner? That’s why I said I was a resident.” The ruler told his officials to let him go free.

* This was of course very far from being the case at the time of the incident, but an residue of long-outdated Zhou royal entitlements.