Prime Minster Advises the Duke, Even After Death

November 30, 2011 11:43 pm Last Updated: December 10, 2011 1:31 am

In the Spring and Autumn Period (770 – 476BC), there was a sage in State of Wei, whose name was Qu Yuan, also known as Qu Boyu. He was a man of good character and talent. Although he was generous, honest, loyal and forgiving, the Duke Ling of Wei did not give him an important position in the royal court and instead, the Duke relied upon a man named Mi Zixia.

Mi Zixia was a corrupt official; in addition, he was Duke Ling of Wei’s sexual partner. On many occasions Prime Minister Shi Yu of the State of Wei, advised the Duke to use Qu Boyu talents, rather than Mi Zixia, but the Duke of Wei ignored the prime minister’s advice. Shi Yu became very worried and his mind was heavily burdened with concern.

When Shi Yu was on his deathbed, he said to his son, “When I served the State of Wei, I failed to convince the Duke of Wei to hire Qu Boyu and to demote Mi Zixia… so I failed to fulfill my duty as Prime Minister.

“I could not successfully help the Duke follow the path of justice; so I request that you not provide a proper funeral for me according to custom when I die. Please just place my body by a window when I die. That would be enough.”

When Shi Yu passed away, his son did exactly as his father instructed.

When the Duke of Wei came to pay his respects to Shi Yu, he was surprised to see the Prime Minister’s body simply lying before a window. When he asked why the Prime Minister was not given a proper funeral, Shi Yu’s son told the Duke every word his father said to him.

The Duke’s face turned pale; he felt ashamed for what he had done. He knew he had to make things right. The Duke ordered his men to give the Prime Minister a proper funeral according to rites, and subsequently promoted Qu Boyu and dismissed Mi Zixia.

When Confucius heard about the matter he said, “In ancient times, admonishers ended their duties when they died. Unlike others, Shi Yu continued his duty even after death by using his body as admonishment.”

The Analects of Confucius says that, “The king treats his officers with proper etiquette and his officers serve the king with loyalty in return.” As officers to the country, on behalf of the state and the citizens, officials should be loyal and diligent in admonishing the king, which is the essence of their post. (From Confucius Home Book, Volume V)

Read the original Chinese article.