Emperor Taizong: Open to Criticism and Readily Corrects Own Faults (PART 2)

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Emperor Tang Taizong (Public Domain)

Li Shimin, Emperor Taizong (627 – 649 A.D.) of the Tang Dynasty was one of a few truly outstanding emperors in Chinese history. He was famous for being receptive to advice and criticism. When his officials’ criticism became too harsh and painful, Emperor Taizong sometimes had difficulty maintaining self-control, and would even want to cover up the problems and refuse to listen. Despite that, after all he was a person with remarkable generosity and laudable tolerance, and he always regarded the country’s interests as the most important and made corrections once he realized his own faults.


Story Two:


When he was a prince, Emperor Taizong enjoyed hunting on horseback very much. His interest in hunting stayed high even after he became the emperor. He often led a large number of people outside the city to hunt in the wilderness. Many officials tried to use many different mild methods to persuade him to stop pursuing such a time-consuming interest. But Emperor Taizong felt that his entourage was practicing riding and archery, and it would help to hone their battlefield skills and defend the country better. So he didn’t listen.

One day, Emperor Taizong was again ready to go hunting. At the moment he was about to mount the horse, a royal court official named Sun Fujia dashed over and grabbed the horse’s reins and stopped Emperor Taizong from going out of the palace. He warned Emperor Taizong seriously in a solemn manner, “The Son of Heaven [another term for the emperor] must be heavily guarded at all times and followed everywhere he goes. It is not for the sake of showing off, but for the sake of the country and his administration. Riding on horseback, releasing the eagle and driving the dogs to hunt are things that young, profligate, good-for-nothing sons of the wealthy do to seek pleasure. It didn’t affect the general situation when you hunted occasionally as the Prince of Qin. However, being as noble as the Son of Heaven, how could you do it this often? Has your Majesty forgotten Lao Zi’s warning? Lao Zi said, ‘Galloping through the field and hunting would make one’s heart go crazy.’ Your obsession with hunting is neither beneficial to the country nor a good model for later generations, so I think Your Majesty should refrain from hunting.”

Emperor Taizong did not listen to Sun Fujia’s advice. While hurrying to get on horseback, he explained to Sun Fujia: “Although it is a peaceful time right now, we should not let up our military preparation. What is so bad about my going out hunting, keeping fit and practicing fighting skills? I have arranged a light entourage to accompany me so I won’t bother the people. What’s wrong with it? Don’t say anything more!”

Sun Fujia held fast to the horse’s reins and wouldn’t let go. He said sternly: “If Your Majesty does not listen to my humble advice and insists on going out of the palace, just let the horse trample over my body. Even if I am stamped into pieces, I won’t let go of the reins. Your Majesty, I won’t allow you to leave the palace as long as I am alive!” Emperor Taizong ordered him repeatedly to release the reins and the guards also tried to persuade him to let go of them, but Sun Fujia ignored everybody and held fast onto the halter, saying angrily, “As long as I am breathing, I will not sit idly and watch Your Majesty do anything improper as the Son of Heaven!”

Emperor Taizong was greatly angered by Sun Fujia’s stubbornness and shouted loudly: “I am as noble as the Son of Heaven and the Master of the land with ten thousand chariots! Can I not enjoy just a little freedom? Must I do everything according to your likes?” Then he ordered the soldiers to publicly decapitate Sun Fujia at Wu Gate. Several soldiers pulled Sun Fujia outside by grabbing his collar and twisting his arms. Facing death, Sun Fujia showed no fear and said loudly, “I would rather be killed for providing honest remonstrations than live to watch Your Majesty repeat his mistake and refuse to correct it!”

Seeing Sun Fujia’s determination without worrying for his own life, Emperor Taizong was very touched by his fearless spirit and great loyalty. So Emperor Taizong got off the horse and said to Sun Fujia with a smile, “I was just testing your courage. You are willing to risk your life to remonstrate and have persistently demonstrated your loyalty. How can I ignore your advice and go hunting?” Emperor Taizong immediately dismissed the hunting team, praised Sun Fujia and promoted him to the rank of a 5th grade court official. (Official ranks were defined in grades first to ninth in descending order.)

唐太宗傾耳虛心、聞過則改 (下)

唐太宗是中國歷史上屈指可數的傑出帝王,尤以兼聽納諫著稱。然而,當大臣們諫諍言詞激烈,有切膚之痛時,太宗有時也控制不住自己,也想文過飾非、充耳不聞。但太宗畢竟有過人的雅量和氣度,以國家社稷為重,聞過則改。

(二)


唐太宗酷好打獵,稱帝后仍然興趣不減,經常興師動眾、出城圍獵,不少大臣委言相勸,唐太宗認為這是練習騎射,有利於國,不聽勸諫。

有一天,唐太宗又準備去打獵,正要上馬時,猛然間,主薄孫伏伽跑過來,一把抓住馬韁,強行制止唐太宗出城。他嚴肅、莊重的告誡唐太宗說:「天子居則戒備森嚴、行則儀衛扈從,並非為了講排場,而是為了國家的利益、朝廷的尊嚴。走馬射獵、放鷹驅犬,那是年少紈絝子弟取樂之事。陛下為秦王時,偶而打獵,無關大局。但貴為天子,怎能經常這樣做呢?『馳騁田獵令人心發狂』,陛下忘記老子這一警言,熱衷打獵,既不利於國家,又不是值得後世效法的好榜樣,臣以為陛下不當如此!」

太宗不聽孫伏伽的勸阻。一邊迫不及待的翻身上馬,一邊向孫伏伽解釋說:「如今天下雖然太平,但也不能放鬆武備。我外出圍獵,練武強身,又有甚麼不好呢?我輕車簡從,不驚動百姓,又有哪點不恰當呢?你不要再多說話!」

孫伏伽抓住馬韁不放,厲聲說道:「今日陛下不聽微臣勸阻,定要出宮,就讓馬從我身上踏過去就行了。我縱然被踏成肉泥,也不會放掉韁繩,否則,陛下休想出宮!」唐太宗一再命他鬆手,左右侍從也來勸他,孫伏伽一概不理,死死抓住馬韁不放,激昂的對唐太宗說:「只要我還有一口氣,就不願看到陛下做天子不應當做的事情。」

唐太宗見孫伏伽這樣固執,怒火中燒,大聲喝道:「我貴為天子,萬乘之主,難道這點自由還沒有了嗎?還須看你的臉色行事!」於是立即命武士將孫伏伽推出午門斬首示眾。幾個武士應聲而至,抓著孫伏伽的衣領,扭著他的雙手就往外拖。孫伏伽面臨殺身之禍毫無懼色,大聲說道:「我寧肯直言進諫而死,與被夏桀殺害的關龍逢同遊地下,也勝過苟活,看陛下犯過而不改。」

唐太宗見孫伏伽如此倔強,不顧性命,也為他大無畏的精神和一片忠心所感動,便從馬上滾鞍而下,笑著對孫伏伽說:「我不過試一試你的膽量罷了,你能冒死直諫,忠心貫日,我還能去打獵嗎?」馬上命令解散圍獵隊伍,同時表彰孫伏伽,並將他提拔為五品諫議大夫。

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