One of the famous people from ancient China was Sima Guang. He was a famous historian and high chancellor of the Song Dynasty. He was also the author of an unprecedented and expansive chronicle of Chinese history, the Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government, which took 19 years to complete.
A famous legend tells that when he was a little boy, he smashed a large water vessel to save the life of another child who had fallen inside.
Before he became an official, he taught students in the countryside. In those days, he and his students ate simple meals, and never drank wine.
Sima Guang taught the principles of filial piety, fraternal love, loyalty, and trust. His tireless efforts to teach good morals inspired his students.
Once, some elderly people from the countryside prepared a meal for Sima Guang. In return for their generosity, he taught them from the Confucian classic The Great Learning, to their delight.
Every time Sima Guang went out, ordinary citizens always stood by the side of the road in a show of respect.
The King of Khitan, a kingdom north of China, heard that Sima Guang had become chancellor, and told the Khitan people: “The Central Kingdom appointed Sima Guang as its high chancellor. Now we cannot infringe on Song Dynasty territory.”
During his tenure as chancellor, Sima Guang was not only selfless, but also showed great integrity. He drastically changed the social structure: scholars were respected, people were content, merchants grew honest, young people knew the meaning of shame, and everyday citizens warned others not to commit bad deeds lest Sima Guang hear about them.
After Sima Guang’s death, the emperor stopped work for three days to mourn his passing, and pursued a frugal lifestyle based upon Sima Guang’s teachings.
People in the capital stopped business to mourn his passing as if he were a close relative. Tens of thousands of people attended his funeral.
Sima Guang set a superb example of how people should live, and how officials should conduct affairs. When everyone believes in filial piety, loyalty, and trust, social morals will improve.
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