In the first year of Zhenguan, the Emperor said to his attendants, “As an emperor, I must think first of the people. If I live my own life well by causing damages to the people, I am cutting my own leg to feed my stomach. The result is disastrous for me. If I want the country to be in peace, I must behave myself. When I stand upright, my shadow shall be upright. When I behave myself, my people will behave themselves. I often think things that can hurt me are not from outside; my personal desires will cause the disasters. If I care too much about my food, my sex and leisure, I must ask more from the people. That way, I won’t be able to do the government affairs well; besides, I must disturb the people. If my speeches are without logic, the people will not be united. When resentment arises, revolt will occur. When I think of these thing, I dare not indulge in pleasure”.
His top adviser Wei Zheng said, “Those ancient sages know the harm done to them if they care too much about themselves; therefore, they kept away from outside materialized pleasures. In the past, the Kingdom of Chu was about to employ Zhan He as a top official and asked about his philosophy in governance. Zhan He answered the king with reasoning of how to behave himself. The King of Chu asked further about governance. Zhan He replied, I have never heard of any trouble with his governance when a king behaves himself”. When Emperor Taizong said here tells a same philosophy.
In the second year, Emperor Taizong asked Wei Zheng, “What do you think is a wise emperor or a stupid emperor?” Wei Zheng answered, “A wise emperor listens to others. A stupid emperor believes in a few. The book of Song says, ancient people have a saying: we shall consult the ordinary people….if an emperor is open to opinions, his officials will work hard to provide advice. Conditions from the grass root level must be reported to the top decision makers”. The Emperor was pleased to hear this.
In the tenth year, the Emperor said to his attendants, “As to the business of an emperor, do you think it is more difficult at the time of creation or the time of governance?” His prime minister Fang Xuanling answered, “In the beginning, many heroes rose to compete for supremacy. You need to win in lots of fights and battles. As I see it, it’s more difficult at the time of creation.” Wei Zheng answered, “The rise of a new emperor must be at the time of social turmoil. When a government is corrupt and its ruler is failing its people, the people would be pleased to see its collapse. Then the whole country would welcome a new leader. In my view, the time of creation shall not be the most difficult. After the establishment of a new government, it is easy for the rule to become proud and arrogant in indulgence. People enjoy a peaceful life; but if they are levied heavy taxes, their lives would be in difficulties and the country will go downwards. From this analysis, I think it’s more difficult to have good governance.”
The Emperor said, “Xuanling followed me along in difficult times to fight for a new nation. He almost died for it in many battles. That’s why he thinks it more difficult with creation. Wei Zheng helps me in governance of the country. He has seen many signs of pride and indulgence which might cause destruction to the government. Therefore he sees the difficulties in governance. The difficulties of creation have passed now; and we are at a time of difficulties in governance. Please think about this over and over.”
By Staff Translator