The Legendary Monarch Dialogue

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During the Tang Dynasty, a conversation took place between Emperor Taizong and Mr. Shih, one of his subordinates. (Note: Emperor Taizong of Tang (599-649) was the second emperor of Tang, and often considered to be one of the most successful emperors in Chinese history. He was born Li Shimin, son of Emperor Gaozu, the founder of the Tang dynasty. He took the name Taizong in 626 when he became emperor.)

“There are many subordinates in my seat, and you are the wisest. Yet, many still criticize you. Why is that?” Emperor Taizong asked.

Mr. Shih answered, “Spring rain is very precious to the farm. With it, the farm flourishes. Spring rain gives them an abundant harvest for all their crops. But for those in the village, spring rain makes all of the roads very muddy and difficult to walk on. In autumn, the moon shines upon the earth, and all of the scholars and intellectuals have a grand time being inspired to write poems. But the thieves hate it because the light exposes their evil conduct.

Even the almighty God can not make everyone satisfied – if he cannot do it, how can an ordinary person like me do it? I do not use good wine and dainty dishes to reconcile public clamor. Moreover, we should not listen to the gossip, nor spread it once we hear it.

If the king blindly listens to his subordinates, he runs the risk of being betrayed. If the father blindly listens to his son, he may encounter bad faith. If husband and wife blindly believe what they hear, they may face divorce. Good friends, if they listen to rumors, may break up and grow apart. So we must be careful about what we hear because our tongue while soft, can cause a bloodless death by spreading the untruth words. Often, we are being criticized behind our back because it is easy to say something bad about another person.”

Emperor Taizong nodded. “Well said. You made your point very well, and I will remember what you say.”


From the Tang dynasty to now, over 1000 years have passed. When I reread this legendary conversation, I realize that it is not possible to please everyone. But if we do things according to virtue, we can ignore the unnecessary criticisms of others. May we use this simple story to reflect our daily conduct.

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