(Clearwisdom.net) Yan Zi (?-500 B.C.), also named Ying, was a resident in the Country of Qi in the Spring and Autumn Period. He served three monarchs in Qi: the Qiling Monarch, the Qizhuang Monarch, and the Qijing Monarch. Yan Zi was the Prime Minister and he paid attention to thriftiness and promoting a benevolent government. Whenever the Monarch asked him a question pertaining to the government, he would answer it directly and never resorted to flattery.
One day, the Qijing Monarch asked Yan Zi, "When we rule a country, what are we most afraid of?" Yan Zi thought for a while and then answered, "We are most afraid of societal mice and fierce dogs."
The Monarch asked, "Why do you say this?" Yan Zi said, "The royal temple is constructed with wooden materials and then soil is spread on it to mold into statues. Mice see many offerings there to eat, so they hide in the temple and enjoy ample food all their lives. Those people who respect the deities want to kill the mice, but they cannot hit them with sticks. If they want to use fire to burn the mice, they are afraid of damaging the temple. If they want to use water to drown the mice, then they are afraid of damaging the soil in the temple. These mice will have unlimited food and live a happy, carefree life. A country also has such mice and they are those villains that are employed by the monarch. These villains flatter the monarch, report good news, and don't report bad news. They oppress and exploit people and do all kinds of evil. The common people are upset with these villains who are hurting people, but they dare not say so because these villains are protected by the monarch. Therefore, I believe that in order to rule a country well, we need to be determined to get rid of these societal mice."
"Then what is the analogy for fierce dogs?" the Monarch asked.
Yan Zi continued, "There was a businessman who specialized in brewing and selling liquor. His liquor was well-brewed; his liquor containers were well cleaned; the sign for his liquor shop was hung in a conspicuous spot, but no one came to buy liquor from him. He asked his fellow villagers what was the reason. The villagers said: 'It is because you raise a fierce dog at home. People are afraid of being hurt by the fierce dog, so they dare not come and buy liquor from you!' A country is similar to a liquor shop and if you want to make your country developed and prosperous, you have to get rid of all those fierce dogs that scare people off and hurt them."