Stories from Ancient China: Honest, Kind and Willing to Help Others

Wang Zhaosu lived in Suanzao (now Yanjin City, Henan Province) during the Song Dynasty of ancient China. He was honest and kind, with a wealth of knowledge, and was always ready to help others. He was clear-minded and desired little.

Wang Zhaosu studied hard since he was little but he did not want to be a government officer. He had an outstanding character and was well respected in the village and was often found gathering scholars from others places and teaching them himself. Whenever conflicts occurred among villagers, many of them did not go to court. Instead, they asked Wang Zhaosu to mediate. This demonstrated how much the villagers respected him.

When Wang Zhaosu went shopping, he paid the asking price and never bargained. The people in town told each other: "Mr. Wang never bargains when he shops. We should never ask for a high price from him."

One time when Wang Zhaosu remodelled his house, he stored the wood beams inside the gate. One evening, some thieves tried to pry open the gate to steal the beams. When Wang Zhaosu found out, he kept quiet and even threw the beams outside the gate. Ashamed, the thieves left his house. Since then, no thief was ever found in the village.

Wang Zhaosu had a donkey, which many people came to borrow. Whenever Wang Zhaosu needed to go out, he always asked his servants if anybody wanted to borrow the donkey. Only when they told him, "Nobody asked to borrow the donkey" would Wang Zhaosu leave home. He was afraid that someone who needed the donkey would not be able to find him if he left. He was so kind and eager to help others.

Wang Zhaosu was well known for his knowledge and virtue. The Emperor Taizu of the Song Dynasty, Zhao Kuangyin, made a special trip to ask Wang Zhaosu about the principles of ruling a country and keeping a healthy body. Wang Zhaosu told the emperor: "To rule a country is no more than to love its citizens, to keep fit is no more than to limit desires." The Emperor Taizu painted these words on the wall and desk of his empirical court to remind himself all the time.

The Emperor Taizu wanted to keep Wang Zhaosu as an officer; however, he had little desire for fame or gain, and refused the offer. Then, the emperor appointed his son as a professor of the National School [a teacher in the highest school of the nation]. The emperor rewarded Wang Zhaosu with tea, medicine, and 200,000 in currency for him to live a comfortable life back home. Wang Zhaosu lived to be 89 and passed away at home.

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