Ancient Chinese Wisdom: Belief in Heaven’s Will Leads to Promotion

November 3, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015

Delivery of the letter complies with the will of the heavens.  (Angela Parszyk/
Delivery of the letter complies with the will of the heavens. (Angela Parszyk/
Wei Zheng was a cabinet-level official during the imperial reign of China’s Tang Dynasty. One day, when he was about to take a nap, two low-level officials held a discussion outside his window.

One official commented, "Our promotions depend on this old fellow [Wei Zheng]."

The other disagreed and said: "It is not so. The heavens decide such things."

After overhearing this conversation, Wei Zheng decided to write a letter to the Office of Personnel Management. He asked the man who had called him an “old fellow” to deliver this letter. The man had no idea that the letter, which stated “promote this individual,” was about him.

Upon leaving his administrative office building to deliver this letter, the man experienced stomach pain. Therefore, he asked his colleague, to whom he had spoken outside Wei’s window, to deliver the letter instead.

The next day, the Office of Personnel Management made a public announcement that the man who believed in the will of the heavens would be promoted.

Upon hearing this announcement, Wei Zheng became confused and asked both men what had happened. Once he learned that the letter had been delivered by the wrong person, he sighed deeply and said, "It appears to be true—even one’s career is determined by the heavens!"

Read the original German article.