Xu Xun: Seek to Understand the Tao, Establish Virtue and Help Others (Part 1)
Xu Xun (239 – 374 AD) was a well known Taoist during the Jin Dynasty (265 – 420 AD). He was a resident of modern day Xuchang City in Hunan Province. Later, he moved to Nanchang City in Jiangxi Province. He was recommended by the people to be an official and he was once the magistrate of Jingyang County. Not only did Xu cultivate himself in Taoism and sought benevolence, he also helped the poor and urged others to cultivate and be loyal and filial. There are many touching stories about him.
Xu Xun was born into a family that yearned for the Tao and accumulated virtue through kind acts. His grandfather was a doctor at a government hospital and he emptied the family wealth to help victims of natural disasters. His father was known far and wide as a person who did kind deeds. Such a family will be blessed. Xu Xun was a man born with intelligence, willing to study, to be truthful, and one who did not seek fame or fortune. He was also a scholar of literature, astronomy, medicine, geography, and science. His daily activities included helping those in need and introducing moral concepts to people. Consequently, he was well respected.
One day Xu Xun bought an iron lamp holder from a marketplace in Nanchang. When he polished the holder, he noticed that underneath the paint was gold, not iron. So, he went back to the marketplace, found the seller and told him that he wanted to return it, because it was an expensive piece of art. The seller was very grateful to him and told him that because of many years of war he could not make a living and had to sell his family belongings, some of which were passed down to him from his ancestors. This righteous act was spread throughout the city.
When Xu Xun was 20 years old, the townspeople recommended him to become an official. He declined the honor each time until 280 AD, since the imperial government had asked too many times. Xu went to Szechuan to be the magistrate of Jingyang County. As magistrate, he made sure that there was no corruption. He also reduced penalties, encouraged kindness, and used righteous people as role models. When he started his job as magistrate, Jingyang was in the midst of a flood and farmers with low-lying farms lost all their crops. He let these people farm on government land to keep them working and remain productive. The flooding also caused plague. He personally picked herbs and created medicine based on his own knowledge to heal the sick, all free of charge. Xu also ordered medicine to be delivered to the sick and needy in neighboring counties. People living in the neighboring counties heard about how he cared for the people and began moving to Jingyang County. The population soared. He raised the morality of the people, reduced conflicts until there were no longer any lawsuits. People called him Xu Jingyang.
Later on, due to corruption in the Jin imperial court, Xu Xun resigned from his government post. The people of Jingyang created a statue to honor him and many citizens accompanied him on his journey back to Nanchang. Some people traveled with him over a thousand miles and then refused to return. They set up camps and housing near Xu’s home and changed their surnames to Xu. The locals started calling this area the “Camp of Xu,” a name that still exists today.