General and Prime Minister in Harmony
In the Warring States Period, Lin Xiangru was an envoy from the State of Zhao to the State of Qin who was able to “return the jade annulus to Zhao.” His performance eventually earned him the post of prime minister, a position above that of General Lian Po. Lian Po did not agree and said publicly, “I am a great general of the Zhao, and I earned my status by conquering many cities. Lin Xiangru got a higher position just by talking. I feel ashamed. I shall embarrass him when I see him.” Hearing what Lian Po said, Lin Xiangru tried to be tolerant and avoid a confrontation, including steering clear of Lian Po’s entourage when he saw them coming.
Lin Xiangru’s squires mistakenly thought that Lin was afraid of Lian Po. They told him, “We came to serve you because of your sublime virtue and morality. Although your position is higher, you are afraid of him and try to avoid him. Even an ordinary person would be ashamed to do that. Please grant us our leave.”
Lin Xiangru firmly asked them to stay and said, “Which person do you think is more powerful: Lian Po or the King of Qin?” “The King of the State of Qin, of course,” answered his squires, as the State of Qin was the most powerful at the time. Lin Xiangru then said, “I dared to argue with the King of Qin and scold him. Even though my abilities are limited, why would I be afraid of General Lian? The reason the State of Qin has not dared to invade us is because of General Lian and I. Two tigers cannot co-exist if they fight. I tolerate his behavior and defer to him because I place the welfare of the nation over my own personal pride.” Hearing what Lin said, Lian Po came to apologize to him, with thorns wrapped around his bare back, saying, “I am only a rough brute. I did not expect you to be so tolerant of me!” All resentment between them disappeared, and they became close friends.
Being able to correct one’s mistakes has been considered a virtue since ancient times. The people praised General Lian Po because he could sincerely repent and mend his ways. Lin Xiangru’s tolerant attitude during conflict and placing the nation’s interests above his personal pride is the righteous demeanor of a gentleman that people in future generations modeled after.
The Prime Minister with a Broad Mind and Heart
During the Three Kingdoms Period (220 – 280 AD) in the State of Shu, Zhuge Liang, the Prime Minister, left a message for his King, Liu Shan, when he died. He recommended Jiang Wan to be appointed as prime minister. At that time, the people of Shu were fearful and uneasy because they had just lost their key leader and powerful enemies were threatening their borders. Although Jiang Wan was new to managing national affairs, he was calm and looked at the big picture. He was even-tempered and always appeared composed. Seeing how he conducted himself, the people’s anxiety subsided.
Jiang Wan was generous and kind. His subordinate, Yang Xi, was aloof and often did not respond when Jiang Wan spoke to him. Someone said to Jiang Wan, “It is too much that this Yang Xi slights you like that!” Jiang Wan smiled and said, “Like people’s faces, everyone’s thoughts are also different. The ancients would not agree to things to your face and then criticize you behind your back. It is not his temperament to praise me openly. He feels that I will lose face if he criticizes me in public. This is his character and something to be valued.” Later people complemented that Jiang Wan’s heart was broad enough to hold a boat.
Agricultural Governor Yang Min once described Jiang Wan as “timid and inferior to his predecessor.” Someone reported this to Jiang Wan, intending that Yang be punished. Jiang Wan ignored him and said, “I am indeed inferior to my predecessor, without question.” When Yang Min committed a crime later, everyone thought that Jiang Wan would take the opportunity for revenge. Instead, Jiang Wan pleaded for leniency on his behalf. When people brought up Yang’s earlier slight, Jiang Wan calmly said, “It is a fact that I am truly not as good as our former prime minister. Everyone knows that, and there is no need to hide it. As for his crime today, I wish for him to be treated fairly.”