Soul of China

A noble man thinks of others

Yang Zhu (揚翥), the minister of rites of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) during the 15th century, was the sincerest, noblest person held in the highest esteem in his time.
Born to a poor family, he would join his elder brother in the Wu Chang (武昌) countryside when he was old enough and made a living teaching.
A naughty pupil once insulted Yang Zhu, but he turned a deaf ear to the insult. When someone brought this to his attention, he said, “Maybe, the one he cursed happened to have the same name as mine.”
Meanwhile, Yang Shi Qi (楊士奇) was wandering in Wu Chang looking for work. He came upon Yang Zhu’s house and requested lodging. He boldly told Yang Zhu that he is poor and looking for a teaching job. Yang Zhu immediately gave up his position as instructor for Yang Shi Qi. He took a teaching job in another place, which he walked to for more than 10 li (里, half kilometer) every day.
In later years, Yang Zhu, already a high government official, lived in the capital Beijing. Water from the gutter eaves of his neighbor’s newly renovated house was dripping into Yang Zhu’s home. Yang Zhu’s family members were indignant and wanted to confront the neighbor.
But Yang Zhu said: “Never mind. There are more sunny days than rainy days. Don’t harm the harmonious relation over such a small matter.”
At the capital, Yang Zhu used to ride a donkey to the imperial court. When his neighbor had a newborn baby, Yang Zhu worried that the baby might get frightened by the donkey. So, he sold his donkey and traveled to the court on foot.
One time, Yang Zhu’s son lost all his money to a thief. When his son said he was filing a case, Yang Zhu stopped him resolutely.
Yang Shi Qi would soon have his own home. At the inauguration of his house, he invited Yang Zhu to be the first to step into his abode. “The first person who should enter this newly constructed house should be the great noble man,” he said.
It was a public affirmation of Yang Zhu’s noble virtues and high moral character.