Emperors Yao and Shun Honored Xu You (Part 1)

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Xu You was a person of noble spirit in ancient China with high moral standards. He had broad knowledge and considered moral principles more important than personal gain. According to ancient historical texts, Xu You was the teacher of both Emperor Yao and Emperor Shun. All three were considered sages.

The land of China was peaceful and prosperous during the reign of Emperor Yao. Although Emperor Yao appointed many wise persons to assist with the governance of the country, he was still worried about possibly overlooking many qualified people. To uncover these people, Emperor Yao often searched everywhere, including outlying villages and remote mountains. When Emperor Yao heard of a man called Xu You who was virtuous and had high morals, he traveled a long way to visit him. After a conversation, Xu realized that Emperor Yao was indeed a virtuous ruler with extraordinary aspirations. Emperor Yao admired Xu for his profound knowledge of the universe’s principles, and asked him to be his teacher.

After returning to the palace, Emperor Yao thought of handing over his reign to Xu You. He thus asked the Secretary of Agriculture to take care of the nation’s business and set out to invite Xu to the palace. When he found Xu in a swamp, Emperor Yao was very respectful to him and treated him with formal etiquette of a student.

Emperor Yao said, “I, your student, am poor in virtue and weak in ability. When I took over the country, I made a vow that I would rule it temporarily. I said that I would visit all sages and invite one of them to lead the country. I thoroughly believe that your ability and virtues are as bright as the sun and moon, and no sage can eclipse you. I am willing to give you the country. Please accept this for the sake of the people. There is nothing more fortunate than this.”

Xu responded, “Through your majesty’s rule, the world has received great leadership. The nation is in peace and the people are prosperous. This is all due to your majesty’s efforts. If I were to take over right now, wouldn’t it mean that I am doing it to gain fame?” Emperor Yao persistently tried to persuade Xu to take the position, but Xu firmly declined. When Emperor Yao when to visit Xu the next day, he was gone, and no one knew where he went.

帝堯、帝舜師事許由 (上)

許由是上古時代一位高潔清節之士,《莊子•天地》篇雲:「堯之師曰許由」,《呂氏春秋•孟夏紀•尊師》篇雲:「帝舜師許由」,許由曾為堯、舜兩位聖君的老師。他學識淵博,道德高尚,重義輕利,與堯、舜一樣稱為聖人。

史載帝堯治理天下萬民,使海宇清平,舉賢任能,可謂人才濟濟。但他仍唯恐埋沒人才,還常常深入山野之間去尋查細訪,求賢問道,他聽說許由是有道之名士,於是千里相訪。帝堯與許由見面傾談後,許由了解到帝堯志趣不凡,的確是位聖主,帝堯對許由講述的天下之理佩服之極,因此就拜其為師。

帝堯還都後,就想把這個天下讓給許由,他將朝政交大司農等代理,即日命駕,往訪許由,朝拜許由於沛澤之中。帝堯對他極為恭敬,執弟子之禮,北面而朝之,說道:「弟子德薄能鮮。當初即位之時,曾經發願,暫時忝攝大寶,過一過渡,必定要訪天下之聖賢,將這天下讓給他。現在弟子細想,老師才德好比太陽和月亮,並世聖賢無過於老師。願將這天下讓與您,請您慨然擔任以安萬民,不勝幸甚。」許由說:「帝治理天下,天下已經得到大治了,國泰民安,萬民豐樂,這一切都是帝的功勞,而現在讓我來接替,我是為名而來嗎?」帝堯一再相讓,許由堅辭不肯。次日,帝堯再訪許由,許由竟不知到何處去了。

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