Song Hong was a high official in the Han Dynasty. He was very honest and conscientious. He once had a meeting with Emperor Guangwu. They sat outside next to a new screen that had beautiful women painted on it.
The emperor turned his head several times to look at the beauties on the screen. Song Hong quoted Confucius, “I have not seen someone who is as fond of virtue as he is of the beauty of a woman.”
The emperor immediately ordered the screen to be removed. He then smiled and said to Song Hong, “I’m following the right path, aren’t I?” Song Hong said, “I am greatly pleased that your majesty seeks virtue.”
After Princess Huyang, the emperor’s sister, lost her husband, the emperor was chatting with her about the officers. The princess said, “No one can compare with Song Hong in virtue, appearance, or personality.”
The emperor invited Song Hong and arranged for the princess to sit behind a screen. The emperor said to Song Hong, “I’ve heard that when someone is promoted, he changes his friends, and when one gets rich he changes his wife. Is this true?”
Song Hong answered,
“I’ve heard that a friend from when times were hard should not be forgotten, and a wife who shared her husband’s hardships must never be cast aside.”
The emperor turned to the princess and said, “Well, it won’t work.”