Emperors Yao and Shun Honored Xu You (Part 2)


After Xu You left the swamp, he moved faraway with the intent of not letting Emperor Yao find him again. Emperor Yao continuously searched for Xu and finally located him one year later, farming on the foothills of Mount Ji in the central mountain region.

While working on the land one day, Xu heard someone approaching and yelling “Teacher.” Xu looked up and saw Emperor Yao, who saluted him. Xu was surprised and asked, “What does the Emperor come here for? What is the issue?” Emperor Yao said, “I planned to hand over the country to you last time because I was afraid that my poor ability and virtue might mislead the people. It was unexpected that Teacher declined the position and left. Over the past year, I was sincerely considering anyone with sublime virtues to assist me in ruling the country. After carefully thinking, no one is more virtuous than Teacher is. I thus come again to sincerely ask you to become the head of the Nine States (these were the territorial divisions of the nation at that time). It will be fortunate not only for me but for everyone in the country if you accept the position.”

Hearing this, Xu said, “I do not understand what you said. I have never heard of anyone being head of the Nine States, only the Emperor, and that is you.” Emperor Yao explained, “Originally, there was no such position. I created it for you to show my sincerity. Please accept it.” Xu declined again and moved away to live as a hermit. He could no longer be found. The people heard of this story and praised Emperor Yao for his generosity and humility, and Xu You for his virtue.

Before Shun became emperor, he farmed at Mount Li. He often gave away fertile lands to others as he paid attention to comity and righteousness. Within six months, farmers in the area were politely taking barren lands for themselves and leaving the fertile lands for others. Shun was well respected around Mount Li, so much so that he, instead of the government, was asked to judge and settle arguments. Because of him, many people moved to live in areas surrounding Mount Li, causing this outlying area to gradually grow into a prosperous region. Everyone there called Shun a sage, adding, “Everyone the sage meets will indeed be assimilated. The sage teaches us righteousness instead of selfishness, giving instead of taking.” The effects of Shun’s guidance were clearly visible.

When touring Mount Ji one time after farming, Shun saw an elderly man walking towards him. The man suddenly tripped over a rock and fell to the ground. Shun rushed over to help him. The elderly man thanked him repeatedly. Shun asked the man his name and where he lived given his old age. The man answered, “Why do you ask? I have not told people my name for ten years.” Shun was surprised and did not know what to say. Then the elderly man asked about his name.

When Shen told him his name, the man smiled and said, “Oh! You are the one. I have heard so much about you. Alright, I will tell you my name, but just keep it between us.” After Shun promised repeatedly, the elderly man said, “My name is Xu You, courtesy name Wuzhong.” Shun immediately knelt on the ground and bowed his head to show his respect. He said to Xu, “Where do you live? I will walk you home.” Xu smiled, “It is kind of you to offer to take me home. I live on the other side of Mount Ji. It would be troublesome for you.” Shun replied, “It is my honor to serve an elder. How can I consider it troublesome.” After helping Xu You traverse the mountain to his home, Xu expressed his gratitude and spoke to Shun some more. Shun requested to be Xu You’s student and Xu You accepted. The next day, Shun presented many household gifts to Xu for accepting him as his student. Shun learned many principles from Xu You, which helped guide him to become a virtuous and benevolent emperor.

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