Selflessly Serve the Public, Respect Virtue and Love the People
(Clearwisdom.net) Zhao Bian was from the Qu County of Zhejiang Province during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD). He passed the national exam to become a government official when he was at the young age of 27. He served during three regimes: Emperor Ren, Emperor Ying, and Emperor Shen. He was well known for being upright, generous with the people, and careful with his own conduct,.
When Zhao was the General Secretary of the Royal Court, he was devoted to his job and responsibilities. He was said to be "fearless of those in power" and spoke with authority, and was nicknamed "Iron-Faced General Secretary."Emperor Ren appointed Chen Xu, who was a sycophant, to be the vice premier. Zhao immediately wrote a letter to the Emperor and pointed out that Chen "lied to the Emperor, took advantage of his public post for personal interest, and only tried to please those around the Emperor." When the Emperor ignored his letter, Zhao wrote 17 more letters in the next few months to explain the principles of ruling a country and hiring officials, to list evidence of Chen's corruption, and to persuade the Emperor that having Chen in that post would result in disasters for the country. He kept writing until Emperor Ren fired Chen.
Zhao always put the public's interest first. When discussing policy, Fan Zhen, another official, often debated with Zhao. Most people thought the two did not get along. Once, Emperor Shen openly criticized Fan for his errors. The Emperor then asked the other officials about their opinions of Fan. Zhao said, "Fan is very loyal."The Emperor asked, "How do you know?" Zhao said, "When Emperor Ren was ill in bed, Fan was the first to advise the Emperor to name a crown prince, to settle the public's anxiety. It took the emperor 100 days to approve Fan's proposal. The delay made Fan so anxious that all his hair and beard turned white. Isn't he a loyal official?" After leaving the Royal Court, another official asked Zhao, "Fan is always opposing you. Why did you speak in his favor?" Zhao said, "Our debates are for the interest of the public, not our self interests. How could I put my self interest ahead of that of the public?"
Later in his life, Zhao was demoted to a post in a local government because he did not agree with certain powerful politicians. However, Zhao did not mind his demotion and was devoted to serving his people. He was very honest and frugal. Whenever he traveled, he always went on a horse by himself, only carrying his zither and a crane. That's why today, the expression, "one zither and one crane" is often used to refer to an honest official. When he was posted in central Sichuan Province, he founded many schools and focused on education. He often taught classes himself. As a result of his good leadership, the people of central Sichuan Province were content, and many residents of neighboring areas moved to central Sichuan. Before Zhao became the administrator of Qingzhou, Qingzhou suffered from a drought and a locust plague. After Zhao's arrival, there was a great wind that blew all the locusts into a river, and rain began to fall. People all said this was a result of Zhao's virtue.
Zhao's honesty was reflected in his conduct as a person and as an official. Every evening, he prayed to the heavens and examined the things he did that day. He believed in Buddhas his whole life. He also told others to do good deeds, be diligent in pursuing the Tao, and cultivate virtue to keep a kind heart. He understood that the true purpose of this life is to return to one's original, true self.