Stories of How People in Ancient Times Avoided Harm in Disasters
(Minghui.org) There have been plagues throughout history—in China and throughout the rest of the world. Some nations were wiped out while others prevailed. There were always people who were blessed with outstanding virtue and good fortune. They were unafraid when disasters struck and remained safe and sound in the end, be it a king or his subjects or average citizens.
Here are three such stories from the reign of Emperor Renzong (1010 - 1063) in the Northern Song Dynasty.
Emperor Renzong of Song Smashed a Precious Rhino Horn
It was recorded in the History of Song that a plague broke out during the reign of Emperor Renzong, causing his people great suffering.
Instead of punishing his officials or covering it up by continuing with lavish banquets, singing, and dancing, Emperor Renzong took off his imperial robe and left the main hall where he usually handled state affairs. He also declined to meet with court officials.
The emperor sincerely expressed his regret for not carrying out his duties properly as the Son of Heaven. He ate very little and honestly reflected upon himself, to see if his policies had deviated in any way and if they conformed to Heavenly principles.
When the plague hit the capital city, Emperor Renzong's first thought was for the poor and those in poor health. He ordered the imperial doctors to find people who were good at pulse diagnosis, and a clinic was set up in each nearby county magistrate to treat the poor and provide them with medicine.
Emperor Renzong also ordered the imperial doctors to come up with an effective prescription to counter the plague.
At the same time, he ordered his housekeeper to bring out rare and precious medicinal ingredients, including two rhino horns, to see if they were any good at warding off the plague.
One of the horns turned out to be of incredible value medicinally, so his housekeeper asked the emperor to keep it for his own use.
The emperor was not at all pleased with the suggestion and said, “Am I someone who treasures rare objects more than my people?” He then smashed the precious rhino horn into pieces and told the doctors to add them to the prescription to fight the plague.
Inspired by the Emperor’s kindness, many loyal and capable officials joined the campaign to fight the plague. Gradually, the plague died out and the capital city was safe again.
The Story of Zhao Bian
Zhao Bian from Xi'an passed the Imperial Examination in the first year of the Jingyou period (1034) under the reign of Emperor Renzong of Song.
He became a high-ranking court official and was well-known for being kind and righteous. He was deeply loved and respected by the people. Renowned scholars, such as Su Dongpo and Zeng Gong, also spoke highly of Zhao Bian's high moral standards and integrity.
According to the History of Song, every night, Zhao Bian always respectfully reported to Heaven what he had done during the day. He would not do anything that he dared not report to Heaven.
He cared about the people and carried out his duties conscientiously. As a result, regions under his administration enjoyed good harvests every year and there was no sign of thieves, the prisons were empty, and no one was wrongfully charged.
During the Xi’ning period, when Zhao Bian was serving in Yuezhou, there was a severe drought in the region of Wuyue.
Zhao Bian took charge of the relief work. He worked hard all day long and managed to reduce the impact on the region to a minimum.
It was recorded that, during the drought, half of the population in other shires perished, except for the region under Zhao Bian's administration, where no life was lost.
Renowned writer Zeng Gong wrote in praise of Zhao Bian's merits in fighting disasters, “Although Zhao Bian carried out his duties in Yuezhou, his benevolence is exemplary for all under Heaven; although the rescue and relief work he did was only temporary, the principles he observed are worthy of passing on to future generations.”
The Virtue of Three Generations Kept a Family Safe from Plague
The third story also took place during the reign of Emperor Renzong of Song.
Guan Shiren from Jinzhou in Zhejiang was still a student at the time.
He got up early on a New Year's Day and went out, only to come face to face with several tall, sinister-looking ghosts.
When Guan Shiren asked them what they were up to, the ghosts replied, “We are plague ghosts and have come to spread a plague among the people on New Year's Day.”
“Will the plague affect my family?” Guan Shiren asked in fear. “No,” the ghosts replied.
Surprised, Guan Shiren asked the ghosts how to avoid the plague.
“We won't go to families who have acted with virtue and kindness for three generations—they won't be affected by the plague,” said the ghosts.
Indeed, for three generations, members of Guan Shiren's family had done much good. When people were doing bad things, they would try to stop them; when they saw people doing good deeds, they would praise them. As a result, Guan Shiren's family remained sound and safe when the plague devastated the region that year.
History is precious wisdom left to future generations. Since ancient times, plagues often appeared when society had become decadent and high standards of morality were nowhere to be seen.
When an unusual phenomenon appears, it can be a test to see if we can discern good from bad. In the face of the plague, people need to get rid of fear, help each other, and return to high standards and kindness. If one can see the plague as a mirror to reflect upon oneself, acknowledge one's past wrongdoings and start to conscientiously conduct oneself with virtue and kindness, the plague can be kept at bay.