Utmost Integrity: A Petty Official Who Speaks His Mind Reaches the Rank of Prime Minister
(Minghui.org) When Liu Rengui (602 - 685 AD) was running errands for the Chencang County Government, Yuan Tiangang, a Tang Dynasty (618 - 917 AD) astrologist who served in the royal court said to him, “You eventually will rank close to the position of prime minister, and reach the age of about 90 years.”
Liu was awarded, in the first year of the Wude reign (618 AD), the position of sheriff of Chencang County, east of today's Baoji City, Shaanxi Province.
Integrity Above All Results in Promotion
During Zhenguan Reign under Li Shimin, known as Emperor Taizong, Lu Ning, one of his military officers, broke the law and engaged in indecent activities. No one was able to stop him, given his position in the military.
Liu took it upon himself to discuss the issue with him and advised restraint. Lu agreed not to commit any further crimes. However, instead of changing, Lu became even more ruthless and vicious. Liu followed accepted procedures and executed Lu.
Emperor Taizong was infuriated at his military officer being executed by a civilian upon seeing the report. He went to Chencang to punish anyone who dared to usurp his rule over the military. But, when the Emperor talked with Liu, he was amazed at the young man's integrity. Therefore, instead of punishing him, he promoted him to the secretary general of Yueyang County, which was located in today's Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province.
Not Afraid to Speak Truth
In the 14th year of the Zhenguan Reign (640 AD), Emperor Taizong had decided to hunt in early fall. Liu Rengui sent in a petition to advise against the poor timing. He gave the analogy of a roof which leaks and hurts those who live under it to bring to light that farmers would get hurt.
He reported that it was a good year for farmers, but so far, they only harvested between 10 and 20 percent of the crops. Considering all what was needed to prepare for the hunt, such as new pavement of roads and construction of bridges, 10 to 20 thousand laborers would be called away from harvesting. This would bring more hardship to people living in the area. Liu suggested to put off the hunt until after the harvest.
The Emperor was quite pleased, and issued an imperial edict that would benefit Liu. He said, “Despite your low rank, I can sense your interest lays in the well being of our country. What you have stated is the truth in my opinion.”
Soon after, he promoted Liu to be the magistrate of Xin'an County, in today's Luoyang City, Henan Province. Then, Liu was given the right to become a member of the imperial court. At the time, Liu was about 40 years old, and it was next to impossible for him to reach the level of prime minister through routine promotions given the life expectancy and retirement age back then.
Rising Again After Losing Rank
During the Xianqing reign (656 - 661 AD), Emperor Gaozong wanted to conquer the Liao territory to the northeast. Liu was not given any combat role, but was in charge of a navy unit, which arrived at the destination behind schedule. As part of punishment for his not arriving on time, he was lowered in rank and assigned to the navy that later battled with the Japanese.
Liu's unit ran into the Japanese navy in Baekgang, an estuary in today's South Korea. The Japanese lost all four battles, and over 400 battleships were burned and destroyed. This battle changed the geopolitical alignment on the Korean peninsula, while it led to the unification of the peninsula by rulers friendly toward the Tang Dynasty. Liu was accredited for the success.
By the first year of the Chuigong reign (685 AD), Liu was promoted to one of the two prime ministers, co-heading all officials in the imperial court. He lived 84 years, which met both rank and age as foretold by Yuan, the renowned astrologist.
As the proverb goes, “One's destiny is preordained.” If one is destined to reach the rank of prime minister, a slow or late start from the position of a petty county functionary would not rule out the chance of reaching the highest position. At the same time, one has to maintain ones integrity, and dare to speak on behalf of the country to fulfill the destiny of preordained wealth and prestige.
(Adapted from the Old Book of Tang, Volume No. 84, Biographies No. 34,by Liu Xu)