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The Most Famous Angler in Chinese History, Jiang Tai Gong

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The Most Famous Angler in Chinese History, Jiang Tai Gong

An angler could influence a nation, even for about 3,000 years. Do you believe it?


When talking about fishing in China, Jiang Tai Gong (also known as Jiang Ziya) is very likely to be the first name that would come to people’s mind. There are always fish willing to be caught by angler Jiang Taigong. Many people know this idiom. To no small extent, he may be rated as the most famous angler in Chinese history.


The story happened in the late years of the Shang dynasty. Jiang Tai Gong once served the king of Shang dynasty, and had come to resent him for tyranny from the bottom of heart.

Jiang Tai Gong was an genius in military tactics and government management. He lived near the Weihe  River about 3, 000 years ago. The area was the feudal estate of Count Ji Chang. Jiang Tai Gong knew Ji Chang was very ambitious so he hoped to get Ji's attention. At that time, he was over 70 years old already!


He often went fishing at the Weishui River, but he would fish in an unusual way. He hung a straight fishhook,without  bait, three feet above the water.  He often said to himself, "Fish, if you don't want to live any more, come and swallow the hook yourself."
 
Lookers-on were curious about it, and Jiang Tai Gong explained, “I would like to take honestly rather than to plead for with the knees down.I fish not for the fish but for the nobility”. 
 
Later words traveled to Count Ji. He sent a soldier to fetch him. Jiang Tai Gong ignored the solider, going on with fishing, and was talking to himself, “Fishing, fishing, no fish has been hooked. A shrimp is up to mischief.” The soldier reported this back to Ji Chang, who became more interested in this man. Then, Count Ji sent an official to invite him. It didn’t work. He just carried on fishing, and was saying, “Fishing, fishing, the big fish has not been hooked. A small one is up to mischief.” Finally Ji Chang realized Jiang may be a genius, so he went to invite Jiang Tai Gong himself. Jiang saw his sincerity and honesty and finally decided to work for him.
 
In the end, Jiang Tai Gong helped Count Ji and his offspring build a great power, topple down Shang dynasty and establish Zhou dynasty---a great dynasty.


 
Actually, the legend of Jiang Tai Gong has different versions. It has been mentioned, discussed, explored and rewritten in countless books. There are films, drama, TV shows about him. And little boys or girls know folklore about him.
 
There are always fish willing to be caught by angler Jiang Taigong.” Today, people use this old idiom to describe someone who willingly falls in a trap or does something regardless of the result. This idiom has been passed on from generation to generation. To some degree, it could be regarded as a part of Chinese philosophy. The image of Jiang Tai Gong fishing near the river is very classical. People still could find it in paintings, carvings, and poems.

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  • Alice Wang