Prisoners Live Up to Their Promise and Receive Pardons
(Minghui.org) Wang Jia served as a military aid to the official in charge of the Qi Prefecture, today's Shandong Province, during the late years of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420 – 590 AD) and the Sui Dynasty (589 – 618 AD).
Wang, who was not known for accomplishing anything of note, was assigned to escort over 70 prisoners to the capital city.
Prisoners had to wear heavy wooden planks fixed around their necks, with their wrists cuffed to the planks in front of their chins.
When the prisoners, escorted by guards under Wang's command, reached Xingyang (now Henan Province), Wang felt sympathy for them because of the hardship they had to endure and stopped to talk to them.
“You have broken the law and are now paying the price, which causes you harm. The guards escorting you also have to put up with the ordeal of this long trip. Don't you all feel guilty?” he asked.
The prisoners expressed their remorse and shame.
“Although you all broke the law, the wooden plank shackles inflict a lot of pain. I am going to have them removed so that you can continue unhindered. We will regroup at the capital. Will you all show up on time?” he asked.
The prisoners knelt down, thanked him, and said that they would not dare miss the deadline. Wang told the guards to remove all the shackles and then told the guards that they had fulfilled their duty and could go home.
He set the date to meet the prisoners in the capital.
“If you don't show up by then, I will be given the death penalty,” he added and then left.
The prisoners were greatly moved. All of them arrived at the appointed time and place in the capital. Not a single prisoner attempted to escape.
When the emperor learned about this, he was surprised and reflected on it for some time. He then issued an order that all the prisoners be brought into the imperial palace, and he also asked their wives and children to be present.
During a banquet, the emperor pardoned all prisoners for living up to their word and for having understood the risk Wang had taken.
The emperor said, “Endless litigation ensues when officials lack compassion, and ordinary people become treacherous and vindictive. If officials are as considerate as Wang Jia, and the public is as trustworthy and grateful as these former prisoners, there is no need for punishment.”
Adapted from: History of the Northern Dynasties, Volume 86, Biography 74, "Honest Officials."