During the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.), an official named Zhao She, who was in his twenties, was the person in charge of collecting land levies in a local area.
At that time, the Prime Minister, Zhao Sheng, owned a vast area of farmland and his caretakers abused their power by refusing to pay the land levy. This matter was reported to Zhao She who had to personally go to the farm to collect the levy. The staff still refused to pay. Zhao She followed the rules and arrested more than 10 of them who were still acting arrogantly and not admitting they were wrong. Eventually, nine of them were punished according to the state law and sentenced to death. This infuriated the prime minister and he gave orders to arrest Zhao She.
When Zhao She was brought before Zhao Sheng, he reasoned out his points with dignity: “You are the prime minister of Zhao state yet allow the caretakers of your land to resist paying levies. This is defying the state law. If the law is not complied with, the state will inevitably weaken. If the state is weakened, outside people will invade us. If Zhao state is eliminated, how can you keep your existing wealth? If you can abide by the law, there will be fairness in the world and the state will be strong. When Zhao state is strong, what can you lose?”
When Zhao Sheng heard these words, he felt that the points made were very reasonable. He released Zhao She and even recommended to the King that Zhao She be in charge of collecting levies for the whole state.
“Observing the law” means carrying out official duties and complying with the state rules and regulations.
Translated by: Chua BC