Restrain the Impulse for Self-Gratification in Public Office, Abstain from a Life of Ease and Arrogance
(Clearwisdom.net) During the Sui Dynasty, in what is now Hebei Province, lived Mr. Zheng, his wife Ms. Cui, and their son, Shanguo. At a very early age, Shanguo lost his father, who fought and died in battle for his country. His mother was left to raise him alone. History has recorded his mother to be a most virtuous and able lady, who upheld high moral integrity after her husband died, read broadly of history and literature, and was well acquainted with governing strategies.
At the age of 14, Zheng Shanguo, with the noble rank inherited from his father, became the feudal provincial governor of Yi state and prefect of Lu eparchy. When Shanguo went to the tribunal to sit in judgment in public affairs, his mother would sit on a stool behind a curtain at the back of the hall and listen carefully to how her son analyzed each situation and rendered his decision. Whenever Shanguo failed to make a fair judgment or lost his temper during the proceedings, his mother would crawl under a quilt and cry when they returned home, eating nothing for the whole day.
"I'm not angry at you," she would tell her son. "Rather, I am ashamed of myself! Your father was honest and upright and never used public office for private gain. He sacrificed himself for the country. I only wish you would hold firmly to your father's principles." She also told him, "As a woman, too much love and too little strictness on my part has resulted in your ignoring virtue at the expense of Confucian teachings and neglect of your father's principles. If things continue this way, how can you take up the mantle of justice for all and be loyal to your country? If this continues, you will undermine our family tradition and violate the directive of a public servant. If so, how could I face your father again when I die?"
Even though her son had a high post and large salary, Ms. Cui neither became arrogant, nor enjoyed the wealth. Rather, she set herself as an example to others by continuing her hardworking and frugal life.
Though Shanguo hardly understood why, day after day his mother would spin and weave late into the night. His mother would tell him, "Your father had wished to distribute his extra wealth to relatives and friends. How could I dare enjoy the wealth alone? Spinning and weaving are the duty of a lady. Everyone, noble or humble, has his obligations. Without fulfilling one's obligation, instead one turns to a life of self-gratification? Although my understanding of Confucian teachings is shallow, how could I ruin my own reputation?"
With his mother's example as well as her verbal instructions, Zheng Shanguo became diligent in his duties, maintained good self-control, and abstained from self-indulgent behavior. In the end, he grew up to be a fair, incorruptible, aboveboard official. In time, Emperor Yang sent a delegate to honor him for his unselfish service to the public by bestowing upon him the rank of "His Lordship."