Stories of Tolerance (Part 2)

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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.”

「其待人也輕以約」──寬容的故事(二)

將相和

戰國時期,趙國文臣藺相如因為出使秦國不辱使命,「完璧歸趙」,功勞卓著而被封為上卿,位在武將廉頗之上。廉頗對此很不服氣,揚言說:「我是趙國的大將,有攻城野戰之大功,而藺相如只憑言詞立下功勞,他的職位卻在我之上。我感到羞恥,遇見他時,一定要羞辱他。」藺相如得知後,儘量迴避、容讓,不肯和他碰面。有一次乘車出行,遠遠地看見廉頗的車隊,馬上叫御者把自己的車子轉入橫巷,等廉頗的車子過了之後才出來,不與其發生衝突。

藺相如的門客以為他畏懼廉頗,於是一齊說道:「我們因為仰慕您高尚的品德節義特來投奔您。現在您與廉頗職位相同,卻躲避他怕他,就是普通人對這種情況也感到羞恥,更何況是將相呢!我們沒有才能,請允許我們告辭離開吧!」藺相如堅決挽留他們,說:「你們看廉將軍與秦王相比哪個厲害?」門客回答說:「廉將軍不如秦王厲害。」藺相如說:「以秦王那樣的威勢,我藺相如卻敢在秦國的朝廷上講道理,呵斥他。相如雖然才能低下,難道害怕廉將軍嗎?但是我想到,強大的秦國之所以不敢侵略我們趙國,只是因為有我們兩個人在啊!現在如果兩虎相鬥,勢必不能共存。我對廉將軍容忍、退讓,是把國家的危難放在前面首先考慮的啊!」廉頗知道這話後,就赤著背,背負著荊條,由賓客引導到藺相如家的門前請罪,說:「我是個粗陋卑賤的人,想不到您寬容我到這樣的地步啊!」從此二人前嫌盡釋,比肩事主,成為生死與共的朋友。這也是「負荊請罪」典故的由來。

自古以來,知錯能改是一種品德,廉頗將軍能夠幡然悔悟,「負荊請罪」,則更是出於至誠了,受到人們的稱讚。而藺相如在與廉頗的矛盾衝突過程中採取了忍讓、求同的態度,以國家利益為重,置個人榮辱於度外,他的道義至上的君子風度更是後世效法的楷模。(《史記》)

宰相肚裏能撐船

三國時蜀國,諸葛亮去世後,蜀主劉禪遵諸葛亮遺表任用蔣琬為相主持朝政。當時,蜀國新喪主帥,外有強敵壓境,朝內惶懼不安,蔣琬雖初總朝政,而鎮定自若,心存大局,「既無戚容,又無喜色,神守舉止,有如平日」,因而民心迅速安定。

蔣琬為人寬厚,他的屬下東曹掾楊戲性格孤傲,訥於言語。蔣琬與他交談時,他經常不作回答。有人看不慣,在蔣琬面前說:「楊戲這人對您如此怠慢,太過分了吧!」蔣琬坦然一笑,說:「人心不同,各如其面,當面順從而背後非議,這是古人所不為的。讓楊戲當面說讚揚我的話,那可不是他的本性;讓他當著眾人的面說我的不是,他會覺得我下不來台。其實,這正是他為人的可貴之處。」後來有人稱讚蔣琬「宰相肚裏能撐船」,這個典故也一直流傳下來。

又督農楊敏曾說蔣琬:「作事憒憒,誠非及前人。」說他做事比起前任丞相差之太遠。有人告訴蔣琬,主管官吏要求將其治罪,蔣琬卻不追究,說:「吾實不如前人,無可推也。」後來這人犯事,別人都以為蔣琬會藉機報復,但蔣琬反而大度的為他求情。別人忍不住為他抱不平,他卻心平氣和的說:「我本來就不如前任丞相,這是事實呀,誰都知道,有甚麼怕人說的。對於他今天犯了事,我只是希望能夠秉公對待啊。」

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