Emperor Taizong Conversing with His High-Ranking Officials

Compiled by Xin Yuan

PureInsight | May 23, 2006

[PureInsight.org] Wu Jing, a
historian in the Tang dynasty, recorded the views of Emperor Tang
Taizong and his high-ranking officials about the rise and fall of
past dynasties in the "Diagnosis of Rise and Fall," chapter 34 of the
"Government Platform of Zhenguan."

On the first year of Zhenguan (translator's note: the rule of Zhengguan
refers to the administration of Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty,
whose reign lasted from 627 to 649 AD), Emperor Taizong asked his high
officials: "Emperor Zhou Wuwang established his kingdom after he
overthrew Emperor Shang Zhou and ended the the chaotic rule of
the Shang Dynasty. Qin Shihuang gobbled up the Six Kingdoms after
the Zhou dynasty became weak. How the two emperors united the country
and ascended to the throne was not much different. But why do people
view the two emperors so differently ?" One high official, Xiao Yu,
believed it was due to the difference in public opinion. But Emperor
Taizong disagreed with that view. He said, "After the Zhou dynasty
replaced the Shang dynasty, Emperor Zhou Wuwang made great efforts to
promote benevolence and righteousness; but when Qin Shihuang reached
his goal, he used violence. They differed not only in how they obtained
the throne of the country but also how they maintained the country.
That's the reason for how long a throne lasts."

On the second year of Zhenguan, Emperor Taizong told Wang Gui, a
high-ranking official, "Fourteen years after Emperor Sui Wendi ascended
the throne, there was a famine and the people were impoverished. The
government granary was full of grain but the government didn't
distribute the grain to help people in the stricken areas. As a result,
people had to flee from places where there was famine to other places
to look for food. Emperor Sui Wendi didn't cherish his people and only
cared about his grain. Towards his later years, the grain
accumulated  in the government granary was enough to feed the
country's people for fifty to sixty years. Relying on this wealth, his
successor, Emperor Sui Yangdi, was extravagant and tyrannical and this
resulted in his regime being overthrown. People who govern their
country need to save grain for the people and not to just fill up their
storehouses. Our forefathers said, ˜If the common people are hungry and
cold, how can an emperor be amply fed and clothed?' If the grain in the
storehouse is enough to help people survive a lean year, why then
bother to keep the grain? Only when all succeeding emperors are wise
and able, can the dynasty be maintained. If they are unworthy,
excessive grain storage can lead to extravagance and make a regime

On the fifth year of Zhenguan, Emperor Taizong asked his high-ranking
officials, "The will of heaven is to reward good people with blessings
and evil ones with retribution. It is just like a shadow following
people. If an event takes place, there must be a corresponding
consequence. When a rebellion broke out, Lord Qimin was forced to flee
to Sui. Emperor Sui Wendi provided him with grain and clothing, and
also sent troops to quell the rebellion. When Qimin's country became
strong and prosperous again, his offspring should have repaid Sui's
generosity. Instead, his successor, Lord Shibi, started a military
action against Sui and surrounded Emperor Sui Yangde in Yanmen Pass.
When the Sui dynasty was in turmoil, they attacked Sui and penetrated
deeply into the Sui territory and killed their benefactor's
descendants.  Now their country has been defeated and overthrown,
isn't this the retribution for their ungratefulness?" All his officers
agreed with the Emperor's point of view.  

On the ninth year of Zhenguan, Emperor Taizong told his Prime Minister
Wei Zheng, "I have been reading the histories of the Northern Zhou and
Northern Qi dynasties. The evil deed of a despotic monarch seems to
always end the same way. The emperor of Northern Qi, Gao Wei, was
infatuated with extravagance. When his national assets were almost used
up, he had the tax office impose higher taxes. I often like to draw an
analogy: what he did was like eating his own flesh. A person would be
dead before he ate up all his flesh. If an emperor keeps taxing
incessantly, once common people are wrung dry, the country will
collapse. The emperor of Northern Qi did precisely the same thing. But
how do you compare the two emperors? Which one is better?" Wei Zheng
answered, "Even though both had lost their countries, there is a
difference. Gao Wei, the emperor of Northern Qi, was so weak that he
allowed his high-ranking officials to run his government. Because his
country didn't have the necessary political order, the country was
destroyed. On the other hand, Tian Yuan, the emperor of Northern Zhou,
was brutal and violent. He governed his country with self-will. He was
responsible for his own country being destroyed. From this perspective,
Gao Wei was inferior."

The rise and fall of dynasties has happened countless times in Chinese
history and left behind many experiences and lessons. To rejuvenate a
country, one must promote benevolence and righteousness. Promoting
benevolence and righteousness will receive protection from heaven. As a
result, the country will be long lasting.  On the other hand,
violence and corruption will bring about destruction of a country. The
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has not only been deceiving its people,
but it also uses violent and ruthless means to repress its citizens,
especially Falun Gong practitioners, who believe in "truthfulness,
compassion, and forbearance." The CCP has been carrying out
extermination against Falun Gong practitioners, including removing
organs of Falun Gong practitioners' for organ transplants when they
were still alive. Its actions cannot be forgiven and will meet with
retribution. Its days are numbered, and it is not far away from total
destruction. Although the current CCP leader, Hu Jintao, wasn't
personally involved in the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, if
he continues to be weak and not courageous enough to start a new path,
his outcome will not be much different from the Northern Zhou emperor.
Don't lessons from history serve as warnings to people?

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