During the Spring and Autumn Period, a Shi family in the State of Lu had two sons. One of them studied liberal arts and the other martial arts.
The son who studied liberal arts went to the State of Qi to advocate his doctrines, which were well received by the Lord of Qi. The Lord appointed him Tai Fu (one of the three highest officials to teach several princes of the State of Lu.
The son who studied martial arts went to the State of Chu to tell the King of Chu his own military strategies. The King of Chu gladly asked him to stay to help administer military and political affairs.
The two sons of the Shi family achieved success and fame, brought honour to their ancestors, and the whole family enjoyed high position and enormous wealth.
The next-door family, the Meng family, also had two sons. They learned liberal arts and martial arts in the same way, but remained poor and frustrated.
The Meng family was envious of the Shi family’s achievements, and visited them to ask about the ways of winning promotion and getting rich. The two sons of the Shi family told the Meng family their experiences as they were.
Thereupon, the son of the Meng family who studied liberal arts went to the State of Qin to advocate "benevolence and righteousness". At this, the King of Qin was very displeased. He said:
"Nowadays the feudal lords under the emperor are seeking hegemony and fighting one another. We should devote our efforts to farming and preparations for war. If we adopt your doctrines of benevolence and righteousness to govern our state, we will be on the way to destruction." Then he ordered to castrate the son of the Meng family and deport him from the State of Qin.
The other son of the Meng family who studied martial arts went to the State of Wei and talked at length with the Lord of Wei about the doctrine of strengthening the army. The Lord of Wei was very disgusted and said angrily:
"Our state is small and weak, and situated in between several large states. We treat the large states with reverence and courtesy, and the small states with respect and care. This is the only correct strategy to keep peace and guarantee safety. If we follow what you said and mobilize the army for war, our state will be destroyed very soon. Today, if I let you go intact to other states to confuse and poison people's minds to wantonly engage in military aggression, it will certainly put us in big danger." So he ordered to cut off both feet of the son of the Meng family and drive him back to the State of Lu.
When the two sons of the Meng family returned home, they and their father, all three of them, rushed to the Shi family to rebuke them.
After the Shi family learned about the situation, they said with a sigh of emotion:
"Only those who understand the times will get along smoothly in life. Otherwise they will end up in tragic failure. Though your sons have learned the same things as ours, the results are entirely different from ours."