Yan Shu of the Northern Song Dynasty could write essays when he was just 7 years old. The local officials called him a child prodigy. At the time, the Emperor tested the scholars personally and asked Yan Shu to take the test in the palace with a thousand other scholars. Yan Shu showed no fear and took the pen and wrote the article in a short period of time.
The Emperor read it, was pleased with his results, and allowed him entry to the first level. Two days later, the Emperor re-examined the participants for an advanced level. After reviewing the test, Yan Shu said to the Emperor: “I did this topic before and have kept the draft, and I hope to have a different topic.” The Emperor liked his honesty and after the exam was over, he was appointed to a high position that could influence and reform society.
At that time, the kingdom had been very peaceful, and the scholars liked Yan Shu often had wine-and-dine gatherings. However, Yan Shu was from a poor family and there was no money for him to join in socially, so he often stayed home to study. One day, the palace announced the search for a teacher for the prince. When the Emperor picked Yan Shu, everyone was surprised. After Yan Shu entered the palace, the Emperor said: “Other officials and scholars are drinking and having fun, but you study behind closed doors. You are the right person to teach the prince.”
Yan Shu said: “I also love to play, but there is no money. If I had money, I would go out too.” The Emperor appreciated his honesty and felt that he could have a more important job. Eventually, he became Prime Minister.
Honesty has been a virtue for thousands of years. The saying: “An honest man always suffers” is an incorrect reasoning for people who have no moral constraints nowadays.
Translated by Yi Ming