Lu Gong lived during the Eastern Han Dynasty (A.D. 25-220). He studied the Five Classics and Lu Poetry when he was very young. Due to his studies, he became well-known for his wealth of knowledge even though he was very poor. Even the governor held Lu Gong in high regard and sent him grain every year. But Lu Gong never accepted it. The governor also wanted to give him an official position, as he was too young to hold office, but Lu Gong politely declined that as well.
When Lu Gong came of age, he became the governor of Zhong Mou County. During his term, he won the admiration of his people because of his great virtue and moral behavior. His virtuous character changed people’s hearts to be good, instead of using punishment. During his time in office, people were honest and lived peacefully.
On one occasion, a man complained to Lu Gong that someone named Ting Chang had borrowed his cow and refused to return it. Consequently, Ting Chang was brought in for questioning.
"You borrowed someone's cow and so you should return it after the work has been done. Now the owner has come to me to complain. After you return the cow, you should also apologize."
Ting Chang replied, “When did I borrow his cow? That is my cow!"
The man said, "This is not true! You borrowed my cow, but why don't you admit it?"
Tin Chang responded, "He is making this up! Why would I borrow a cow from him?"
Lu Gong sighed deeply, "There is no need to argue. It doesn't matter which one of you is right. I am responsible. It is my failure to have not been able to change you into people with high morals. I believe it to be my fault." Afterwards, he took off his official robes and was preparing to resign.
"Please don't quit," his subordinates begged him in tears.
"Please don't leave us," cried all his citizens.
"Please don't quit. I'll give up my cow," said the owner of the cow.
After seeing this, Ting Chang felt ashamed. He said, “I made a mistake. The devil made me do this. I will return the cow to him. Please punish me for my crime." Ting Chang finally admitted his wrongdoing. Lu Gong asked Ting Chang to return the cow and did not punish him. All the citizens were moved by the way Lu Gong handled the situation.
On a different occasion, locusts invaded all the counties with the exception of Zhong Mou. Minister Yuan An from Henan Province heard about it and did not quite believe it. He sent Fei Qin, an official, to investigate. Upon arrival, Lu Gong accompanied Fei Qin to inspect the field. Fei Qin sat under a mulberry tree and saw a pheasant fall from the sky and a child playing nearby.
"Why don't you (capture) the bird?" Fei Qin asked the child.
"She is hatching the baby pheasants and so I feel sorry for her," the child replied.
Fei Qin got up immediately after hearing this and went back to report to Yuan An.
"There are three things very unusual in Zhong Mou County. First, the locusts will not invade that county. Second, even the birds and animals are immersed in compassion. Third, even a little child has kindness in his heart. If I had stayed there any longer, I would only have disturbed the goodness that permeated that county."
Minister Yuan An reported Lu Gong's good deed to the imperial court.
After Lu Gong finished his term in Zhong Mou County, he was transferred to the imperial court because of his outstanding performance and was promoted to prime minister.
Lu Gong was a virtuous official who stressed the importance of good moral behavior. The people loved him because he ruled with righteousness and benevolence. Stories about his virtue changing people’s hearts have been told for generations. Even today, his stories show us the goodness in people and the influence of benevolence.
Read the origina Chinese article .