Read "Princess Zhao Min's Main Ship" again.


In the Twitter feed these past few days, there have been many messages about lockdowns in various places. It's very likely that because of a sudden positive case, people can't even leave their neighborhoods when they wake up in the morning.

I'm saying this because I want to express that this kind of immense uncertainty brings about a profound sense of incompleteness for individuals. The reasons behind this uncertainty are certainly complex, and I don't want to delve into them. I just remembered an article I read in a book last year, "Princess Zhao Min Wants a Boat" from the collection "Lei Lei Reads Jin Yong." I even wrote extensive notes on this article at the time, but I won't go into detail here1.

Today, I want to quote the main content of this article, as follows:

...It is said that one time, Zhao Min wanted a boat. Why did she want a boat? It was because at that time, she and Zhang Wuji were tracking the enemy, Golden Flower Granny, and they knew in advance that she was going to hire a boat to go out to sea. So, they planned to set a trap and get a boat to lure Golden Flower Granny.

Zhao Min arrived at the location of the departure ahead of time. It was a small county along the northern coast. "She rode her horse straight into the county town" and took out the golden plaque that the King of Ruyang used to mobilize troops from all over the country, asking the county official to arrange for a boat. Her requirements were very clear and simple, including the following: a sturdy sea boat; a helmsman and sailors on board; provisions and fresh water; and a hidden stash of weapons. The county official had a determined look on his face and said, "Understood!"

...But reality still shocked her. Early the next morning, the county official's obsequious face appeared in front of her, reporting that the boat was ready. This speed could be considered fast, and Zhao Min should have been quite satisfied. But when she arrived at the seaside and took a look, she was immediately stunned. In the words of the book, she "stomped her feet repeatedly and exclaimed, 'Oh no!'" Because what was parked in front of her was a warship.

...I just wanted a civilian boat, but you got me a warship. I wanted to use this boat to trick Golden Flower Granny, not to engage in warfare.

Why did the county official have the whimsical idea of getting a battleship? It's very simple. In the book, it's summed up in four words: "curry favor with double." So, he went to the navy and borrowed a warship. All the confusion was caused by those four words, "curry favor with double."

...The boat Zhao Min wanted was the most important thing in the county town during that period, or even that year. Moreover, what Zhao Min wanted to do was a private matter. For the county official, handling private matters for a high-ranking leader is more intimate and prestigious than handling official business.

There is no doubt that the county official not only had to implement Zhao Min's instructions properly and perfectly, but also had to implement them doubly, one hundred and two hundred percent. He would definitely demand: not only to get Princess Zhao a boat, but also to get the best, the most impressive, and the most magnificent boat. We must think about what Princess Zhao has ordered, even what she hasn't ordered, and even things that Princess Zhao couldn't possibly think of, we must think of with great imagination.

It can be imagined that during the few hours when Zhao Min, Zhang Wuji, and Xiaozhao were "drinking and waiting," various departments in the county government must have been operating at high speed, with everyone working frantically. Everyone's minds probably had only one word: boat, boat, boat, boat... As a result, an astonishing plan was born—get Princess Zhao a warship! Because there is no boat better, sturdier, and more impressive than a warship.

This small county town also demonstrated its strong execution ability. In less than a day, the warship was really obtained. The boat was borrowed from the navy. It usually takes a considerable amount of personal favors and money to borrow a boat from a local military unit. Of course, for the county official, cost is not a problem at all when it comes to this matter.

...The story of Zhao Min looking for a boat illustrates a truth: under the system of the Yuan Dynasty in which she lived, officials always had the impulse to go overboard in their actions. If Princess Zhao wanted a boat, everyone below her would go above and beyond, and it would end up becoming a warship. What if Princess Zhao asked everyone to learn the "Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi" technique? Then it would become learning overtime, running while learning, everyone signing up to learn, collective learning for children in private schools, and prenatal education for expectant mothers.

...And, the matter of the warship cannot be entirely blamed on the county official either. He dared not not provide a warship. In other words, in an environment where everyone goes overboard in their work, he dared not risk his future career prospects by not going overboard. What if Miss Zhao actually liked the warship? What if you honestly gave her a civilian boat, but the neighboring county gave her a warship? What if the local authorities gave her a civilian boat, but the navy mysteriously sent a warship? Will you regret it then? Furthermore, even if Miss Zhao herself only wanted an ordinary civilian boat, her boyfriend Zhang Wuji might sarcastically say, "A warship is better." Will you feel embarrassed then? So, if another Miss Zhao comes to ask for a boat, what should the county official do? I'm afraid that you and I today will have to repeat yesterday's story, and still have to give her a warship.

Not to mention whether Lei Lei's interpretation is excessive, but the behavior of officials in this plot can be found in any era. I greatly admire Jin Yong's keen observations.

Authors from the last century drew inspiration from reality, and people today read from old books to new reality.

What has already happened will happen again, and what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun2.


  1. See: "Rereading 'Lei Lei Reads Jin Yong'":

  2. Excerpt from: "The Bible・Ecclesiastes"

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