The Chinese people have long valued the virtues of compassion and forgiveness, and stories passed down in history bear that out.
Pardoning Those that Could Be Pardoned
During the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), the King of Liang couldn't decide how to handle a case. He and his officials were split between punishing the accused or setting them free.
The king called in Fan Li, a man renowned for his wisdom, for his advice.
“I am just an ordinary person,” Fan said. “I don't know how to adjudicate a case.”
“But I do have two pieces of jade at home. Both of them are white, of the same color, same weight, and same height. However, one is worth a thousand gold pieces and the other only 500 gold pieces.”
“Why?” asked the kind.
“Because one was broader, and twice of the width of the other.”
The king understood Fan's message, and let the accused go free.
From then on, the King of Liang would pardon people whenever it was reasonable and reward his subjects when they deserved it. As a result, his people were very happy.
Burning the Letters of Defectors
Cao Cao fought against Yuan Shao in a major war during the late Han Dynasty. Yuan Shao had many more troops, but Cao Cao managed to defeat him.
Cao's soldiers found some letters from Cao's officers and advisers that said they were intending to defect to Yuan.
Cao Cao ordered the soldiers to burn all the letters without opening them.
His guards didn't understand.
“Why don't you check the letters and kill all the defectors?” they asked.
“During the war, Yuan Shao was so formidable that even I didn't know if I could win. How would you expect anyone sane to be completely loyal to me?”
People were moved. Eventually, several cities under Yuan Shao's control surrendered to Cao Cao.
Returning Good For Bad
Song Jiu was a County Magistrate of the Liang Kingdom during the Spring and Autumn Period. His county was next to the Kingdom of Chu.
Both kingdoms stationed soldiers on the border.
Soldiers of both sides planted melons. However, the Liang soldiers' melons grew well because the soldiers watered them every day. The Chu soldiers' melons grew poorly since they were not watered.
The Chu County Executive scolded his soldiers for not growing their melons as well as the Liang soldiers did.
In response, the Chu soldiers would often go to Liang's military camp at night to destroy their melons.
The Liang soldiers found out what had happened, and asked Song Jiu to allow them to go to Chu's camp for revenge.
“That is not a good solution,” replied Song,.“Building up hatred only creates trouble for yourselves. You can't do bad things just because other people do bad things.”
He continued, “Let me give you a good solution. From now on, send someone to the Chu camp every night to water their melons. But don't let them know.”
The Liang soldiers did as they were told, and soon enough, the Chu soldiers saw that their melons grew better. Eventually, the found out that it was because the Liang soldiers would water them each night,
The Chu County Magistrate reported this incident to the King of Chu, who was greatly embarrassed.
He sent a pile of gifts to Song Jiu as an apology and signed a friendship treaty with the King of Liang.
Laozi said, “Return a bad deed with a good one.” A Chinese saying tells us to “turn loss into victory” and “obtain profit from misfortune.”
It is a bit of wisdom that still applies today.
参考资料：《新序 杂事四》汉 刘向
参考资料：《新序 杂事四》汉 刘向