Prime Minister Yu Was Obsessed with Cleanliness

Yi Dou

PureInsight | December 24, 2006

[]  Yu
Zhaitian was a prime minister at the end of the Qing dynasty. He was
obsessed with cleanliness and many other taboos. At home, he would not
let anyone sit where he normally sat or touch the curtains or doorknob.
In the office, his subordinates had to hold the end of a Chinese brush
when they handed it to him. his clothes had to be free of wrinkles and
dust. If there were wrinkles after he sat for a while, the garment had
to be ironed.  He would not go out of the house or look at any
documents on the day before the change of every season.  

One winter day at dusk, he walked to the street to find some roast lamb
to eat.  There were many carts with lambs, pots, pans, wine, and
charcoal, and customers ate with one leg resting on the cart and one
leg on the ground. All a sudden, a dog covered with snow ran between
Yu's legs and messed up his white fox coat. He was so angry that he
could not eat and told his servant to catch the dog and cut the its
tail off. At that moment, his friend happened to walk by.  His
friend said, "It was said in ancient times that if you don't have
enough fur, you can use the tail of a dog. Why don't you give me the
dog's tail, so I can use it to mend my fur jacket? My fur coat is worn
out, so if you don't like your fur coat being dirty, I would like very
much to have it for the winter."

Prime minister Yu went home and told his family, "My friend is not
nearly as clean as I and is not picky about what he eats, but he is
very healthy.  He is old but he can walk more than ten miles
without being tired. Why should I be so obsessed with cleanliness? I
need to get rid of this habit." His friends heard about that and said,
"Prime minister Yu knows when to accept advice and is a good prime

When we see others with shortcomings, we not only need to be rational,
but also need to have a good approach and compassion in order to help
them to change.

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