Broadmindedness and Modesty
(Clearwisdom.net) Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) Emperor Guangwu (Liu Xiu 5 BC-57AD), was highly respected by his ministers and people because of his broadmindedness, modesty, respectfulness, and approachability. Unlike despotic rulers, he was never opinionated, conceited, arrogant, or patronizing. Even people who had a bias against him would swear allegiance to him after they got to know him better.
Liu Xiu's right-hand man Ma Yuan (14BC-49AD) had first been a follower of Wei Xiao, a ruling general of the Xizhou region. At the time Wei Xiao on the west, Liu Xiu on the east, and Gongsun Shu on the southwest were three rivals, wary of each other's moves. Wei Xiao learned that Gongsun Shu had the intention to declare himself the king of the state of Shu; so he sent Ma Yuan to sound Liu Xiu and Gongsun Shu out before deciding what to do next.
Ma Yuan and Gongsun Shu were from the same home town and had been childhood buddies. But the presumptuous and patronizing Gongsu Shu did not meet Ma until he made sure he would be in the spotlight in the welcoming ceremony and his guards were put on full alert.
When Ma Yuan went to visit Liu Xiu, on the other hand, Liu did not stand on ceremony by sitting on his throne surrounded by his aids. Instead, he was all by himself in the Xunde Hall of Luoyang Palace waiting to see Ma. He smiled at the sight of Ma and greeted him, "I admire your courage to shuttle between two emperors. That shows the wealth of knowledge and experience you possess. It's really my great honor to see you today. "
Impressed by Liu's humility and modesty, Ma said, "In today's world, not only will the emperors pick their virtuous ministers; but also the ministers will choose virtuous emperors." Ma also asked Liu if he was afraid that Ma could be an assassin. To which Liu replied that he regarded him as a messenger, and a messenger should be treated with courtesy.
Upon his return, Ma Yuan told Wei Xiao that Gongsun Shu, like a well frog, was too conceited. When commenting on Liu Xiu, Ma praised him as the real leader, saying, "Emperor Guangwu and I met dozens of times, and we always talked like close friends. Emperor Guangwu struck me as a man of superb talent and courage. I was thoroughly impressed by his frankness, straightforwardness, broadmindedness, and humility. "
Ma's report cleared the doubt in Wei Xiao's mind, so he sent his son, Wei Xun, to the eastern capital city of Luoyang, to show his good will to Emperor Guangwu. Not long after Ma Yuan, too, went to Luoyang, bringing his family along, and became an able general under Emperor Guangwu.
Once Liu Xiu returned from a hunting trip late at night, and wanted to enter Luoyang City from its northeastern gate. But the officer guarding the gate, Zhi Yun, refused to open the gate. Liu asked his assistant to light a torch and announce the return of the Emperor. Zhi Yun still refused to open the gate, saying, "Fires are flashing in the distance, and I can't figure out who they really are." So Liu had to give up and enter the city from the eastern gate. The next day, Zhi Yun submitted a report, pointing out that Liu's action--indulging in hunting day in and day out--set a negative example and endangered the state. Liu, instead of punishing Zhi, rewarded him with 100 rolls of cloth.
Zhou Dang, a man known for his talent in Taiyuan Prefecture, did not want to be an official. Dressed in ordinary people's clothes and his head wrapped in tree skin, he went to seek an audience with Liu Xiu. The protocol then dictated that he should announce his name to Liu before making his statement, but he did not follow that protocol and went straight to telling Liu that he was not interested in becoming an official. Some ministers took it that Zhou Dang tried to gain a reputation of despising fame and wealth by being defiant in front of the Emperor; so he should be charged with the crime of "being disrespectful" and punished accordingly. But Liu did not buy that and told his ministers, "Since ancient times there have always been people who do not want to be officials under their wise kings and noble lords. Bo Yi and Shu Qi who did not want to work for King Zhouwen were typical examples. Zhou Dang from Taiyuan didn't want to accept a post in the imperial court, and that's his own will. Give him 40 rolls of silk. "
Liu Xiu often described himself as having "little merit" in his imperial edicts, and asked those who submitted documents to him not to call him the "august wisdom". From time to time various prefectures and counties would report some "praiseworthy and auspicious " local events to the imperial court, and the ministers suggested that record officials compile them into books to be passed on to later generations. But Liu Xiu disapproved.
Some ministers and generals advised Liu Xiu more than once of holding the grand ceremony of worshiping heaven and earth. The modest Liu issued the imperial edict, saying, "The 30 years of my throne have been marked by sadness and complaints of my people, and there have been no merits and achievements to speak of. So what qualifications do I have to hold such a divine ceremony? Before my time, Qi Henggong wanted to hold the ceremony, and he was criticized by Guan Zhong. No one should mention it again in the future, or he will be punished without pardon. " Since then no ministers ever brought up the topic.
June 5, 2006