Zi Chan 子產 was a well known scholar. He became a great politician and general in the Zheng
鄭 country in China. He was a very benevolent leader.
Zi Chan fell very ill. So he called Zi Tai Shu 子太叔 and said, “After my death, you’ll have to
govern the country. You should know that virtuous people must use benevolence and harmony to
inspire respect from the people while ordinary people must use awe and strictness to govern the
It is like fire. Being hot, it creates fear in people and that is why few people die from fire.
Whereas water, being cool, it makes people underestimate its danger and therefore more die from
drowning. In general, being benevolent and yet still creating harmony is not easy.”
A few months later Zi Chan died and Zi Tai Shu replaced him as general. He however could not
find it in his heart to be stern and forceful. He instead chose to use benevolence and harmony as
a ruler. As a result, the country had a lot of bandits and robberies. So Zi Tai Shu realized the
errors of his ways, followed Zi Chan’s doctrine and used the army to capture and execute the
bandits and robbers.
When Confucius heard of the story, he commented, “Very good, indeed! When the ruler is
benevolent then the people misbehave. When the population do not follow the rules then force
must be utilized. When using force then the people will perish and are weakened. Then one must
to resort back to benevolence. Benevolence can help force and force can complement
benevolence: that is harmony.”
* * * * *
Harmony as per the Confucians simply is the Middle Way in Buddhism: it’s the art of managing
people to maintain balance while being virtuous.
As my late teacher pointed out, besides political skills, country leaders must also maintain
morality as the core.