01 Jul You should rather have one talent in your employ than have a thousand ounces of gold in your coffer. (CHINGHUA TANG)
The Tang dynasty, one of the longest dynasties in Chinese history (618–907), is hailed by historians as China’s golden age. It didn’t come about by chance. It owed much to the conscious efforts of its co-founder, Emperor Taizong.
Tang TaizongI is one of history’s greatest rulers, ranking with Augustus, Genghis Khan, and Napoléon—and even, in some cases, exceeding their accomplishments. Under Taizong’s leadership, China became the world’s largest and strongest country. The emperor’s reign was marked by a number of savvy, innovative, and bold accomplishments, setting a high standard for all leaders who would come after.
Tang Taizong and his circle of gifted ministers held many discussions regarding how best to run the government and achieve longevity for the dynasty. Most of their conversations were recorded and later compiled in an anthology entitled The Zhenguan Executive Guide. This book has since become a classic on leadership, management, and statecraft.
CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN TANG TAIZONG AND HIS MINISTERS
Taizong told the crown prince, “A boat crossing the ocean depends on its sailors. A bird flying through the skies depends on its wings. An emperor running his country depends on the support of his aides. You should rather have one talent in your employ than have a thousand ounces of gold in your coffer.
“But talented people may live in obscurity. They may be waiting for the right opportunity; they may come from humble origins or have low status; they may be poor or holding menial jobs. You must make every effort to seek them out, for such people will make your life easier.”
SIX TYPES OF GOOD OFFICIALS
Minister Wei Zheng categorized good officials into six types:
“Those who are prescient enough to tell signs of coming events and take preemptive actions before any trouble occurs so as to protect the ruler.
“Those who give the ruler sound advice, carry out his good policies, and correct his mistakes promptly.
“Those who work hard, inspire the ruler with examples of sage kings in history, and recommend worthy men to him.
“Those who are perceptive, capable of remedying the ruler’s mistakes and turning a bad thing into good account.
“Those who abide by the law, do not take bribes or seek high pay, and lead a simple and frugal life.
“Those who do not flatter and dare to speak out against the ruler’s mistakes.”
SIX TYPES OF BAD OFFICIALS
He also divided wicked officials into six types:
“Those who do not work hard but think only of power and wealth and have no principles.
“Those who always say yes to the ruler, try to please him by any means, and go along with him even when he is wrong.
“Those who are double-faced, jealous of the worthy, and use tricks to manipulate the ruler and cause him to be unfair to his officials.
“Those who are smart enough to conceal their own wrongdoing, are eloquent enough to win favor from others, and purposefully create confusion in court.
“Those who abuse their position for selfish ends and try to feather their own nests in the name of the ruler.
“Those who use artful talk to beguile the ruler, confuse right and wrong to mislead him, and cause him to bear a bad name.”
The Ruler’s Guide: China’s Greatest Emperor and His Timeless Secrets of Success