It was around before the Warring States period in old China came to an end. Adm. Bai Qi of the Qin Dynasty won huge victory over the Zhou Dynasty in Changfeng in 262 B.C. but did not leave 400,000 captivities alive. The figure might have been exaggerated but it clearly shows how massive the killing was. Later, the admiral was executed due to false accusations and deceptions. He was filled with fury and frustration, screaming why he would be killed this miserable way. Then, he was reminded of the mass killing in Changfeng, talking to himself that he paid a hefty price for his doing.
Gen. Li Guang of the Han Dynasty was renowned for his leadership but failed to get promoted. He asked a fortuneteller about his fate. Then, she asked him back if he had ever done anything regrettable. He confessed that he killed 800 Kang tribal people even though they surrendered when he led a region called Nongseo. Li Guang succeeded in suppressing the upheaval of the Kang tribe, but he had to prevent against another rebellion to climb up the military ladder. Blinded by his aims, he broke his words that he would save them if they surrender.
The two warriors had a reason to carry out a massacre. The aims of war in the Spring and Autumn period were to subjugate other nations but those during the Warring States period were to conquer them. Thus, depleting the other’s military capabilities was part of war strategies, making it not rare to kill soldiers who have already kneeled. The accusers must have convinced themselves that all of it was for grand cause. At the same time, however, they must have lived the rest of their lifetime with a sense of guilt somewhere deep in their hearts given that they were reminded of such wrongdoing when they got in trouble later.
The two old stories tell us that an aim never justifies a method. The true lesson here is that we people are likely to justify our acts when we are faced with a great mission, a grand cause or a large profit. Just as a mass killing is executed in war, those who act like a moral saint or a principle follower turn into the opposite, forgetting what kind of a person they previously were when they grab power. A true leader does not cover himself with morals and principles irresponsibly but faces the harshness of the reality, admit the limits honestly. With courage in his mind, he tries to do his utmost efforts to walk along the path to conscience and morality.