The Court Official Who Was at Ease Being Poor
(Clearwisdom.net) Confucius said: "A gentleman should be at ease being poor." This means that a gentleman should be at peace with being poor and not lose his good character. Gao Yun, from the North Wei Dynasty, was a "Zhongshuling," a title for a high officer in the Imperial Court. He was such a gentleman, one who was at peace with being poor.
During this time, the officers in the Imperial Court of the North Wei Dynasty did not earn a salary. In general, all the officers had their own property except for Gao Yun. He was so poor that he often relied on his sons to go up into the mountains to gather wood. That, however, did not change his aspirations. In the Imperial Court, he was known for his honest and direct advice to the emperor. If anything was done improperly in the Imperial Court, he would request to meet with the emperor. Tuo Bajun, the Wencheng Emperor of the North Wei Dynasty, often asked others to leave the court so he could talk privately with Gao Yun. Sometimes, his words were very passionate and to the point. When Tuo Bajun could not bear to listen any more, he would ask others to escort Gao Yun away. Tuo Bajun, however, still trusted Gao Yun very much and promoted him to the position of Zhongshuling.
One day, Lu Li, a high-ranking official, could not help but tell Emperor Tuo Bajun, "Your Majesty, although you have promoted Gao Yun, he is very poor!"
Surprised, the emperor said, "How is that possible?"
Lu Li said, "It is indeed true. His wife has no decent clothes to wear, so she cannot even receive anyone."
Immediately, Emperor Tuo Bajun went to Gao Yun's home. He found that Gao Yun's straw home had only a few rooms. On the bed there was only an old quilt made of coarse cloth. His wife wore an old cotton garment. The kitchen had only some pickles in it to eat. Tuo Bajun was deeply touched and immediately gave Gao Yun 500 rolls of silk and 1,000 bushels of grain and appointed Gao Yun's eldest son, Gao Yue, to be magistrate of Changle County. Gao Yun firmly declined the offer, but the emperor insisted.
From then on, Emperor Tuo Bajun trusted Gao Yun even more and often referred to him in very respectful terms instead of by his name.
A story selected from Zizhitongdian, an authoritative book on Chinese history.
February 9, 2006