Soul of China

Achieving true law and order

Emperor Sui Wen Di (隋文帝)

During the reign of Emperor Sui Wen Di (隋文帝, 581-601 AD), founder of the Sui Dynasty (581-618), Wang Jia (王枷) of Qi Zhou (齊州), a military aide, was tasked to escort more than 70 prisoners to the capital to stand trial. Chained and shackled, the prisoners walked with great difficulty and were utterly exhausted.
When they reached Xing Yang (滎陽), Wang Jia could no longer bear the suffering of the prisoners. He convened them and said: “You deserve to bear those implements of punishment. However, you also make the innocent soldiers escorting you suffer. Is your conscience clear?”
The prisoners led by Li Can (李參) apologized in unison.
Wang Jia then took the chains and shackles off the prisoners and, without any hesitation, dismissed the escort soldiers. He struck a pact with the prisoners: They were to be at the capital on a certain date; or else, he would be executed on their behalf. He then left them and continued traveling alone.
The prisoners were so deeply grateful they committed to reciprocate Wang Jia’s gesture of kindness with their lives. They scaled down the mountains and forded the streams. All of them – not one dared escape – arrived at the capital at the appointed time.
Emperor Wen Di marveled at the incident and commended Wang Jia. He was so delighted he broke protocol and invited the prisoners and their family members to a banquet at the imperial court. He then pardoned all of them.
The emperor also issued this pronouncement:
“All the people in the world know good and bad, right and wrong. If the ruler treats them with sincerity, advises them righteously, then the atmosphere among the people certainly would be honest and simple, and all the people would be inclined to goodness.
“The group of Li Can willingly submit themselves to the law; they demonstrated that people of all quarters are not really difficult to teach.
“If all the officials would be like Wang Jia and the people would be like Li Can, then there would be social order and criminal laws could be abolished. Law and order would not be difficult to achieve.”