Chinese Idioms : The Friendship between Guan and Bao (成語故事:管鲍之交)

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During the Spring and Autumn Period, Guan Zhong, a well-known prime minister of the State of Ji, helped Ji Han Gong to become one of the five important emperors.

Bao Shuya, a high ranking official of the State of Ji, was well-known for his ability to recognize talented people.

Guan Zhong and Bao Shuya were good friends since they were little. Bao Shuya knew Guan Zhong’s abilities very well. Guan Zhong came from a very poor family and bullied Bao Shuya often.

However, Bao never complained and was very kind to Guan Zhong.

Later, Guan Zhong assisted Prince Ji and Bao Shuya assisted Prince Xiaobai.

Prince Xiaobai later became Emperor Ji Han Gong, but Prince Ji was killed and Guan Zhong ended up in prison.

When Ji Han Gong was enthroned, he asked Bao Shuya to be the prime minister. However, Bao recommended Guan Zhong, who was still in prison.

With Guan Zhong’s help, the State of Ji became the strongest and eventually united the all other states.

Guan Zhong later recalled, “When I was poor, Bao and I were business partners. When we divided our profits, I always took more. However, Bao never thought I was greedy. When I strategized for him, it did not work out. Bao never thought I was stupid, but that the timing was wrong. I was an official three times and the king fired me and threw me out of the kingdom three times. But Bao never thought I was no good. He believed that I had not been given the opportunities. I fought three times in battles and ran away three times. But Bao did not think I was a coward but that I had to care for my elderly mother at home. When Prince Ji got killed, I was thrown into jail. Bao was not ashamed of me. Bao knows that I don’t pay attention to little details and am ashamed of my name not being glorified. My parents gave birth to me and brought me up, but only Bao Shuya knows me.”

Before Guan Zhong died, Ji Han Gong asked him whether Bao Shuya could be the prime minister. Guan Said, “No. Bao Shuya knows right from wrong and can not tolerate the bad elements. If Bao Shuya became the prime minister, it would hurt both Your Majesty and himself.”

When Bao Shuya learned about it later, he was not angry at all but was quite happy that only Guan Zhong really understood him.

After Bao Shuya recommended Guan Zhong, he worked under Guan Zhong.

Bao’s offspring for many generations were all officials and some of them were very well-known high ranking officials.

It is interesting to point out that very few people knew that Guan Zhong was wise and capable, but most people knew that Bao Shuya could recognize talent.

The idiom “The friendship between Guan and Bao” expresses how well the two knew each other. Later, this idiom came to mean “bosom buddies.”

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