The Virtues of Incorruption

Zihan was a minister of Song State in the Spring-Autumn Period. He administered state construction projects. This official position was called Sicheng in Song State, and was called Sikong in other states. One day, a person visited Zihan with a jade stone. This person said, “This is a treasure. I present it to you.” Zihan smiled and answered, “You regard jade as a treasure, but I regard incorruption as a treasure. Let’s keep own treasure well, we won’t lose own treasure.” The person said, “I am an ordinary person, and I don’t dare to return my hometown with the jade stone.” Zihan thought he should help this person, so he let the best craftsman of the capital polish the jade stone for that person. Accordingly that person obtained a high price from the jade stone, and he became a rich man. So he had some domestics, and returned his hometown.

Gongyi Xiu was the prime minister of Lu State in the early days of the Warring-States Period. He liked to eat fish. A person wanted favor, so he visited Gongyi Xiu with an expensive big fish. Gongyi Xiu refused his present. The person was very surprised, and asked, “You like to eat fish very much, but why not accept this fish?” Gongyi Xiu smiled and answered, “Yes, I like to eat fish very much. I don’t accept your fish, in order that I can often eat fish and my descendants also can often eat fish.”

The families of these nobles were rich, and they had had good education since their childhood. In order to keep their high positions, they thought they must be supported by people. So they kept virtues, and thought highly of people. Therefore, democracy was popular in the Spring-Autumn Period.

These stories are very remote, but the virtues of likable nobles are remembered by later generations.

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