(Minghui.org) (Continued from Stories of How People in Ancient Times Repented and Started Anew, Part 2)

3. Kou Zhun: An Official with Integrity Serves the People

Kou Zhun was a Shanxi Province resident in the Northern Song Dynasty of China. He was born into a family of intellectuals. His father died soon after his birth, and the family had to rely completely on the textiles his mother wove to survive.

A Good Upbringing

Oftentimes Kou Zhun's mother taught him and urged him to become a useful person through hard work as she spun her thread and did her weaving. Little Kou Zhun's intelligence excelled among his peers. At the age of seven, he wrote the famous poem Ode to Mount Hua in just three minutes. It later became a famous story passed down through generations.

Kou Zhun did not disappoint his mother. He went to the capital at the age of 18 to sit for the National Examination, which sought to identify intelligent intellectuals to be government officials. He was among the few who were selected for their outstanding performance.

The good news spread to his hometown. At the time his mother was seriously ill. As her dying wish, his mother gave a painting she had made to her housemaid and told her, “Kou Zhun is bound to become a government official in the future. If he makes any mistake, give this painting to him.”

Tempering Extravagance

Kou Zhun later became the prime minister of the Northern Song Dynasty. He decided to celebrate his birthday by inviting all his colleagues to an extravagant banquet with opera performances, thus showing off his status and wealth to his guests.

The housemaid thought it was the right time and brought out the painting. Kou Zhun opened the painting, which depicted him reading a book under the pine oil lamp with his mother weaving textile by the side. There was also a verse on the side of the painting that read, “Endure the hardship of studying under the dim light; I hope you will cultivate yourself for the sake of others; It is your mother's teaching to live a thrifty life; In the time of future wealth, forget not being poor.”

Obviously, the painting and the verse were a dying wish from his mother. Kou Zhun read it over and over again and burst into tears. He asked the guests to leave and called off the banquet.

From then on, he conducted himself strictly according to high principles, treated others generously, and carried out his official business with integrity. He eventually became one of the most famous and beloved prime ministers of the Song Dynasty.

A Fair and Just Prime Minister

After Kou Zhun became the prime minister, he encountered two corrupt officials. Wang Huai embezzled tens of millions of dollars and lost his position only to regain it soon after. Zu Ji was executed for a similar but much lighter offense.

Kou Zhun was aware that Wang Huai was punished less severely because his brother was a prince. At the time, there was a drought. Kou Zhun advised the emperor that the drought was a warning from Heaven that corrupt officials were not being dealt with fairly. He openly denounced the nepotism practiced by the prince in front of the whole court of imperial officials, to which the prince had no reply. As a result, the emperor ordered Wang Huai be re-tried.

Kou Zhun never pandered to his superiors, and his honesty offended a lot of high level officials with prestigious status in the imperial administration.

For this he was demoted to a small town official.

Re-called in Desperate Times

During Emperor Zhenzong's rule, the northern neighboring kingdom of Liao deployed 200,000 troops to invade the Song Dynasty. The Song Dynasty was in peril as the Liao troops conquered major cities and kept pressing toward Song's capital. Most imperial court officials were in panic and many suggested the capital be moved.

The then prime minister Bi Shi'an recommended to Emperor Zhenzong that Kou Zhun be made prime minister again to turn the country around. The emperor made both of them prime ministers.

Kou Zhun was determined to resist the invasion and recover all the lost land. He advised the emperor to head the military forces himself to revive the morale of the troops.

To prevent the corrupt officials from influencing the emperor, Kou Zhun sent them off to the front lines. Under his strong leadership and firm determination, the Song military regained its confidence and momentum and soon won a major battle.

Afterward, the Liao troops fell back and proposed a truce, after which they did not dare to attempt another invasion.

There followed decades of peace for the people residing on either side of the border. Kou Zhun's contribution was widely acknowledged.

Kou Zhun was made prime minister twice, spanning 30 years in the position. Through the years he adhered to the same upright principles and was loved by the general public and the imperial officials alike. Even officials from the neighboring Kingdom Liao expressed their admiration for Kou Zhun.