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Kong Yong – A true leader

Kong Yong (孔鏞 1427-1486) was appointed governor of Gao Zhou (高州) in Guangdong province in 1465 during the Ming Dynasty. Because of his predecessor’s bad governance, the people of Yao (瑶) ethnic group had no food to eat and turned to banditry. The city gate was closed to keep them from attacking.
Upon assuming office, however, Kong Yong opened the city gate to facilitate people’s entry and exit. He also set up a public cemetery where the bodies of those who had died of pestilence and been thrown in the wilderness were buried.
Kong Yong then rode on a horse alone to seek out the chief of bandits, Deng Gong Chang (鄧公長), who was entrenched at Mao Dong (矛峒).
On his way, he met a group of bandits and asked them to relay his message to Deng Gong Chang: “I am the new governor. I came to discuss with you about returning to your farms.”
Upon receiving the message, Deng Gong Chang assembled his men who were in full battle gear, with weapons in hand, ready to meet Kong Yong. But he was surprised when Kong Yong showed up alone.
Kong Yong dismounted from his horse and slowly proceeded to sit in the court. He told the Yao people: “You are all poor people; it is due to hunger and cold that you are in this kind of situation. My predecessor encircled and suppressed you, and he made your situation even harder. Now that I am the appointed official to take care of you, I will try to solve your problems of clothing and food.”
He then challenged them: “If you believe me, then send me back, I will distribute food and clothes to you. If you don’t believe me, you can kill me right away and then wait for the large army from the royal court to come. You will definitely have your heads chopped off. It will be too late for you to repent then.”
Deng Gong Chang could not decide. Meanwhile, his followers, deeply moved by Kong Yong’s words, were in tears.
Kong Yong continued, “I am hungry. Give me something to eat.”
Deng Gong Chang gave Kong Yong food.
After the meal, Kong Yong said, “It is already evening. I will just stay here.”
Kong Yong stayed with the bandits for two days.
Finally, convinced of Kong Yong’s sincerity, Deng Gong Chang sent dozens of cavalry men to accompany Kong Yong back to the city.
Kong Yong kept his word. He sent carriages of food and clothes to Mao Dong.
Deng Gong Chang, in turn, would place thousands of his men at the disposal of Kong Yong and return to their villages to till their farm lands. Not long after, other groups of bandits followed suit. They disbanded and went back to their villages.
As for the bandits who disregarded Kong Yong’s advice, Kong Yong organized an elite force of about 3,000 soldiers, which raided their stockade camp and crushed them. Peace and great order thus reigned over the land.
Before long, Kong Yong was promoted deputy inspector, taking charge of two prefectures, Gao Zhou and Lei Zhou (雷州).