Emperor Taizong Governed with Five Points in Mind
Emperor Taizong Governed with Five Points in Mind
One day Emperor Taizong (598 – 649 AD), the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD), who ruled from 626 to 649 AD, was present in Cuiwei Palace. He asked the courtiers, "Since ancient times, although emperors could conquer the central plains of China, they could not control ethnic minorities like the Rong or the Di. My abilities are inferior compared to the emperors of ancient times, but my achievements are greater than theirs. I have not disclosed the reason. You are welcome to talk about it frankly."
The officials all said, "Your majesty's virtue is as great as heaven and earth, and it is hard to cover it in one sentence."
The Emperor responded, "That is not true. I accomplished these achievements by keeping in mind five points.
First, since ancient times, emperors usually were jealous of those whose abilities exceeded theirs, but I regard other people's merits as my own.
Second, no one's behavior is perfect, so I merely think highly of others’ merits and ignore their deficiencies.
Third, when other emperors saw capable individuals, they couldn’t wait to attract them and receive their services. They abandoned the incompetent as if trying to push them into the abyss. I respect the talented and have pity on the incompetent when I see them. This way, both types have a proper place in my heart.
Fourth, most emperors do not like people who are upright and speak frankly. They either do harm to them secretly or punish them publicly. No dynasty is an exception. But since I took power, upright officials can be found everywhere and nobody has been punished.
Fifth, since ancient times, emperors have thought highly of the central plains of China and despised the Rong and Di nationalities, but I have treated them impartially. Therefore, they depend upon me as they would depend upon their parents.
It is due to these five points that I have accomplished such huge achievements today."
From Zizhi Tongjian (literally "Comprehensive Mirror for/to Aid in Government," a pioneering reference work in Chinese history), volume 198, Tang Dynasty, chapter 14.
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