Ju gong jin cui (Bowing to Exhaustion)
In the year 223 AD, the king of Shu Liu Bei fell ill and died, and his son Liu Shan acceded to the throne. However, Liu Shan was an incompetent leader, and so the heavy responsibility of governing the Shu kingdom fell to the prime minister, Zhuge Liang.
Fearing he would fail in the charge Liu Bei had given him, Zhuge Liang worked night and day and did everything himself. Hoping to increase the Shu kingdom’s size and strength, he persistently sought to unite with the kingdom of Wu against the kingdom of Wei. While keeping friendly relations open with Wu he built up the strength of the military in order to attack Wei to the north.
After a period of preparation, Zhuge Liang decided the time was ripe for an attack to the north. However, this attack was not successful. Zhuge Liang could only return to Shu and wait for his next opportunity to launch a campaign against Wei.
After saving tax revenue for a few more years, Zhuge Liang decided to try again. When he was about to leave, he wrote a message for Liu Shan in which he described in detail the relative circumstances of Shu and Wei. He explained that the powers of the two kingdoms had not been mutually agreed upon. Given the situation, if Shu were not to attack Wei now, Wei would soon attack Shu. Liu Shan read the message and agreed that Zhuge Liang should dispatch the troops to the north. This message is what has become known in history as “The Pre-Dispatch Message.” At the end of it, Zhuge Liang wrote “I will spare no effort (literally “bow to exhaustion”) and fight with my last breath.” to indicate his sincerity and his wish to serve his country.
Unfortunately, the Wei kingdom was much stronger than the Shu kingdom, and this campaign was also unsuccessful. However, Zhuge Liang refused to be discouraged; he continued to look for a chance to advance, driving the army against the power of Wei, until he finally became ill and died in camp with the army. In this way, he fulfilled his aspiration to “spare no effort and fight with his last breath” for Shu.