The old horse knows the way

Guan Zhong was a well-known politician during the Spring and Autumn period. He accompanied Qi Huan Gong 685-633 BC, ruler of the State of Qi, on s military expedition against the State of Gu Zhu which was a small state located in a remote area.

There were many mountains and ridges as well as innumerable streams and fords separating it from the State of Qi. It was Spring time when they left, but when they returned, it was already winter. The scenery along the way had undergone great changes and it was difficult to find the way back. As a result, the army lost its way.

Qi Huan Gong and Guan Zhong led the army moving here and there along the mountain paths, wasting a lot of time without being able to find the way back. At that time, it was snowing increasingly with the strong wind blowing harder and harder. The provisions brought by the troops were soon to be exhausted and everybody was very worried, but nobody could think of a way to overcome the difficulty confronting them.

Just then, Guan Zhong had an idea and he told Qi Huan Gong about it. He said, "We should try the wisdom of an horse. It is said that an old horse will not forget the way it has walked over. We can use our old horses to look for the way back."

Qi Huan Gong agreed and ordered a round-up of all the old horses in the army and let them lead the soldiers. They followed the old horses moving here and there among the mountains and eventually found the way back. Thus, the whole army was saved and everybody praised Guan Zhong for his bright idea.

The saying is now used metaphorically to describe an experienced person who is in a position to lead others. It is sometimes also used to describe a person who really knows the way.


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