Emperor Yao (B.C. 2356 – B.C. 2255), was one of the later descendants of the Yellow Emperor. The most well-known story about Emperor Yao is as follows:
Once, Emperor Yao was traveling the land with his ministers to see how the people were faring. On his trip he visited a small town. On the way, they found a man by the road who had been tied up by the police as an example to others. Emperor Yao asked the police: "What is this man’s crime?"
The police replied: "He stole food."
Emperor Yao asked the criminal: "Why did you steal food?" The criminal replied: "We have no food because of the drought." Hearing this, Emperor Yao asked the police to tie him up as well, because he should be held responsible for the man needing to steal.
The police and Emperor Yao’s ministers quickly knelt down before him. One minister said to Emperor Yao: "The crime was the result of the drought, it has nothing to do with you.”
Emperor Yao replied: "It was my responsibility to help the people be ready for disaster; it was my responsibility to educate the people so they do not steal when they have nothing to eat. How can you say this has nothing to do with me?"
Emperor Yao then ordered his ministers to tie him up and he stood next to the thief. The people came from across the region to see their emperor tied up as he was, many were moved to tears. Several men came forward and fell to their knees in front of Emperor Yao and confessed crimes they had committed in the past. They said they were ready to accept punishment.
Upon returning to the palace, Emperor Yao explained to his officials: "I cannot blame natural disasters when people have difficulties and hardships in life. One must look inward. I cannot blame the people when they are unable to bear the hardship. I should reflect on how I have administered the country, in what matters have I made mistakes?"
Emperor Yao’s concern for his people won him great respect. He lived a simple life and put the people’s well-being as his highest priority. He always looked inward first when encountering difficulties.
Emperor Yao was loved deeply by his people. During his reign the people’s lives got better and better.