12China's David & Goliath: The Story of the Ancient Pass
This past weekend, I went with the Chinese Culture Club on a weekend trip to Zhengding and Yujia, located in Hebei Province, about 260 kilometers south of Beijing. Zhengding, billed as a great example of a typical "small" town in China, actually has a population of 500,000.
The ancient pass outside of Zhengding dates back to China’s first dynasty, the Qin, whose emperor first unified China. The pass has special significance to the Chinese because it’s located on the site where a famous battle took place. As legend has it, back in the days before China was unified, two warlords were engaged in fierce fighting. One side’s troops were seriously outnumbered and were being pushed back to a river. When the troops reached the site of the ancient pass, they were trapped with their backs to the river, facing an army twice their number. The troops’ general stepped forward and gave an eloquent speech. He told the troops that there was no retreat — they could either drown in the swift current of the river or face their enemy and die gloriously in battle.
The troops were so stirred by the general’s words that they fought and defeated their much larger enemy. The story was later made famous by Mao and the Communist Party, who cited it as proof that the weak and outnumbered could rise up and defeat a much stronger enemy. It struck me as China’s version of David and Goliath.