Ancient Stories of Unselfishness and Righteousness
(Clearwisdom.net) In his book Virtuous Stories, Li Yuangang from the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) recorded many historical stories of virtuous people. Here are three of them.
Zhao Bian Did Not Put His Personal Interests before the Public Interest
During the Zhihe Period of the Song Dynasty (1054-1056 AD), Mr. Fan Jingren was appointed the Remonstrance Official. His responsibility was to offer advice to the Emperor. Mr. Zhao Bian was appointed to the Censorate, a supervisory agency in ancient China that monitored government agents. They once had a serious conflict over a government issue, and Wang Anshi noticed it.
Later, Wang Anshi became the Prime Minister during the Xining Period (1068-1077 AD). He didn't like Fan Jingren and often bad mouthed Fan in front of the Emperor. One day he told the Emperor, "You may find out more about Fan from Zhao Bian."
After some time, the Emperor asked Zhao Bian, "Tell me what you think about Fan Jingren." Zhao replied, "Fan is a loyal official. He is not a flatterer or underhanded."
The Emperor then asked, "Why do you say that?" Zhao replied, "In 1056, Emperor Renzong was in poor health. Fan was the first to suggest to Emperor Renzong that he appoint his successor so as to stabilize the state. Wasn't that a loyal act?"
The Emperor agreed.
As Zhao was about to leave, Wang Anshi asked him, "Didn't you once have a conflict with Fan?"
Zhao replied, "Whatever I say is in the public interest. I would not dare put my personal interests before the public interest."
Yang Xie Did Not Mix Public Affairs with Personal Issues
Minister Yang Xie (980-1048) was appointed to direct the Institute of Official Examinations. Li Yuanhao (1003-1048, later became Emperor Jingzong of Western Xia) from Western Xia wanted to seek a peace agreement with the Song Dynasty rather than declare allegiance to it.
Yang Xie suggested to the Emperor, "We have sent troops to fight with them every year. Now the state is quite financially stressed. Why don't we write to him, accept his request, and find ways to eliminate him later?"
Censorates Ouyang Xiu and Cai Xiang each submitted a report recommending that Yang be impeached. They criticized Yang, a high-ranking official, for failing to find the means to suppress the enemy and, instead, supporting Yuanhao's request to not declare allegiance. They suggested that Yang be executed for this "wrongdoing."
Yang Xie was very regretful and asked to be demoted and sent to Yuezhou, a remote town, as a local official. On his way to Yuezhou, his appointment was changed to be a local official in Hangzhou. At that time, Cai Xiang also happened to arrive in Hangzhou to welcome his parents. Cai didn't return to the court on time, because he went sightseeing for pleasure.
Someone suggested to Yang Xie, "Cai Xiang once recommended your execution Now he has failed to act properly. Why don't you report him to the Emperor?"
Yang answered, "Cai Xiang attacked me over a public issue. He
did so in an open and fair manner. How could I seek revenge by
exposing his private affairs?"
Wei Renpu Did Not Abuse His Power for Personal Revenge
Prime Minister Wei Renpu (911-969) was once attacked by Jia
Yanhui with slanderous rumors and was almost discharged.
Later, Wei led an army into battle and was authorized to kill. Someone brought Jia Yanhui to him, saying, "Now you have the power to kill him."
Wei replied, "I cannot abuse my power in battle to take personal revenge."
Everyone admired him as an honest elder statesman.
Wei Renpu once helped Emperor Shizong of the Later Zhou Dynasty (921-959). Emperor Shizong was impetuous and often killed people on a whim. Many times Wei Renpu went to the rescue and was able to save seven or eight people out of ten. He later followed Emperor Shizong in many battles. No one ever died unjustly under his sword.
Indeed, it is said:
Acting out of integrity,
Enforcement out of fairness;
Broadminded and honesty admired by the world,
Feeling no regret to Heaven, Earth and Conscience.