Soul of China

Gao Yun values integrity and loyalty

In April, 450 AD, Emperor Tai Wu Di (太武帝) of the Wei (魏) state ordered the arrest and execution of the minister of justice, Cui Hao (崔浩).
Cui had displeased the emperor when he presided over the writing of Guo Ji (國記), The Record of the State, in which he insisted on the principle of recording according to facts. The book annoyed the Tuo Ba (袥跋), a national minority in northern China, which Tai Wu Di belonged to and led.
The vice minister, Gao Yun (高允), was also placed under trial for being the lead writer of The Record of the State.
But Gao happened to be the mentor of the crown prince, who tried every means to absolve him from guilt.
The crown prince brought Gao to see the emperor and vouch that his mentor was a person who was very cautious in his work. He also pointed out that since Gao occupied a lower rank, Cui should be held chiefly accountable for the book.
The emperor then asked Gao: “Was the Record of the State all written by Cui Hao?” To which he replied: “It was written both by me and Cui Hao. But since Cui Hao was too busy, he only set some principles and later examined and approved the book. The actual writing was mostly done by me.”
Emperor Tai Wu Di said to the crown prince angrily: “According to what Gao Yun said, he is more guilty than Cui Hao. Why should we not execute him?”
The frightened prince tried to explain to the emperor: “You might have scared Gao Yun that he became muddled. A while ago when I asked him, he said the book was all written by Cui Hao.”
Then the emperor asked Gao again: “Is the prince telling the truth?”
Gao said: “Because I am his mentor, the crown prince wants to get me absolved in order to save my life. He never asked about The Record of the State, and I never told him the book was solely written by Cui Hao. This is a case that involves human life and should be treated with utmost care. I dare not be muddled.”
Tai Wu Di was impressed and remarked to the crown prince: “What a person of integrity! He would rather be killed than blame others to evade his responsibility; he would rather be killed than to lie to the emperor. It is difficult for ordinary people to do so, yet Gao Yun did so. It demonstrates that he is a person who values and acts in good faith, a person of loyalty. We should commend such kind of people.”
The emperor then pardoned Gao Yun.