Yan Shu's Honesty

Jing Yan

PureInsight | September 23, 2007

[PureInsight.org] Yan Shu
(991-1055) lived during the period of the Song Dynasty. When he was
young, he was an honest, kind, smart, and hard-working kid. He was able
to write very well when he was seven years old. At the age of 15, he
was so smart that he was unmatched by others. Thus the County
Magistrate recommended him to Emperor Zhen Zong as an ingenious youth.

Yan Shu could have gone to be directly examined by the Emperor, but he
insisted on taking the Imperial Examination. He said that only if he
did well on the test, would it count as real ability. The Chief
Examiner agreed to let him take the test with another 3100 people.

When the test started and he saw the topic, he realized that it was
something he had done before. He held his pen up and thought about it,
and then raised his hands and said, "Your Excellency, I have done this
topic at home. If I do it again here, isn't that cheating? Can you
please give me another topic?"

The Chief Examiner thus agreed to give him another topic.

Yan Shu got his new topic, read it over several times, thought about
it, and then picked up his pen and finished all in one sitting. The
Chief Examiner was shocked. He commented that this person's threads of
ideas came out so quickly and nicely and he must be a genius.

Yan Shu was well respected by everyone for his honesty in asking to
take the test and asking for reassignment of the topic. This story was
passed on not only among the fellow test takers but also to Emperor
Zheng Zong. Emperor Zhen Zong immediately asked to see Yan Zhu and
commended him, "You not only have genuine talent and knowledge, but
more importantly, you have the good character of honesty!"

In the ancient China, no matter in which of the various levels of
government or big and small businesses, the most important criterion
for employing people was whether this person had good moral character.
If a person had great ability and skills but bad charactes, he would
not be employed. Because Yan Shu has the great character of honesty, he
later was became one of the very important officials in the imperial

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