How observing rats can lead to foundation of an empire: Li Si

The foundation of China as a unified people and culture is largely credited to Qin and adviser Li Si. It is quite unusual how he decided to become a politician in Ancient China after contemplating on a minor event.

Li Si

China used to be a collection of small kingdoms fighting with each other in a struggle of power. The state of Qin (Chin, the namesake of the English word) emerged victorious and became a single empire, there on, we have a series of breaking apart and merging again.
Most of the credit to the kingdom of Qin goes to Li Si, a Chinese politician from the nearby state of Chu. He used to be a student in Chu and he studied philosophy and other things scholars of that time were expected to know.
One day, he went to the outhouse and observed rats, and later that very day, he happened to visit a barn and observed some barnhouse rats too.
He saw that the rats of the outhouse were dirty and hungry, but those in the barn were well fed.
He realised that people are analogous to those rats. There is no set standard for honour since everybody’s life differs.
The values people have are determined their status and position, and just like rats, their status depends entirely on the random events which occur around them.
So, instead of limiting oneself to set pattern of moral codes, one should do what one finds the most appropriate at the moment.
He then decided become a politician and roamed around the royal courts of those warring states. He found Qin to be the perfect place and convinced the young king about his theories. Using them, he also secured his position in court and devised plans for unification of China under Qin.

I find this story very practical and fascinating in a world obsessed with political opinions. The view of the world Li Si had has been quite universal in its approach and immensely practical too.

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