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BIOGRAPHY OF GAO ZU (EXCERPT)

by Sima Qian (Approx. 145 BCE - 86 BCE, Western Han Dynasty)
English translation: Miao Guang

At a banquet inside his Yangnan Palace, Emperor Gaozu of Han said, “My dukes and generals, I know that none of you dare conceal your thoughts from me, and that you always tell the truth. So tell me the reason that I have won the war, and why Xiang Yu has lost?”

Gao Qi and Wang Ling replied, “My lord, you are proud and you insult people, while Xiang Yu was benevolent and loving towards them. However, after you conquer cities and plunder lands, you give your fighters their proper rewards and share all profits with your subjects. Xiang Yu on the other hand, begrudges the eminent and is jealous of the capable. Thus, he sabotages those who are meritorious, and is suspicious of those who are reputable. When victorious, he withholds merits and keeps conquered lands to himself. For this reason, he has lost.”

Emperor Gaozu then said, “You only see one part, but not the entire picture. When it comes to mapping out a strategy from within a tent to win a battle that is a thousand miles away, I cannot compare to Zi Fang. When it comes to guarding the kingdom, pacifying the people, rewarding the army, and sustaining food resources, I am nowhere near Xiao He. In creating an alliance army of a million warriors which is always victorious in its conquers, I am no match to Han Xin. The abovementioned are all heroes, but I am able to command them. For this reason, I have conquered the world. On the other hand, although Xiang Yu had Fan Zheng, he nevertheless failed to employ him. For this reason, he has become my captive.”

── from Shi Ji (Records of the Grand Historian)