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Six Selections from Scripture of Forbearance (Ren Jing)
March 21, 2013 | By Ji Guangyu
I. Magnanimity – Letting bygones be bygones
When Han Anguo worked as Neishi (a title for a high ranking official) in Liang Country, he was imprisoned for committing a crime. He was assaulted by the prison officer Tian Jia while in prison. Han Anguo asked Tian Jia, “For those ashes that have already turned cold, can you still re-burn them?” Tian Jia said, “For those ashes that have already turned cold, if they can re-burn, I will urinate on them to extinguish them.” Han Anguo was later released and became Liangzhou’s prefectural governor. Tian Jia heard about this, and ran away.
Han Anguo told his subordinates, “By law, If Tian Jia does not come back, his entire family of nine family lines will be killed. If he comes back immediately, I will forgive his sins.”
Tian Jia heard from other people what Han Anguo had said, and immediately came back so see Han Anguo.
Han Anguo asked him, “Those cold ashes have begun burning. Why don’t you extinguish them? Why did you run away instead?” Tian Jia was very afraid. Han Anguo told him, “I will not retaliate against you. Now that you have come back, I will forgive your sins.” He then arranged a lower ranking official post of Tingwei for him.
II. Enduring insults and losing money – Maintaining a warm attitude
Zhi Buyi lived in an apartment with other people. One of his roommates went home and took another roommate’s gold by mistake.
The person who lost his gold suspected that Zhi Buyi had stolen it. He became furious and became very nasty towards Zhi Buyi, saying many harsh words. Zhi Buyi apologized to the person who lost his gold, “This is really a wrong doing.” He then bought some gold and gave that person the same amount of gold that he had lost.
The other roommate later came back and returned the gold he had taken by mistake. The person who lost the gold felt very ashamed.
Zhi Buyi was later praised by others as an honest person.
III. Forbearance is the first and foremost attribute in the world
Wang Shouhe, a Guangluqing (another title of an official) of the Tang Dynasty, had never had an argument with others. He once wrote a very large character “Tolerance” on his desk, and also embroidered the character “tolerance” on the drapes in his home.
The Tang emperor felt that Wang Shouhe’s name had the meaning of “not in favor of having conflict with others.” Therefore, the emperor asked Wang Shouhe to see him and asked him, “Your name is Wang Shouhe. I can see that you don’t like to argue with others. You like to write the word ‘tolerance’. Others can clearly see your intention.”
Wang Shouhe said, “I heard people say it is easy to break hard things. Tolerance is better than anything in the world.”
Emperor Tangminghuang praised him, “Good!” The emperor then gave him some silk material as recognition.
IV. Remaining calm when valuable things break
When Pei Xingjian got control of Duzhizhefu (a foreign land) he seized countless jade treasures. Generals and soldiers from the minorities all wanted to see the treasures.
Pei Xingjian hosted a banquet to display the jade treasures. Among them was a beautiful two-foot long agate plate, of brilliant pattern and color.
A soldier was holding the plate when it accidentally fell to the floor and broke into pieces. The soldier became very afraid, knelt down, and kept bowing his head to the floor until it bled.
Pei Xingjian said with a smile, “You didn’t do that deliberately.” He didn’t show a trace of resentment for the lost treasure plate.
V. Tolerance of others – Don’t show hatred to those who insult you
Du Yan said, “Nowadays those who are in power like to scold other people’s slight mistakes. This is really not being tolerant enough.”
From the time Du Yan became the governor of a state, until he was promoted to be an appease officer (a title of an official position), he never scolded any official staff members. To officials who were incompetent, Du Yan arranged for them to handle some cases so they would not have time to be lazy. To the officials who were imprudent, Du Yan told them, “I may not bring you to justice if you cause scourge due to imprudence.”
Fan Zhongyan once talked with Du Yan about the merits of something. Fan Zhongyan even said some bad words to hurt Du Yan. But Du Yan did not bear grudges and still remained very respectful of Fan Zhongyan.
VI. Dissuading a thief and giving him gifts to urge him to be a good person
Chen Shi, also called Zhonggong, was a county magistrate. One day, a thief was hiding on his roof, getting ready to steal. Chen Shi saw the thief. He asked his son to come over, and said to his son in a very gentle tone, “Those people who are not welcome are not really bad in nature. It is their habit. That person on the roof is such a person.”
The thief on the roof heard that and came down voluntarily. He knelt down on the floor and pleaded his guilt. Chen Shi said, “You don’t look like a bad person. The reason you went this far is because of poverty.”
Chen Shi then gave the thief two rolls of cloth and told him to be a good person again.
After that, that person never stole again.
(The above contents was extracted from Ren Jing written by Wu Liang in the Yuan Dynasty)