Emperor Tang Daizong
Helping Others in Need Demonstrates Compassionate
Helping those in need, doing good deeds, and being charitable are the traditional virtues of ancient Chinese culture. They are the righteous conduct and social responsibilities of each individual. Since ancient times, those who rule with benevolence are respected by the people, and those who slight and neglect the people are despised.
For example, when Wang Shu (1416 – 1508 AD) of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 AD) was the governor of Yangzhou City, there were floods in multiple areas. He rushed to the disaster areas to offer help and submitted a detailed report of the situation to request for aid. Because he was so eager to save lives, he did not wait for the authorities' approval to distribute grain to prevent famine. He also handed out loans to assist the victims of the flooding. As a result of his efforts, he saved about two million people.
Afterwards, he was promoted to be the Secretary of the Ministry of Civil Service Affairs. He recommended many virtuous officials to the royal court. He lived to the age of ninety-three, and had five sons and thirteen grandchildren. Each and every one of them was a virtuous and prominent official. People said that because Wang Shu had a compassionate heart and risked his life for making his own decisions without the approval of the superiors to save the lives of two million people, he lived a wealthy and healthy long life and had offspring who were successful. People believed that this was the result of his being compassionate and virtuous.
During the second year of Dali during the Tang Dynasty (767 AD), the autumn frost seriously damaged the crops. Emperor Tang Daizong (727 – 779 AD) was concerned about the disaster and ordered the head of each county to report the damage to the imperial government. Liu Zao, the magistrate of Weinan County, Shaanxi Province, reported to the government saying, "Our county did not have any damage at all!" The emperor was very suspicious of his report because there were damage reports from all over China except for Weinan County. He sent someone to investigate the situation in Weinan, and found twenty thousand hectares of crops that were damaged. Upon hearing the report, the emperor said angrily, "The county magistrate is like parents to the people. He should be compassionate to its residents. Even if there was no damage to the crops, the magistrate should disclose people's suffering. Liu Zao is such an unkind official!" Thus, the emperor ruled Liu Zao guilty of his deeds and banished him to a remote area.
Zheng Qingchen of the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD) was cold-hearted and unkind. When he was the magistrate for Huaili County, he mistreated its residents. In order to safeguard his job, he did not report damage in local areas to the imperial government, and he even threatened those who spoke the truth. When Zheng left Huaili County upon the completion of his term, the residents gathered together and jammed the roads, spitting and cursing at Zheng Qingchen. Zheng submitted a report to the imperial government accusing Huaili County residents of insulting a government official. Emperor Song Zhenzong (968 – 1022 AD, ruling from 997 – 1022 AD) replied, "As a government official, the most important thing is to gain the support of the people. If the people despise you and oppose your administration, then it shows how poorly you have governed! Not only are you unaware of your wrongdoings, you even dare to gripe to the imperial government about the complaints people have against you. You are too reckless!" As a result, Zheng Qingchen was found guilty and demoted.