An Honest Official and a "Pavilion of Clear Conscience"
(Minghui.org) Zhu Shang (1482-1539) was born in Shahe City, Hebei Province, during the Ming Dynasty. He was a wise man with integrity. He upheld justice and won the hearts of the people he served.
In 1515 Zhu was in charge of the salt industry in the Hedong area. At the time Qian Ning, one of Emperor Wuzong's trusted royal guards, had long been profiting from allowing his people to trade salt privately in Hedong. Qian was domineering, had the Emperor's support, and no one dared to talk about his illegal salt business.
Zhu stepped in, banned Qian's private salt trade, and punished those involved.
Zhu cared about his people and their livelihood. He wrote "A Poem about Scooping Salt" after seeing how hard the men worked in such tough conditions on hot summer days to make salt. In the poem, he vividly and truthfully described the tough lives of the ten thousand salt makers who were there by conscription and how they missed their families. He expressed deep sympathy for these people.
Emperor Wuzong was an extravagant man who couldn't have cared less about state affairs. He endowed the eunuchs with great political power and let them run the country.
Li Jian was a eunuch who collected high taxes in Shandong in the name of paying tribute to the emperor, leaving the locals in misery. Wang Xiang, an honest official, discovered it and patrolled the area.
Wang sent out a warrant to have Li removed from office. Li disputed it in front of the emperor and spoke ill of Wang. The emperor then put Wang in prison.
When Zhu returned to the royal court and found out what had happened, he wrote two letters to the throne, one to ask for Wang's pardon and the other to have Li removed from office. Zhu asked the emperor to discern right from wrong, loyalty from treachery. The emperor spared Wang the death penalty.
The emperor put a crafty official, Jiang Bin, in an important position so that Jiang could rob the peasants of their farms and build imperial homes for the emperor to enjoy. Jiang encouraged the emperor to leave the royal court and tour the country. The emperor abandoned state affairs for months and lived a dissolute life. When many of the court officials complained, asking the emperor to get back to the court and rule the country, it angered him. He imprisoned over 40 officials, had 107 of them kneel down in public for five days, and had 146 of them lashed in court.
Zhu heard about this and, without concern for his own interests, wrote the emperor a letter asking him to “be honest, quit playing around, associate with noble people, and avoid villains.” Zhu advised the emperor to issue a decree to confess to his mistakes and ask the people for forgiveness.
The emperor demoted Zhu and exiled him to a remote area. This didn't surprise Zhu, but he did what he had to do as a responsible official.
Zhu was sent to Gongchang, an uncivilized place that had endured years of drought and plague, and attacks from surrounding barbarians. Zhu prayed for rain as soon as he arrived. It rained hard for ten days and ended the drought. He pacified the barbarians and made the town safe. He established regulations, promoted education, and encouraged births.
The town soon prospered. The year after Shizong became the next emperor in the Ming Dynasty, the royal court recognized Zhu as the best district ruler.
Zhu continued to be promoted in the years to come. He was transferred to present day Zhejiang, and relieved the people there of unreasonable financial burden by cleaning up corruption. He executed conservancy control of the rivers nationwide and proposed many policies to contain the Yellow River from flooding. He was personally involved in monitoring the construction.
Zhu's father lived a frugal life with little food, one set of formal clothes, and a bed. Zhu's colleague knew that his father was poor and gave him a new set of clothes on his birthday. His father turned it down.
His father had brought up his son to look up to the sages and saints and be a man of integrity. Learning from his father, Zhu was always honest and aboveboard all the years he was an official. When his father passed away, his home was still a shack that had never been renovated and his farm was no bigger than before.
Even though Zhu was poor by choice, he still helped his neighbors financially whenever he could. His townsfolk respected him for being a moral man: honest, fond of his people, and outspoken when it came to justice. They built a "Pavilion of Clear Conscience" to memorialize him and his merits, and to pass down the stories of his good deeds.
Based on History of the Ming Dynasty