Sima Yi held a pile of books in her arms in excitement. Unlike the other children at her age, she loved reading. She could spend the whole day doing it. One day she overheard her father sighing outside the study, and thought it must be something related to politics troubling her father again. She opened the door and asked, ‘Father, what’s bothering you again?’ ‘Oh, Yi. Just when I need you.’ Her father happily held her onto his lap.
He pointed at a document and said, ‘The recent drought is dragging down our agriculture. The emperor asked for a solution from me to prevent it from happening again, but how is it possible? I’m just an ordinary man. How could I stop a natural disaster?’ Sima Yi could not help but laugh at father’s troubled look. She casually suggested, ‘You cannot stop a natural disaster, but you can soothe the harm it brings.’ She spread a map on the table and pointed at the stream near the farms. ‘Father, do you remember this river sometimes overflows due to its limited capacity? Divert the river water to dry lands to open up new water sources. The diversion should provide water for irrigation and lower the chance of river flood. One stone, two birds.’ Sima Yi’s idea relieved her father's worries. He smiled and wrote down the solution.
’I couldn’t have solved the problem without Yi. You’re incredibly clever!’ ‘That’s for sure! I’ll become a remarkable official to serve our country!’ said Sima Yi with confidence. Her father smiled at her ambition, ‘Silly, a female can’t become an official!’ ‘It’s hard to say. I may be the one who changes the system one day.
Young Sima Yi held hopes for the future. She worked hard aiming to become an official, despite the despite having been told repeatedly that women could never become one.' She remained confident in changing the system. However, as she grew up, she understood and experienced more of this patriarchal society. A female, even with the greatest capability, could never be considered qualified as an official because of the system. She could not do anything about it. Although her father always wanted her to just stay at home, away from trouble, she would occasionally dress as man to peep at the minutes of the officials or to eavesdrop on their meeting to satisfy her curiosity.
The officials' suggestions always sounded naive and hollow to Sima Yi. Their incapability made her even more frustrated about the gender-inequality. She felt more contemptuous of men and helpless for her gender. One day she sneaked into the side hall that stored the minutes. She read through the recent records and murmured better solutions and more efficient measures to herself. Suddenly someone pushed the door. She shrank in the corner, hoping to avoid getting spotted. Two voices came from the hall. She peeped and found two men talking…
’Cao Cao, why’d you bring me here? Is it about training your troops all over again? Drop it! It won’t happen!’’
The man named Cao Cao had sharp eyes that could read minds. He seemed relaxed, as if he had everything under control. As Cao Cao remained in silence, the other man walked to the door. All of a sudden Cao Cao burst into laughter, ‘By the way, how does it feel to sleep with a man?’ The man froze, and said,’I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ Cao Cao stepped up to him and continued, ‘The almighty general never showed any interest in a woman because of his obsession with men...Pity even your wife know nothing about it. What would happen to your stance if I told everyone about it?’ ‘You…!’ The man seized Cao Cao’s collar and raised his fist with glaring eyes, but as he weighed his options, he released Cao Cao. He endured the anger and asked, ‘Will you promise to keep it a secret if I support the troops training?’ ‘I’ll think about it.’ The man could not do anything against Cao Cao’s threat. He nodded and left the hall.