Cao Cao asked Sima Yi: “Why are your feet whiter than your face and hands?”.
Sima Yi replied, “I don’t know.”
Cao Cao smiled and said: “Because it is always covered!”.
This question of Cao Cao has penetrated the heart of Sima Yi.
In the sixth year of Jian’an, 201, Cao Cao, who was holding the position of Tu Khong (an official in the Han court), invited Sima Yi to serve in his palace. However, Sima Yi did not agree.
Sima Yi was born in a time of turmoil, acts decisively, bravely and strategizes. At that time, Cao Cao forced the Emperor to order the recruitment of talented and virtuous vassals to plot great things, many times recruiting Sima Yi to take office. Sima Yi did not want to be an official with Cao Cao because he thought he was a eunuch and had great ambition.
So Sima Yi pretended to be full of illness, saying that he had leprosy. Cao Cao sent someone to check, Sima Yi lay motionless on the bed, so Cao Cao had to give up, no longer intending to recruit people under his command.
7 years later, Cao Cao attacked Nhi Vien (Vien Thieu, Vien Thuat), captured Xuzhou, conquered Wuhuan (ancient nomadic tribe in Northern China), unified the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River, and was granted the title. Prime Minister of the Han Dynasty.
At this time, Cao Cao recruited Sima Yi again, if he did not take office, he threatened to arrest him immediately. Sima Yi had to obey orders. Cao Cao was very suspicious, Sima Yi tried to hide his heart. However, gold always shines, Cao Cao gradually realizes that Sima Yi has a “heroic spirit” and also has a “wolf silhouette”.
Cao Cao and Sima Yi had such a conversation.
Cao Cao walked barefoot on the street and asked Sima Yi: “Why do you say your feet are whiter than your hands and face?”. Sima Yi replied that he did not know, and Cao Cao continued: “Because the feet are always covered!”.
Cao Cao’s question of course contains a deep meaning. We all know the soles of the feet are always recessed and can hide something. The world is impermanent, people’s hearts are complicated, but it’s not like that, everyone has their own dark and secret parts. Here, Cao Cao is implying that Sima Yi has his own ambition and ambition.
At the same time, the feet are whiter than the face and hands because of often wearing shoes, shielding from the sun. Cao Cao asked this question with the intention of warning Sima Yi’s loyalty. Sima Yi worked under Cao Cao; Sima Yi is the foot, and Cao Cao is the shoe for the foot to put on.
If Cao Cao did not allow those feet to wear shoes, then Sima Yi would no longer be protected and protected. Cao Cao wants to warn Sima Yi that if you live under someone’s authority, you must know your fate and give up your ambition, otherwise disaster will come and you will not be able to handle it in time.
Realizing the meaning behind Cao Cao’s question, Sima Yi humbled himself to dust off the ground, clearing the way for Cao Cao to walk. This action shows that Sima Yi understood the owner’s intentions, Cao Cao saw that and walked back to the carriage with satisfaction.
Serving under Cao Cao, Sima Yi had great ambitions, but he knew how to be patient throughout the three Cao clans. Despite knowing Sima Yi’s deep and unpredictable nature, Cao Cao still used this person, because he knew that only Sima Yi could help him fight the Crouching Dragon Zhuge Liang of Shu.
Cao Cao died, after a long time tolerating Cao Sang to wait for the right opportunity, Sima Yi carried out a overthrow of Cao Thi in 249, thereby gaining the highest position in the Wei court.
This leadership position continues to be held by his two sons, Sima Su and Sima Zhao. After a period of radical power acquisition, Sima Yi’s grandson Sima Viem officially usurped the Wei house, establishing the Jin dynasty, ending the Three Kingdoms period.
Cao Cao in the Three Kingdoms period was an extremely capable person, along with a suspicious nature. He believes that anyone can turn against him, so “it is better to be one step ahead than to be stabbed in the back by others”. Cao Cao asked this question with the intention of warning, but he did not expect Sima Yi’s patience to be so great, so that the Wei Dynasty collapsed in ruin.
Source: 163, Sohu