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▶ The Warring States Period (475-221BC) witnessed a great deal of wars and alliances among small states in China. At that time,in order to pursue their common interests in such hash situation,the State of Wei (魏) and the State of Zhao attempted 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.
Just before their departure,Pang Cong posed a strange question 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 two people said that, would you believe it?" the minister asked further.
"In that case,I would think twice about it," answered the king.
The minister went on, "if three people all said there's a tiger in the street,would you believe it then?"
"Of course I would," was the answer.
Then 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 three people say so. Now, we're going to live in the State of Zhao that is far further 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. One after another,they told their stories. At first, the king paid no attention to them. But after a 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 palace!
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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