Stories from Ancient China: Assist the Poor and Serve Those in Need

Diwu Lun was an official from the early Eastern Han Dynasty of ancient China. He lived in what is Shaanxi Province today. He was honest, unpretentious, and generous. No matter where he worked, he was always considerate of the people.

Since he was a child, Diwu was eager to help anyone who had difficulties. During the insurgency led by Wang Mang, there were many bandits around, and Diwu's fellow villagers relied on him. They elected him as a local leader to resist the bandits. Diwu led the people to build castles to protect themselves. Dozens of groups of the rebellion troops came, but none conquered their castles. After the rebellion was suppressed, Diwu was awarded by the local government official. He was given the post to lead the local prosecutor's office and taxation bureau. He knew the responsibilities were huge, and repeatedly told those under him, "In our positions, everything we say or do affects the lives of the people. We must not harm the people or become greedy." When his supervisor wanted to give him a higher salary, he rejected decidedly and said, "The common people's lives are already very difficult. How can I add to their burden?"

When Diwu was the Administrator of Kuaiji County, although he was in a high position, he was still very frugal. He wore cotton clothes and ate low-quality rice. He even cut hay himself for the horses. His wife worked in the kitchen and cooked food. Whenever Diwu was paid, he only took what his family needed for food and clothes, and donated the rest to the poor. He believed his family should not gather assets and therefore did not buy real estate or expensive things. Once a friend said, "Everyone has his own fate. You are just one person. How many people can you save? How can you possibly help everyone?" Diwu said, "This is my will and the intent is what counts." His friend said, "You are very frugal and live a simple, honest life. However, if you don't have any real estate and assets, what are you leaving to your heirs?" Diwu smiled and said, "You are being too generous. I am accumulating virtue to pass onto my heirs."

When he was appointed Administrator of the Shu County, most officials in the county government cared a lot about money and little about the people. He fired all corrupt officials and appointed those who held integrity. Because of his actions, no one in the county government accepted bribes any longer. He also recommended many with integrity to the central government, some of whom later became very high officials. All of them remained honest and true.

Diwu was an upright person and followed the rules. He did not try to please those in power. At that time, a relative of the Empress was acting quite arrogantly and gained a lot of power. No one in the central government dared say anything. When Diwu began working in the central government, he wrote many letters to the Emperor to advise against this person. He also wrote in his letter that those with no integrity or abilities should not become officials. Many officials became irritated with him. One of his colleague said to him, "You respect kindness and justice, that is quite noble for a gentleman. However, we are government officials, and we need to know how the system works. If you don't learn to be flexible, you will regret it in the future." Diwu said, "Kindness and virtue are what I live for. They are paramount. How can I lose these two in order to keep a government post? You mean well, but you don't understand my aspirations."

Diwu won the appreciation and trust of Emperor Zhang of the Han Dynasty, and was promoted to the highest positions. He encouraged education and did many things to benefit the people. He told others around him, "Kindness and virtue cannot be gained through fighting. These two are the fundamentals of being human, and they are the foundation for everything. I regret that I didn't do more kind deeds in this lifetime, yet I have received so much good fortune in return, beyond my imaginings!"

Everyone of us should learn to always keep kind thoughts, do good deeds, be considerate of others, and be truly responsible for ourselves.

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