Prefect Kong Yong Peacefully Resolves an Armed Insurgency
During the Hongzhi period of the Ming Dynasty ruled by Emperor Xiaozhong (1488 – 1505 AD), there was a prefect (county magistrate) named Kong Yong. On his first day as the prefect of Tianzhou he was greeted with big trouble. His troops had been dispatched outside the county to carry out a task. As a result, Tianzhou was without any defense. The people of the Tong ethnic minority had long been dissatisfied with local government officials and had had numerous conflicts with them, so they attempted to take advantage of this opportunity to attack the city with all kinds of weapons.
The situation was critical. Some proposed to close the city gates and defend it with their lives. Some advised to borrow troops from neighboring counties to defeat the rebels. Kong Yong said to his subordinates, "Our city is now isolated and it's very weak inside. Defending the city can hardly last long, while borrowing troops is like trying to put out fire with remote water. Let me talk to them in person and try to persuade them. Perhaps they will retreat. If that's the case, it’ll be like exchanging weapons of war for gifts of jade and silk."
Kong Yong opened the gate himself and walked alone toward the military camp of the Tong troops. Watching a solitary person walking toward them without any weapons, the rebels did not stop him. Kong went to the middle of the camp and sat down on a chair. The leader of the Tong yelled at Kong, "Who are you and why are you here?" Kong replied, "I'm Kong Yong, the newly appointed prefect. I know you are kind citizens, but you gather here because you live in hunger and cold. Today you are poverty-stricken because the former officials were not considerate. They used troops to suppress you and attempted to exterminate your people. Now, following the emperor's order, I'm here to serve you as your official. I'll take you as my children, and I'll never kill you or corner you. Why in the world would parents kill their children? If you can really listen to me, I'll forgive your wrongdoings. If you send me back to the county capital, I will distribute grains and cloth to you. In the future, please do not rob anymore. If you don't follow my advice, you can kill me, but soon the official troops will come and the result will be horrific."
Quite a lot of people were present at the scene. Having heard Kong Yong's words, they all admired his courage and compassion. The commander said, "If you can truly be as considerate as you just said, our Tong people will really be lucky during your tenure, and we will not violate the laws anymore." "My words are set. Please believe my sincerity," Kong replied. Everyone thanked Kong.
After staying overnight with the rebels exchanging sincere dialogue, Kong returned to the capital the next day. He gave away a lot of grain and cloth to the Tong people, who repeatedly thanked him and then retreated. From then on, they lived a peaceful life and never committed any crimes to disturb people.
As the poet Du Fu wrote, "When officials live frugally and show compassion, thieves will be their obedient people as they should be." As long as the officials, ranked high or low, live a plain life without being extravagant, and provide the opportunity for the people to have prosperity without exploiting them, the people will not steal or rob at the expense of their families and lives. As the saying goes, "Oppressed by officials, the masses revolt." Those in power must take this saying seriously.
Presenting compassion and credibility, Kong Yong quickly won the trust and support of the Tong people. It demonstrated that people are reasonable, obedient, and good. It is admirable that in handling this incident, Kong Yong demonstrated his compassion, credibility, and courage. Only those who are selfless can be courageous, and be truly compassionate and trustworthy. Kong Yong’s attitude and policies towards other ethnic groups are a demonstration of virtue.