A Han Dynasty Official Uses Forgiveness to Win Over People’s Hearts

Flying horse in bronze from the Han Dynasty. Displayed at the Gansu Provincial Museum. (Image:  wikimedia /  CC0 1.0)
Flying horse in bronze from the Han Dynasty. Displayed at the Gansu Provincial Museum. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Wei Ba was born in Juyang, Jiyin, during the Eastern Han Dynasty, and worked as a military officer and a non-military official in the Changle Palace. Coming from a family known for their social graces over many generations, Wei Ba always handled people following the principle of forgiveness.

Wei Ba lost his parents at an early age and lived with his brothers. All the neighbors were always envious over how harmonious the brothers were with each other. During the early years of the dynasty, Wei Pa passed the second-degree examination under Manchu rule.

When Emperor Liu Zhao began his reign, Wei Ba was promoted to be the prefect in Julu. During his tenure, he always gave his subordinates the opportunity to admit their mistakes and make up for their misbehavior when they did something wrong. Even if they didn’t admit their mistakes right away, he would console them and convince them to face up to them before punishing them.

Eastern Han dynasty (Image: Ian Kiu via wikimedia / CC BY 3.0)

Eastern Han Dynasty. (Image: Ian Kiu via wikimedia / CC BY 3.0)

At times, officials would gossip to Wei Ba about others, but he never responded to such talk. He would only talk about the good qualities of others rather than the bad ones. Due to his influence, the ones who had gossiped about others felt ashamed and stopped talking about people behind their backs.

As the story of Wei Ba’s benevolence spread, all the other officials and Wei Ba’s subordinates wholly respected him. In the 16th year of Yongyuan, approximately A.D. 75, Wei Ba was assigned as the supervisor of the construction of a mausoleum.

The construction started during a harsh winter when the ground was frozen, so the construction was extremely slow. Because of this, the palace officials came down several times to punish the local officials in charge of the effort.

However, Wei Ba never reprimanded them. He only comforted them, saying: “I’m sincerely sorry if you feel insulted by the palace officials.” The local officials were grateful for his understanding and made every effort to work harder. Eventually, the construction progressed several times faster than expected.

Figure of a horse, Eastern Han dynasty. (Image: Veronika Brazdova via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

Figure of a horse, Eastern Han Dynasty. (Image: Veronika Brazdova via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

Everyone has shortcomings. Everyone sometimes makes mistakes. People won’t truly obey you when you use power to pressure them. One can win people’s trust only if one treats them with respect and forgiveness.

Wei Ba gained the respect, trust, and obedience of others because he considered the other party’s perspective and understood them. In a word, forgiveness can win people’s hearts.

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