During the Spring Autumn Warring State Period, the Wu Kingdom and the Yue Kingdom are at constant war with each other. Following its defeat, Emperor Gou-jian and the military strategist Fan Li of the Yue Kingdom are held hostage in the Wu Kingdom. Fan Li and his beloved Xi Shi are separated. Three years later, they return to the Yue Kingdom but there is no reunion for Fan Li and Xi Shi. In a plot to dethrone the ruler of Wu, Fan Li decides to send his soul mate Xi Shi to the Wu Kingdom to spy on the Wu ruler and to distract him from the affairs of the state. It is painful and heartbreaking for them to part. But regaining freedom for their country is a far more honourable goal. As subjects of a defeated kingdom, they are denied their rights. With heavy hearts, the lovers bid a tearful farewell. Xi Shi leaves behind her beloved and her country to seek revenge on the Wu Kingdom.
The silhouette of the legendary beauty Xi Shi leaving to accomplish a great mission for the Yue Kingdom remains strongly etched on the psyche of future generations. Yet the more important lesson from this episode in history is to be learnt when she returns to the Yue Kingdom years later. Fan Li goes to the Wu Kingdom to bring her back. The visionary military strategist decides to quit politics for business. He reckons from his encounter with the emperor of Yue Kindom, that while his ruler is a strong ally in times of hardship, he will make a bad leader in good times. Fan Li adopts a new name, Tao Zhugong. As an outstanding master strategist, he is adept at understanding human nature. He becomes a very successful businessman and amasses great wealth. According to economic historians, hi wealth in terms of present day parity exceeds that of Bill Gates of Microsoft. He leaves behind a legacy – the Twelve Principles of Business Success.