Stories from Ancient China: Maintaining One's Integrity and Keeping One's Wife

Yan Zi was a very good prime mister from the Kingdom of Qi during the Spring and Autumn Period. One day Jing Gong, King of Qi, wanted to marry his beloved daughter to Yan and so he went to Yan Zi's home to drink wine. When they were quite mellow after drinking, Jing Gong saw Yan's wife and said," Is she your wife?"

Yan Zi said, "Yes." Jing Gong said, "She is sure old and ugly. I have a daughter who is young and beautiful, and I would like her to marry you."

Yan Zi immediately stood up and replied respectfully, "My wife is old and ugly now, but she was young and beautiful once and we have been together for a long time. When she was young and beautiful, she trusted me that we would be together until we died. She trusted me with her life, and I accepted her trust. Now you want to give me your daughter, but how can I violate her trust?" Yan Zi bowed to the king again and again to decline.

Another time Tian Wuju saw Yan Zi in the house alone and a woman walked out in plain black clothes and grey hair. Tian ridiculed him and asked, "Who is that woman?"
"My wife", said Yan Zi.

Tian Said, "You are in a high position and have a lot of money, but why do you have an old bag as a wife?"

Yan Zi replied, "Getting rid of an old wife is chaotic, taking a young concubine is lustful. How can I see beauty and forget integrity, and become wealthy and forget moral standards? That is deviating from virtue. I, Yan Zi, cannot behave like that."

One other time, a working woman wanted to come to Yan Zi's home and be one of his servants.

Yan Zi said, "Only today have I come to I realise that I have not been a man of virtue! In ancient times, the ones who ruled the kingdom let scholars, peasants, working folks, and merchants stay in their own places; men and women did not mix together. As a result, the scholars would not commit wrongdoings, and women would not commit sexual misconduct. Now I am minding the affairs of the kingdom and the people, and here is a woman who wishes to have a relationship with me. I have probably behaved in a lusty manner and have not demonstrated my integrity. He, consequently, refused to meet with that woman.

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