(Minghui.org) An old saying goes "a friend in need is a friend indeed." During the turbulent Three Kingdoms Era (a tripartite division of China between the states of Wei, Shu, and Wu, 220–280 A.D.), the deep meaning of benevolence and righteousness (Renyi in Chinese) was revealed.

The manifestation of Renyi was especially apparent in Liu Bei, a warlord in the late Eastern Han dynasty who was the founder and the first ruler of the State of Shu.

While the warlords were fighting for territory, one of them, Tao Qian from Xuzhou, offered his land to Liu three times and Liu turned him down each time. When Tao got very ill, he pointed to his heart before he died to declare his determination that Liu should take over his land. After Tao was buried, his soldiers visited Liu to relay Tao's will, yet Liu still refused. It was only when the civilians of Xuzhou visited Liu the next day, weeping and begging him, did Liu agree to take on the responsibility to lead them.

When the most powerful warlord, Cao Cao, invaded Liu in Fancheng with countless soldiers, Liu’s life was in immediate danger. His military adviser Zhuge Kongming told him to quickly abandon Fancheng and go south to Xiangyang temporarily.

Liu couldn’t bear to abandon his people. “They have followed me for so long,” he said. Zhuge told him to announce the escape plan and, “Those who want to follow you can go with you and those who don’t can stay.” When his people were given the choice, there wasn’t a second thought as everyone chose to follow Liu “even if it means death.”

Men and women, old and young, followed Liu and his army south. When they were crossing the Hanshui River, people wept as they weren’t sure if they or their loved ones could cross in time before Cao’s army arrived.

When Liu saw their misery, he was in tears: “My people suffered so much because of me. I don’t have a reason to live!” His men had to restrain him with extreme force to stop him from killing himself. When he landed on the other side of the river, he ordered his general to quickly use his ship to bring everyone over. Liu refused to get on his horse until he made sure that everyone had crossed safely.

It is a taboo to drag families and civilians along when moving an army, let alone when there is a fearsome enemy behind. For most people facing such a dire situation, it is “everyone for himself.” Few have the grand Renyi and heart of Liu, who thought only about his people.

When Liu and his people finally arrived outside of Xiangyang, his nephew refused to open up the gate and ordered an attack on Liu. A man named Wei Yan from inside killed the gatekeeper and opened up the gate for Liu. Wei wanted Liu and his soldiers to enter Xiangyang so that they could help him “kill the traitor” (Liu’s nephew).

As Liu’s general Zhang Fei was about to charge the city, Liu stopped and told him “not to terrify the people.” When Liu saw that the soldiers in the city had launched a battle, he regretted it deeply. “I intended to spare them but now I am the person who puts them in trouble. I would rather not enter Xiangyang!” He then headed further south with his people.

With Cao’s army breathing down his neck, Liu gave up the safe haven for the safety of the people inside. Only a person with Renyi would make such a decision. And it was precisely because of Liu’s ability to let go that Cao took over Xiangyang without a drop of blood being shed.

Liu’s 100,000 soldiers, accompanying the civilians and carts carrying numerous possessions, could only travel so far each day. Seeing Cao’s army quickly approaching, Liu’s generals suggested, “It’s best to leave without the people for now.” In tears, Liu refused: “The one who can achieve great things must care dearly about his people. They chose to follow me in danger, how can I abandon them?”

Cao’s army finally caught up with Liu’s and a bloody slaughter began. Liu’s wife Madam Mi killed herself so that Zhao Yun, a brave general who singlehandedly fought off hundreds of thousands of Cao’s soldiers, could effectively save her son. Both Zhao and another general, Zhang Fei, fought the battle with their last ounce of strength to save Liu’s family. How loyal and upright!

Liu’s Renyi also manifested in his absolute trust in his brotherly friends. After the battle with Cao, Liu, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei were separated. Liu fled to Qingzhou and stayed under Yuan Shao’s wing. Guan was apprehended by Cao. Later Cao fought Yuan. When Liu saw Guan in Cao’s army, he thanked heaven and earth, “Thank the Lord my brother, you are indeed here!” There wasn’t a scintilla of doubt in Liu’s mind that Guan might have betrayed him. How many men could have no doubts in this situation?

When Liu invited the sage Zhuge to be his military adviser, he didn't succeed in getting an audience with Zhuge in his first two visits to Zhuge's cottage. Liu was in a difficult situation, but he didn't have any complaint. He waited until the next spring and chose an auspicious day to visit Zhuge again. Before that day he fasted for three days, bathed and changed clothes before he went to Zhuge’s cottage for the third time. His sincerity and respect for a sage moved Zhuge, who agreed to become his adviser.