Ancient Chinese Culture: The Book of Political Ruling

Zhang Tianliang

PureInsight | August 19, 2002

Sima Guang was a famous student of politics from the Northern Song Dynasty. Over 19 years of his life he took what affects the affairs of the nation and the peasant, the positives that can be used to advise people and the negatives that can be used to warn people, and combined them into a book. Emperor Shen Zong personally entitled the book The Book of Political Ruling (Zi Zhi Tong Jian). (See scroll 294, The Book of Political Ruling.) The book, like the name suggests, followed the unrest and policies from the previous dynasty. The book used how the characters behaved morally to judge the effects of rules and policies and served as a reference for the emperors to come. After the book was compiled, it served as a must-read for many emperors and high-ranking officials.

Sima Guang didn't make up many of the points of view from The Book of Political Ruling. During his reviews he often quoted Confucian school texts such as the Book of Changes, The Spring and Fall (a political book written more than 2000 years ago) and The Noble Book (Shang Shu). When analyzing what causes a nation to thrive or kills it, he didn't deviate too much from the standards of Confucius' teachings of “Humanity, Righteousness, Propriety, Wisdom, and Faithfulness.” Later scholars all admitted that the Book of Political Ruling, while a brilliant historical book, didn't really have any fundamental effects on the later dynasties' patterns of success and failure.

Jia Yi, of the Han Dynasty, mentioned in his Guo Qin Lun, “When one shows no compassion in his policies, he’ll lose ground in battles.” Wei Zheng of Tang Dynasty, mentioned in his Ten Letters to Tai Zong (first emperor of Tang), “…When a nation is in peril, the emperor will treat the subjects with sincerity; when the nation has won, the emperor will became arrogant and mistreat his subjects.” Ao Yangxiu of Song Dynasty, in his Records of Five Generations of Officials Summons, said “Worries can make a nation thrive; Leisure can kill it.” Of course these are only reflections in the human world. The development and destruction of the dynasties have deeper causes, and these causes control history down to its finest details.

'The universe goes through formation, settlement, and degeneration, and human beings undergo birth, aging, illness, and death.' (From “Perfect Harmony” in Essentials for Further Advancement 1.) Like the patterns of the universe, a nation will inevitably settle, prosper, degenerate and finally be extinguished. The idea of an everlasting empire is a fantasy of a madman.

The Fa of the universe had created standards of existence for the human world including “conquering the world with military force.” (From “Dafa Is All-Encompassing” in Essentials for Further Advancement II) Through this arrangement, the development of an empire will require the death of thousands of people. The fields created by this kind of brutal battle will take some time to heal. This is why Lao Zi said, “Evil times come after fierce battles.” In the first few years of a new empire, the peasants are desolate and the market is waiting for development. The rulers knew that winning the empire is not easy, so often they would value the peasant, develop the nation's military power, improve the educational levels, and adopt regenerative policies.

This process of regeneration will sometimes last for a few generations. For example, the regeneration period of the Han Dynasty lasted from Gao Zu (the first Emperor of Han) until Emperor Wenjing. The regeneration period of the Tang Dynasty lasted from Emperor Taizong until the prosperous era of Kaiyuan. The regeneration period of the Qing Dynasty lasted from Emperor Shunzhi’s entry into the Han people's territory until the golden years under Emperor Kang and Emperor Qian. These are all typical examples. After a few generations of development, the empire would reach its peak. Because of the extensive storage of materials and food, people began to be spoiled. Mr. Li Hongzhi said, “Because all matters will go the other way when they reach an end; when something reaches its peak, it will come down.” (Zhuan Falun Vol. 2) All dynasties, when they reach this state, will inevitably walk toward destruction. Many ancient scholars knew this principle well. Thus Lao Zi said, “Matter grows old when it grew too strong.” The Book of Changes said, “An overbearing dragon shall regret; Advantage shall not last.”

“Just by merely living in this world, humans generate karma -- it’s only a question of how much. But in the human world there are also factors that allow karma to be repaid, such as disease, natural disasters, and war.” (“Dafa is All-Encompassing” in Essentials for Further Advancement II) During the generating of a nation, the peasants live in a prosperous state with abundant food and shelter, away from war, hunger and diseases; away from all the elements that were to make people repay karma, therefore karma will accumulate. When the dynasty begins its downfall, the deities will then design various man-made and natural disasters for humans to repay karma; the purpose is to prevent human from accumulating too much karma and finally being totally eliminated.

History repeats this cycle; no matter what humans do they can’t break this pattern. Perhaps so people would ask, “If this is the case, wasn’t Sima Guang’s effort to write The Book of Political Ruling a waste of labor?” I would say no. Because a dynasty’s duration, when it thrives, fails and is eliminated, were all pre-determined. It shall not be prematurely destroyed by the corruption of virtue or by the emperor’s free will. Therefore, in the human world we need some sort of publicly recognized standards to govern the virtue of the people, to govern the acts of the peasants and officials, as well as the emperor. These standards must be set by humans and be widely spread in the world. Sima Guang’s The Book of Political Ruling is but a step on the chessboard of history.

Chinese history is extremely unique. If one investigates it thoroughly one can find many secrets and mysteries. For example, ever since Wu-Wang’s (“Martial King,” an emperor in ancient Chinese history) crusade against Emperor Zhou (Zhou was an extremely brutal emperor), all those who helped the various chosen emperors were hermits from the Taoist School. Wu-Wang had Jiang Jiya; Liu Bang had Zhang Liang; Tang Taizong (Taizong means the first emperor of a dynasty) had Wei Zheng, Xu Maogong, Li Jing, Yuan Tiangang, and Li Chunfeng; Song Taizu had Miao Guangyi; Ming Taizu had Liu Bowen, etc. In the Twenty Four Books of History it’s recorded that all these people are from the Taoist School. Some of them were famous prophets. Also, “Every first emperor of a dynasty would have Wu-ling (martial spirits) reincarnated to help them fight.” (Zhuan Falun, Vol. 2, draft translation, subject to further improvement) It seems as if by chance these officials and warriors gathered around the chosen emperor and triumphed over the rebels. These are a detailed arrangement of history and these people are a pawn in a chess game and the hand of history will put them in a position to accomplish their missions.

Other than these people, a normal cultivator often won’t interfere with the human world’s affairs. What they sought after is to leave the human world, and return to the nirvana of ever existence. They simply have no concern about the human world’s enjoyment or fame. They won’t try to interfere with the human history for their own political gains. Mr. Li Hongzhi said in Zhuan Falun Vol. 2, “There are many cultivators living in the forests and mountains, they can see all the things that had happened and are to happen in history. But none of them interfere; none of them want to care. The reason they don’t want to care is because they all know that this is but the influences of the heavenly body’s changes. Things are supposed to happen the way they do.”

Chinese history also has another interesting phenomenon: of all those who first started the rebellion in a bid to overthrow the existing dynasty, not a single one of them managed to become the emperor of the next dynasty. Mr. Li Hongzhi said in North America Lecture Tour, “Human society is like a play -- dynasty after dynasty, it’s just like the curtain opens and a dynasty begins to play out, and as one dynasty ends, the big curtain closes; then it opens again, and a different dynasty replaces the old one.” Those who started the revolution only played a role in the prologue. When the time is right, the main cast (the chosen one) will take the stage.

The Book of Changes said, “Frost over frost, that’s when rigid ice comes.” There are always some foreshadowing and people who would prepare the path before the important matters in history occur. The Qigong popularity during the late 80s of the last century was not an accident. It was created to make way for the last play of history – the wide spreading of Dafa – to take the stage.

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