In a previous post, I mentioned about the Chinese History Timeline and The Warring States period. More history lessons in this post! As an aside I thought I should mention: so this story happened during The Eastern Han dynasty which was part of The Han dynasty. The Han dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China and, as you might or might not know, the Chinese script is often referred to as "Han characters".
For those really interested in Chinese culture and ancient history, another thing that you may want to study further is the book mentioned in this story called 史记 (Shǐ Jì) which is the Records of the Grand Historian Sima Qian. This is a classic book that all Chinese people must have heard of in their life but they may not know much about it. I think book is worth a read so when you have some spare time maybe you may want to take a quick peak, but if you don't have the time, you can check out an overview on it's Wikipedia page.
There are several difficult words in this post so I would rate it at an Intermediate level. Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions about any phrases or expressions.
骁勇善战(Xiāo Yǒng Shàn Zhàn) - means to be brave and good at battles
百战百赢(Bǎi Zhàn Bǎi Yíng) - It literally means = "100 battles. 100 victories" however the figurative meaning is a 100% winning rate (one who has never been defeated).
投降(Tóu Xiáng) - surrender
嫉妒(Jì Dù) - jealous
指责(Zhǐ Zé) - blame
谣言(Yáo Yán) - rumor
Li Ling planned to temporarily surrender first whilst waiting for an opportunity to strike back.
However, when the news of his defeat reached the capital, the officials around the king who were jealous of Li Ling all started finding fault and blaming him.
The Emperor was very angry and consequently executed Li’s wife and mother. Si Ma Qian (an official) had always respected Li Ling and did not believe that Li Ling surrendered for no reason, so he counselled the Emperor to not trust the rumour. Nevertheless, because of this, the Emperor vented his anger towards Si Ma Qian, arrested him and punished him severely.
Soon after, Si Ma Qian wrote a long letter to his friend saying: "I am currently writing a history book, if I die [because of this book], it will be like an insignificant drop in the ocean which does not matter at all. However I am willing to take the punishment to complete this book." Eventually, Si Ma Qian finalised this famous historical literature which has been circulated for over a thousand years ---《SHI JI - note that this is how Chinese people cite literature》