Business Credibility in Chinese History | 徙木立信

I always take pride in my identity of being a Chinese, not only because of our amazing diversified food, but also of our long and enriched history, where there are numerous real-life examples for us to discuss, modify an learn from generations to generations for over five thousand years. Most of my American family and friends have heard about Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor who unified China in BC 221. But seldom have them heard about how this got started in the first place.

So today, I am going to share one of the historical stories about how the ancient Chinese established credibility in the society during the chaos of political and economic instability. This story has been sung for over two thousand years, and since then people are accustomed to this four-characterized phrase when referring the spirit behind that story. This phrase is translated as “徙木立信, xi mu li xin“ in the form of Chinese characters.

Around BC 356 -350, Shang Yang was assigned by the King of Qin State to carry out a series of political reformations to change Qin’s political status among other lords in the land of nowadays China. The first challenge Shang Yang faced was actually not executing all those plans, but how to gain people’s trust. At that time, there were wars going on constantly, unsteady economic transactions, thieves and murders everywhere, it seemed just impossible for the citizens to believe that there were good laws to be carried out for their benefits.

So in order to establish credibility for the loyal court, Shang Yang made an announcement across the whole land of Qin. This is the main point of that announcement, “anyone who carries the wood log from the north gate to the marketplace, I am granting him 10 pieces of gold (equal to a nice house price for today)”. Certainly, everyone hesitated and nobody made any action about that announcement. So Shang Yang raised the bar to 50 pieces of gold, finally a young and poor man followed and guess what? He got 50 pieces of gold!

A little over 130 years later, Qin became the first country who unified the whole land of China! Since then, “徙木立信“ has been sung from generations and generations. According to the Literal Translation Technique, this four-characterized phrase is translated as “carrying the log to establish credibility”. There are many related stories like “徙木立信“, and I would be happy to write more about those historical stories for you.

I am writing about this story because Beihu Chinese Institute is launching a series of promotions, and you can view one of them by clicking on Products to see our exciting new pricing model. I hope after reading the story of “徙木立信“, you would trust that “I mean it!” There will be another exciting announcement on March 18, 2019, be watching for that!