The story of Tang Ju is recorded in Zhanguo Ce (战国策, “Strategy of the Warring States” ), a fictionalized work of history first circulated during the Latter Han Dynasty of China (25~220 CE ). Unlike military strategy manuals that center on Sun Tzu-style martial tacticians, Zhanguo Ce highlights the group known as moushi (谋士, “strategist-persuader”) and their skills as politicians, rhetors and diplomats during the Warring States period (475~221 BCE).
Tang Ju was such a moushi serving Anling, a minor protectorate of the State of Wei. In 225 BCE, King Zhao of Qin (324~251 BCE) conquered Wei, posing an immediate threat to Anling. To save his endangered lord, Tang Ju went to meet furious King Zhao and successfully settled the dispute by wisdom and courage.
English translation by B.S. Bonsall
Tang Ju Succeeded in His Mission
The King of Qin sent a messenger to speak to the Prince of Anling and say: “I wish to exchange five hundred li of territory for Anling. I hope the Prince of Anling will agree to my request!” The Prince of Anling said:”Your Majesty adds to your graciousness. I received the territory from the former King. I wish to guard it to the end. I dare not make the exchange!”
The King of Qin was displeased. So the Prince of Anling sent Tang Ju on a mission to Qin. The King of Qin spoke to Tang Ju and said: “I was giving five hundred li of territory in exchange for Anling. The Prince of Anling would not listen to me. Why was that? Moreover Qin has destroyed Han and wiped out Wei. And because His Highness has been left with fifty li of territory he considers himself to be superior. Therefore he pays no attention. Now I ask permission to extend his lands with territory ten times as large, and yet His Highness resists me. He is despising me.” Tang Ju replied: “No. It is not so. The Prince of Anling received the territory from the former King and keeps guard over it. He would not dare to exchange it for a thousand li. How would he for only five hundred?”
The King of Qin was annoyed and angry. He spoke to Tang Ju and said: “And has your Lordship heard of the wrath of the Son of Heaven?” Tang Ju replied: “Your servant has not heard.” The King of Qin said: “The wrath of the Son of Heaven lays low a million corpses and makes blood to flow for a thousand li.” Tang Ju said: “Has Your Majesty heard of the wrath of a commoner?” The King of Qin said: “The wrath of commoner makes himself take off his hat, walk barefoot, and knock the ground with his head!” Tang Ju said: “This is the wrath of a mediocre person, not the wrath of a gentleman. When Zhuan Zhu assassinated King Liao a comet covered the moon. When Nie Zheng assassinated Han Gui a white rainbow pierced through the sun. When Yao Li assassinated Qing Ji black falcons fought above the palace. All these three gentlemen were commoners. While they were cherishing their wrath and before it had come forth, portents descended from the Heaven. And your servant will make a fourth! If a gentleman must be wrath, the corpses of two men will lie low and their blood flow five paces. This is the day for the world to put on mourning.” He drew his sword and arose.
The King of Qin with confused countenance knelt as length and excused himself, saying: “Be seated sir. Why come to this? I understand. That after Han and Wei have been annihilated Anling survives with only fifty li of territory is solely because of you!”
Original text in Simplified Chinese
秦王怫然怒，谓唐雎曰：“公亦尝闻天子之怒乎？”唐雎对曰：“臣未尝闻也。”秦王曰：“天子之怒，伏尸百万，流血千里。”唐雎曰：“大王尝闻布衣之怒乎？”秦王 曰：“布衣之怒，亦免冠徒跣，以头抢地耳！”唐雎曰：“此庸夫之怒也，非士之怒也。夫专诸之刺王僚也，彗星袭月；聂政之刺韩傀也，白虹贯日；要离之刺庆忌也，仓鹰击于殿上。此三子者，皆布衣之士也，怀怒未发，休祲降于天，与臣而将四矣！若士必怒，伏尸二人， 流血五步，天下缟素，今日是也。”挺剑而起。