Previous Incarnations and Present Life: Tang Shao Remembers His Previous Life

Taiping, Ed.

PureInsight | July 7, 2003

[Series note: People encounter and befriend one another because of predestined relationships. With that in mind, one cannot talk about predestined relationships without talking about reincarnation. In this series, we will introduce stories of incarnations from ancient Chinese historical books. Hopefully, these stories will inspire us all to treat everyone we meet with kindness.]

[] Tang Shao was a government official during the Tang Dynasty. He had extremely good enlightenment quality when he was a child. He could remember his previous life in detail, but he never told anyone about it, not even his own wife or children.

When he grew up, Tang Shao rose to become a Ji Shi Zhong [1] in the Ministry of Rites. Tang Shao's neighbor across the street, Li Miao, was a security guard at the imperial palace. In his leisure time, Tang Shao often invited Li Miao over for conversation, and a warm friendship developed between the two. Sometimes, Tang Shao would prepare an extra meal for the two of them to eat together in Tang Shao's Ministry office. Even Li Miao couldn't understand why a high-level government official such as Tang Shao would befriend a low-level security guard such as himself.

Tang Shao's wife once complained: "You have a great reputation and hold an extremely high-level position at the government. You should be cautious in your choice of friends. Li Miao is from a completely different class of society. I think it is very inappropriate for you to be close to someone like Li Miao." After a moment of silence, Tang Shao replied, "There is a reason behind this that you wouldn't know. My predestined relationship with Li Miao is deeper than an average friendship."

In the first year of the Kaiyuan Reign in the Tang Dynasty, Emperor Xuanzong called for a royal military inspection at Mount Lee. At that time, Tang Shao was the Acting Minister of the Ministry of Rites. During the military exercises, Emperor Xuanzong marched with the troops and played the drum himself. However, before the end of the third round of the drill, the Defense Minister Guo Yuanzhen suddenly announced, "The military exercise is now concluded." Emperor Xuanzong was very offended by his abrupt announcement so he ordered his guards to drag Guo Yuanzhen out to the army flagpole and chop his head off right away. Zhang Yue, a royal court official, knelt down in front of the Emperor and pleaded for Guo's life. Zhang Yue reminded Emperor Xuanzong that Guo Yuanzhen had made great contributions in defending the border of the country, and asked that his life be spared. Emperor Xuanzong then rescinded the capital punishment of Yuanzhen, but shifted his anger to the Ministry of Rites. Therefore, Emperor Xuanzhong ordered his guards to kill the man in charge of the Ministry of Rites, who happened to be Tang Shao.

The day before the royal military inspection, Tang Shao said to his wife, "I have been very friendly to Li Miao, and I cannot disclose the reason until I am about to die. It's time to reveal the story." So Tang Shao briefly told his wife the story between Li Miao and him. Tang Shao said, "I have had the supernormal ability of retrocognition since I was a child. The day before the royal military inspection, I knew it would take place the next day and I would lose my life because of it. I was born as a woman in my previous life. When I came of age, I married a son of a Wang family in Baling. My mother in-law was an extremely austere woman. When I was seventeen years old, on the day before the Winter Solstice [2] my mother in-law asked me cook a feast to celebrate the Solstice. I felt completely exhausted afterwards, but she then ordered me to sew a skirt which I must wear on the following day to receive guests. I had to stay up very late working on the skirt. I sewed the skirt under an oil lamp, worrying that I might not be able to finish it in time. Suddenly, a dog burst into my room, knocked down the oil lamp, and spilled the oil over the skirt. Filled with fear and anger, I scolded the dog. The dog immediately tried to escape, but it could not get out because the door could not be pushed open from inside the room, it had to be pulled open. The dog ran back and forth in circle, and ended up hiding under the bed. I quickly lit a candle and examined the skirt, hoping I could remove the stains, but the skirt was ruined by the lamp oil. I was completely overcome with fear, foreseeing a reprimand from my mother in-law, and anger toward the dog that knocked down the lamp. Crazed by fear and anger, I lifted the bed, and began stabbing the dog with my scissors, using all my strength. I stabbed the dog's neck, and broke one scissor in half, but that did not stop me. I used the other scissor to stab the dog renlentlessly until the dog died.

The next morning I showed the skirt to my mother in-law and told her what happened. My husband came home while my mother in-law was reprimanding me. After he heard my story, he pulled the dog out from under the bed, and presented it to my mother in-law, who finally ceased being angry at the sight of the dead dog. I died at the age of nineteen, and reincarnated as Tang Shao, who stands in front of you. The dog I murdered is today's Li Miao. I'm going to die tomorrow as a result of my karmic relationship with Li Miao. The person ordered to carry out the execution will be Li Miao. You needn't be frightened when the time comes. It is a law that one's karma must be eliminated by retribution."

During the following day's dress military inspection, Li Miao was indeed the designated decapitator for Tang Shao's death sentence. At the first swing of the sword, Li Miao broke the sword in half. Li Miao had to get another sword and it took a second stroke to finish the execution of Tang Shao. One's life and death are indeed the results of cause and effect relationships. The way Tang Shao was killed and the fact that the sword broke proved that the gods are truly fair and just.

According to historic records from the Tang dynasty, Emperor Xuanzong later regretted his hasty decision to kill Tang Shao, and blamed Li Miao for carrying out the death sentence too quickly. Emperor Xuanzong ordered that Li Miao never be hired for any governmental work for the rest of his life.

[1] Ji Shi Zhong was a very high-level position in the ancient Chinese government. There were six major government branches in ancient Chinese times, including the Ministry of Civil Personnel, the Ministry of Rites and Education, the Ministry of the Military, the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Justice. There was a Ji Shi Zhong at each Ministry, responsible for directly assisting the Emperor with the daily administration of national affairs, with the supervision of the six Ministries, and with the impeachment of government officials for misconduct .

[2] For more information on the Winter Solstice celebration, please read "Introduction to the Chinese Lunar Calendar: The Winter Solstice" at

Reference: Extensive Records of the Taiping Era (Tai Ping Guang Ji) .

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