An Emperor with a Big Heart Who Respected Heavenly Law
(Minghui.org) According to historical records, Emperor Taizu of the Song Dynasty ruled with great virtue and laid a solid foundation for prosperity.
I. Self-Reflection and Self-Correction
According to History of Song, Emperor Taizu of the Song Dynasty visited Yujin Garden in February of 961 AD. The Emperor told his servant, “Indulging oneself at a banquet is not good etiquette. I regret ever getting drunk at such events.”
In September of 975 AD, Emperor Taizu went hunting in the suburbs. His horse stumbled and threw him. In a fit of anger, Taizu pulled out his knife and slaughtered the horse.
Immediately regretful, he said, “I'm the master of the nation and it was my decision to come hunting. How could I blame the horse for what happened?” After that, he gave up hunting for good.
A subordinate noticed Emperor Taizu looking distressed after a court session one day and commented. The emperor replied, “Do you think it's easy to be an emperor? I made a terrible decision this morning. That's why I'm upset now.”
A virtuous man, Taizu reflected on his decisions and admitted to his mistakes.
II. Outlawing Fishing and Hunting in Spring and Summer
According to History of Song, Emperor Taizu banned fishing and hunting birds during the spring and summer months to allow the animals to reproduce and mature. He was against any fishing and hunting that could damage nature.
III. Inviting Advice from Officials
In February 962 AD, Emperor Taizu called for all officials to openly discuss the pros and cons of current government policies without reservation. Just like all emperors of great virtue, he welcomed advice and allowed his officials to hold open discussions with no holds barred.
IV. Prayer for Rain Answered
In April of 962 AD, drought was affecting many states. Because of this disaster, Taizu ordered to reduce his meals and halt his servants from playing music for him. He visited Taiqing Temple and Xiangguo Temple several times to pray for rain. He also sent officials to relieve disasters in these states and reduce prison terms for inmates. After his compassionate orders, it started raining in the capital area.
There was another drought in April 963 AD. Taizu went to every temple in the capital to pray for rain. It started raining that very evening. During the drought in April of 970 AD, his prayer in temples worked again.
V. Distributing Clothes to Impoverished
In May of 972 AD, Taizu distributed clothes to the impoverished people of the capital.
VI. Respecting Buddhas
Taizu banned destroying bronze Buddha statues in July 972 AD.
VII. Exempting Tea Tax
Taizu ordered that tea from Hunan be exempted from tax in April of 963 AD. In June, he canceled a construction project and distributed clothes and shoes to the workers.
VIII. Comments on Taizu in Official History
History of Song summarized Taizu's virtue by quoting the following records.
Taizu believed in the mandate of the heaven. One time his officials showed concern over his safety when he decided to go out of the palace in plain clothes. Taizu said, “The rise of an emperor is determined by the heavens. Emperor Shizong of Zhou killed all his generals who had square faces and big ears (the typical image of an emperor). I was around him all the time, but he didn't kill me.”
Taizu also said, “Let them do whatever they want [kill me or overthrow me]. If it is someone's fate to do so, there is no preventing it.”
Qian Chu, the King of Wu-Yue (located in today's Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces), came to visit Emperor Taizu. All the officials below the level of minister suggested detaining Qian and seizing his land. Taizu ignored them and allowed Qian to return home.
But Taizu had sealed all his officials' suggestions in an envelope, given it to Qian, and told him to open the envelope when he was halfway home. Qian Chu opened the envelope as instructed and found all the suggestions to detain him. He was touched by Taizu's strength of character, but the suggestions in the envelope frightened him.
Afterwards, it was peaceful south of the Yangtze River. Qian eventually begged to be allowed to surrender his land to the Song regime.
Liu Chang, the King of South Han (in today's Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan Provinces), killed many of his officials by serving them poisoned wine. After he surrendered to the Song regime, he accompanied Taizu on a visit Wuchi. Taizu handed him a cup of wine on their travels.
Liu declined in tears, “I know my crimes are beyond pardon. If the Emperor could spare my life, I would be willing to give up all my positions. I dare not drink the wine.” Taizu said with a smile, “I'm treating you honestly. Why would I trick you?” He picked up the cup of wine and drank it himself.
The above stories in History of Song portray a confident hero with a big heart.