Traditional Chinese Culture: A Kind, Generous and Amicable Minister in the Ming Dynasty

PureInsight | September 5, 2005

[] Xia Yuanji (夏原吉) was a man from Xiangyin, Hunan Province. He served three emperors of the Ming Dynasty, including Emperor Wendi, Emperor Zhaodi and Emperor Zhangdi, as the Minister of Finance.

Once he went on an inspection tour to the city of Suzhou. While he was there, he politely declined the local government officials' invitations to dinner. Instead, he dined at the hotel. The chef there made very salty dishes, which he found hard to swallow. So he didn't touch the dishes and had only steamed rice instead. But he didn't say anything to the hotel management anything to prevent the chef from being reprimanded.

Another time he went on the inspection tour to Huanyin. While he was resting in the suburbs, his horse ran away. His servant ran after the horse, but did not return after a long time. Xia Yuanji naturally became a little worried. A man happened to walk by from the direction the horse had run off to, so Xia Yuanji went up to him and asked, "May I ask you if you have seen a man chasing a horse on your way here?" But the man glowered at him and shouted, "Who cares about your horse or cow? Beat it! I am in a hurry! You are as dumb as a cow!" Xia's servant happened to return at this precise moment and heard the man's insolent behavior. He shouted and reprimanded the man, ordering him to kowtow and apologizing to the high-ranking Minister. But Xia Yuanji stopped the servant. He said, "Forget it! He may be tired from having been walking so fast. He didn't know what he was saying." He smiled at the man and released him.

One day an elderly servant accidentally stained a very precious golden robe that the emperor had bestowed upon Xia Yuanji. He was terrified and was preparing to flee. When Xia Yuanji found out about the incident, he told the servant, "Clothes can always be washed. There is no need to fear."

Once a maid accidentally broke his treasured ink slab. She was so terrified that she avoided seeing him. Xia Yuanji had someone pass a message to the maid, "Everything will eventually break. I am not upset at all." Everyone in his household got along with him very well.

After he retired from his official capacity, he decided to return to his hometown. On his way back, he stayed at a hotel where he asked a hotel attendant to dry a wet sock. The attendant accidentally burned the sock, but he was afraid to tell Xia Yuanji. After a long time, he finally had another attendant tell Xia Yuanji what had happened and apologize. Xia said with a smile, "Why don't you tell me earlier?" Then he threw away the other sock.

After he returned to his hometown, he chatted and laughed with farmers and woodsmen every day. He appeared to be a very amicable man. Those who didn't know him could not tell that he was once the Minister of Finance.

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