Morality Has the Greatest Impact on People

By Zhi Zheng
Adapted from
Created: October 29, 2012 Last Updated: October 29, 2012
Related articles: China » Culture
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Wang Lie, also known as Wang Yanfang, was born in the old Taiyuan City (the southwestern part of today’s Yangqu County, Shanxi Province) at the end of East Han Dynasty. He was an upright person, and he was just. He used his noble moral character and conduct to influence and reform the villagers, and was highly respected. 

Once a man stole a cow and was caught by the owner. The thief kneeled in front the owner and begged: “Please send me to the officials and be dealt with according to the law; I deserve punishment by the law of the land. But please don’t let Mr. Wang Yanfang know about this.” 

On hearing the news, Wang sent someone over right away to apologize to the owner, and gave a bolt of cloth to the thief as a gift. People were puzzled and asked Wang. Wang explained: “The thief was afraid that I might find out about his misconduct, which meant that he was ashamed. People who are embarrassed by their own or detest others’ wrongdoing can be rehabilitated. What I did was to encourage him to make amend and start anew.”

Some time later an elderly gentleman lost a treasured sword. Someone found it and waited at the place for the owner to come and reclaim it. He waited till dusk when the elderly gentleman finally came looking for it. The man graciously returned the sword to him. The elderly gentleman was very grateful, and asked for his name. It turned out that he was the former cow thief. 

Whenever the villagers got embroiled in disputes, they would ask Wang to adjudicate and settle the dispute. Because of the effect of Wang’s moral education, some villagers would stop fighting and settle it among themselves before even seeing Wang. Some would resolve the issue on the way to seeing Wang: they would feel so ashamed, upon seeing Wang’s house, that they would reconcile with each other and go back home. Wang’s moral character had a more profound influence on people than the compulsion of punishment. 

Later, during the turmoil of the civil war, Wang took refuge in Eastern Liaoning Province. He quickly won the respect of the inhabitants there, and they enthusiastically embraced his ethical propriety. Cao Cao, an infamous warlord who controlled one-third of China at the time, heard about him and sent his messenger to recruit him. Wang politely declined. Wang maintained his noble integrity all his life, helped people do good, and was highly praised. 

Throughout history, all those who gained respect were people with high moral character. The impact and influence of morality surpassed everything else. Coercion can never truly subjugate people nor win over people’s hearts. Conscience is the core tenet for human conduct. It’s the footing of life, the righteous premise that upholds the truth of the universe, and the deep aspiration of the soul. 

Read the original Chinese article.

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