(Minghui.org) Sun Simiao was one of China’s finest physicians. He lived from the sixth century to the seventh century, during the Tang Dynasty, and was given the moniker “King of Medicine” for his many contributions to the medical field. 

One of his seminal works is Qianjin Yaofang, which can be roughly translated as “Essential Formulas [Worth] a Thousand Pieces of Gold” 

In this book, Sun states that, “if one is lacking in morality, even a panacea would not cure his ills.”

It also opined: “If one is perennially virtuous, one would be blessed without prayer and would live long without worship.” 

So, how did the ancients cultivate virtue?

(Continued from Part 2)

Emperor Cheng of Han Dies Young

Emperor Cheng, who reigned from 33 to 7 B.C., was the 12th emperor of the Han Dynasty. One day, when visiting Princess Yanga’s mansion, he met Zhao Feiyan, a dancing girl. Enchanted by her beauty and talent, the emperor took her back to the palace, granted her the title Jieyu, and spoiled her as his most favorite concubine.

One day, Emperor Cheng took Zhao on a boat trip for sightseeing. She was wearing a purple dress made of light and exquisite silk, a tribute from South Vietnam. Soon, she began serenading the emperor with the song, “Seeing Off the Phoenix,” and also started dancing along. Her movements mesmerized the emperor, who ordered his servant, Feng Wufang, to accompany her on the reed-pipe. 

When they sailed midstream, a gust of wind hit them, and Zhao was almost blown over. The emperor immediately ordered Feng to help her. Feng threw aside his instrument and grabbed Zhao by her feet. But to everyone’s astonishment, Zhao continued to dance as gracefully as she had before, even while Feng grabbed her feet. 

Word began to circulate in the palace that “Feiyan can dance on the palm of a hand.”

Later, Emperor Cheng also took in Zhao’s younger sister as a concubine, who was said to be even more spoiled than her elder sister.

The two sisters made trouble in the palace. They falsely accused Empress Xu of witchcraft, resulting in the empress being deposed and another talented concubine implicated. Zhao Feiyan herself became the empress. 

At the young age of 44, Emperor Cheng died a sudden death, without leaving an heir to the throne. Many believe that this was due to his excessive indulgence in lust.

A Miserable End for King Jie of Xia

King Jie of Xia, or Xia Jie, was the 17th and final ruler of the Xia dynasty. He is traditionally regarded as a tyrant and oppressor. But he was also licentious, and indulged day and night in alcohol and women—especially his spoiled empress, Meixi. He totally ignored state affairs and the well-being of the people. 

Xia Jie was later defeated by Tang of Shang around 1600 B.C., ending the Xia dynasty of about 500 years. Xia Jie died years later from illness while in exile.

Demise of King Zhou of Shang

Like Xia Jie, King Zhou, the last monarch of the Shang Dynasty, was equally licentious and cruel, if not more so. He doted on his wicked wife Daji to a ridiculous extent and did anything to please her, from creating obscene songs to devising cruel and unusual means of punishment. 

One such punishment was a torture method known as “burning flesh with a hot iron” –a large, hollow bronze cylinder was stuffed with burning charcoal, and when it became red-hot, the victim was forced to tightly hug the cylinder, resulting in a painful and unsightly death. King Zhou and Daji were known to enjoy watching this torture.

When his army was defeated by the rebel army of Zhou in 1046 B.C., the king gathered all his treasures about himself, set fire to his palace, and burned himself to death.

The Legendary Zhuge Liang Outwits a Crane

In sharp contrast to those wicked rulers of ancient China, there were also highly respected monarchs, generals, and high-ranking officials with noble character, who did not fall prey to this vice. Zhuge Liang (181-234) was one of them. He was a distinguished statesman and military strategist who served as minister of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period (220-280).

Zhuge Liang was said to have supreme wisdom, and was able to gain magical insight into future events by observing astronomical changes. The prophetic texts he wrote in Maqian Ke foretold what would happen in later dynasties with amazing accuracy.

His life is shrouded in legend, one of which tells of when Zhuge Liang was young. As a youth, he often went up to the mountains to learn Chinese classics and the art of war from an old master. Once, on his way there, he bumped into a beautiful young lady who invited him to play chess. They had tea together and enjoyed a pleasant chat. Since then, he would pay her a visit each time he went to the mountain, and the two always had delightful conversations. Little by little, he found it hard to focus on his studies.

“It’s much easier to destroy a tree than to grow one!” his master said to Zhuge Liang when he noticed his absent-mindedness. “You cannot control your feelings upon seeing that beautiful lady, but what you don’t know is that this young lady is not a young lady at all. Her true form is in fact a crane in heaven. She often comes to the secular world to seduce mortals.”

Zhuge Liang felt very ashamed and asked his master how to keep away from her.

“Hide her clothing while she is taking a bath in the lake,” his master told him, “When she comes to you in her true form, hit her with your walking stick.”

Indeed, when the young lady could not find her clothing, she transformed into a crane. The crane tried to pluck out Zhuge Liang’s eyes with its beak, but Zhuge Liang grabbed its tail and beat it with his walking stick, like he was instructed to do. The crane broke free and flew away, leaving behind a handful of feathers that Zhuge Liang pulled off its tail.

Without its tail, the crane was no longer able to come to the secular world again. To remind himself of the lesson he learned, Zhuge Liang made a fan out of the crane’s feathers and used it throughout his life. 

Confucius once said, “When a person is young, his vitality is unsettled and he must guard against sexual temptation.” 

Zhuge Liang listened to his teacher and woke up in time. When the time came for marriage, he chose a wife who was plain in looks, but very virtuous.

(To be continued)