Doing Good Is the Way to Go
(Minghui.org) Ancient Chinese wisdom says, “A family of good people will have abundant blessings.” Being kind and fair and doing good will not only benefit oneself, but also one's family. There are many examples in Chinese history that illustrate this point, including the story of Shang Lu.
Shang Lu was a famous royal court official in the Ming Dynasty. Although he came from a humble background, Shang Lu served in the royal court after placing first in all three levels of the imperial examination, and later became the highest ranking official of his time. He had a reputation for being candid and used his power to help the poor and uphold justice.
Shang Lu did not come from money or power, but from a line of good people. His father was a county clerk who helped the poor. His father's influence and his modest upbringing shaped Shang Lu to be a voice for the poor and for justice. He was loved by the people who sung his praises: “Of all the good officials in our royal court, Shang is number one.” In turn, Shang Lu's good deeds brought blessings to the Shang family for generations to come.
Born a Commoner
Shang Lu rose from humble beginnings. His grandfather was a hunter and his father a clerk in Yan County. His father lived a simple life but donated to charity regularly and helped the poor. He advised his colleagues to treat people fairly and not to abuse their power or take bribes. With his help appealing at the county court, wrongfully convicted prisoners were exonerated from the death penalty.
One night, the county prefect saw from a distance a beautiful glow around Mr. Shang's house and became very curious. He asked Mr. Shang the next day about what happened. Mr. Shang said, “My wife gave birth to a boy last night.” The county official asked to meet the baby when he was 100 days old.
When Mr. Shang showed his newborn to his boss, the prefect looked at the beautiful baby boy and thought of the glow he saw on the day he was born. He predicted that the boy would achieve great things in life and become the pride of the country. That baby was Shang Lu.
First Place in the Imperial Examinations
Shang Lu started to show his talent at a very young age. He had an impressive photographic memory and could recite the content of a book after reading it once. He wrote excellent papers without outlines or drafts.
At age 20, Shang Lu placed first in the local level imperial examination, and then went on to place first at the provincial level and the royal court exams. According to History of Ming, he was the only person to place first in all three levels of the imperial exams during the Ming dynasty and held the record for the highest scores.
Shang Lu served the royal courts of three emperors and at one point was the head of the highest office and the appointed Grand Secretary, acting as de facto Chancellor. People were convinced he was blessed because of his father's good deeds.
An Open Letter to the Emperor Calling for Improvements
Shang Lu was determined to help the people just like his father. He was courageous and always spoke the truth in front the emperor. During the rule of Emperor Xianzong, many regions of the country suffered from severe flooding. Shang Lu expressed his concern to the emperor and suggested that, to prevent more natural disasters, the royal court should lead the people in improving their moral character first.
In his letter to the emperor, he listed eight areas that needed improvement: paying respect to the ancient sages and strictly following the moral codes they set forth, allowing the royal court officials to speak their mind, going over prisoners' files carefully and checking for errors, freeing the wrongly convicted, stopping unnecessary construction projects, downsizing the government, building a food bank for the poor, and improving the legal system. Pleased with the suggestion, the emperor issued orders to implement these improvements.
Shang Lu emphasized that the emperor should heed his officials' advice sincerely. He said, “I hope that, from now on, if someone gives you constructive advice, Your Majesty will listen to it with an open mind.”
Helping the Poor
The chamberlain serving the Queen Mother Renshou seized farmland from more than 80 local farmers. Irate, the farmers fought back. The conflict upset the Queen Mother so much that the emperor attempted to punish the farmers by relocating them and their families to the harsh regions north of the Great Wall.
At a morning meeting of the royal court, Shang Lu expressed his disapproval, saying, “An emperor is the son of his people and his country. What do you need more land for? I have never heard of poor peasants taking land from a monarch; it's almost always the other way around.”
The royal court officials were stunned that Shang Lu was so straightforward. The emperor's advisers stepped in and supported Shang Lu. The emperor ultimately decided to take back his order.
When Emperor Xianzong wanted to build a compound on the north side of the palace, Shang Lu advised the emperor to cut back on unnecessary expenses. He also gathered poor refugees who had migrated from the east, gave them farmland and seeds, and helped them settle down near the capital.
Pushing for the End of the Secret Intelligence Agency
Xichang, the country's secret intelligence agency at the time, was controlled by the emperor's trusted eunuch Wang Zhi. Wang and his men arrested and killed innocent people and officials in the course of their “investigations” and overrode the law. The agency quickly became a threat to the people and concerned many officials.
Shang Lu and a group of royal court officials pleaded with the emperor to end the nightmare. Shang Lu listed 11 of Wang's crimes, called the agency “a harm to the nation,” and asked the emperor to abolish it. The accusation upset the emperor greatly, but Shang Lu was fearless and did not waver.
With support from many other royal court officials, the emperor eventually gave the order to abolish Xichang. Although the secret agency was later reinstated, Shang Lu's effort was viewed as courageous and patriotic. His letter to the emperor also became famous as a literary work and was passed down for generations.
Doing Good Deeds Brought Blessings to the Family
Shang Lu did many good things during the time he served the royal court. He took his rank very lightly and didn't care about personal gain. He kept the good of the nation and the people in mind in everything he did. In the History of the Ming Dynasty, he was described as “simple and straightforward, kind and generous. However, when it comes to important matters, he is rational and decisive.”
Shang Lu had many children and grandchildren. A good number of them later became high ranking officials of the royal court as well. In his old age, a former colleague visited Shang Lu at his retirement home and said, “Over all the years I worked with you, I never saw you wrongfully accuse anyone without evidence. Look at how well your children and grandchildren are doing—these are your blessings for always doing the right thing.”