(Clearwisdom.net) Mr. Zhang Qianzai was a scholar in Luling, Jiangxi Province, during the South Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279). In ancient China, a person often had a nickname used in place of his given name to symbolize his character. In addition, a scholar often selected a pen name for himself to express his aspirations or characteristics. Mr. Zhang’s nickname was Yifu, and his pen name was Yi’e, meaning "one sea eagle."

Mr. Wen Tianxiang (1236 – 1283) is regarded as one of the most famous symbols of loyalty and patriotism in China. He was also from Luling. Zhang and Wen were good friends when they were young. Eventually, Wen was promoted to Prime Minister and became very powerful. A lot of Wen’s old friends sought connections with him or made use of his power after he was promoted. Wen nominated Zhang Qianzai to be an official several times, but Zhang always declined the offer.

When Kublai Khan (1215 – 1294), grandson of Genghis Khan and Khagan of the Mongol Empire, led the Mongol army to invade Song, Wen led the Song forces in defense. When Wen was captured by Kublai Khan and was faced with imminent danger; Zhang did what he could to help. Wen was escorted to Jizhou City, and Zhang secretly visited him. In tears, he told him, "Prime Minister, you will be sent to Yanjing City (present Beijing). I will go with you."

Wen Tianxiang was sent to the north and imprisoned there, and Zhang Qianzai moved to a house near the prison. He went to the prison every day to bring meals to Wen. He did this for three years without interruption. He also dared to bring Wen’s poems and articles out of the prison.

Wen was executed, and Zhang risked his life to hide Wen's body and bury him. He inquired all over to find Mrs. Wen, and went through all kinds of hardships and difficulties to take her Mr. Wen’s hair, teeth, and manuscripts.

Later, people used the phrase, "Friends who are ready to die for each other – that’s Yi’e, whose friendship lasted for a thousand years" to describe their friends that valued friendship and righteousness.

Besides righteousness, what other principles are necessary for a friendship? Mr. Wang Yangming, a well-known scholar during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) said, "It’s very important to be modest and humble when making friends. Friends should be modest and open-minded, sincere and respectful, tolerant and forgiving, with less criticism and more sincere praise and encouragement." In "Conducting Norm" (or "Shi Fan"), it is said, "Although everyone has shortcomings in his nature and his acts, he inevitably has strong points. If we only pay attention to their shortcomings and pay no attention to their strong points, then it’s hard to get along even for a short period of time. If we only pay attention to others’ strong points, and give no thoughts to their shortcomings, then we can get along for a lifetime."