Traditional Chinese Culture: Subordinates Will Follow the Example Set by Their Superiors; An Emperor's Good Behavior Will Be Imitated by His People

PureInsight | December 12, 2005

[] Duke Lingong of the Qi State (齊靈公) during the Spring and Autumn Period (722 B.C. – 481 B.C.) enjoyed seeing the women in his palace dressed in men's apparel. As a result, it became fashionable in the whole state for women to wear men's clothes. Duke Lingong found the development troubling, and he asked his royal court official to ban the fashion. He issued an order to tear up the clothing and rip off the belts of those women who violated the order. Many women had their clothing destroyed, but that did not stop the fashion trend.

One day, Yan Zi (晏子), a renowned strategist at the time, came to see Duke Lingong. Duke Lingong asked him: "I have asked the government officials to execute the ban and issued the order to rip the belts off of those women who wear the men's clothing. But I still can not stop it. Why is that?" Yan Zi answered: "Your highness promotes the fashion in your palace, but prohibits it outside of the palace. This is like hanging a cow's head at the front door, but selling horsemeat instead of beef inside the meat shop. If you prohibit this fashion in your palace, who would dare to contradict your order outside the palace?" Duke Lingong said: "Okay. I will do so." The duke started to ban the fashion at his palace. In less than a month, there was no woman in his state who was interested in dressing in men's apparel any more.

According to The Book of Rites (禮記), "Government administration is about setting good examples. If a ruler exhibits good behavior, his people will follow him because his people will imitate his good behavior. If the emperor himself fails to exhibit good behavior, how can he expect his people to do so?"

In fact, when raising children, it is also important to teach by personal example. If the parents lie, it will be difficult to ask the children to be honest. If the parents do not respect other people and treat other people rudely, it is very hard to teach children to become refined and courteous gentlemen and ladies. If parents are lazy and sloppy, it will be very hard to teach the kids to have the habit of being neat and clean. On the other hand, all these good habits will be built up naturally under the parents' personal examples.

Translated From:

Add new comment