Zuo's Extended Version of the Spring and Autumn Annals
Xuan-zi Fan was the Prime
Minister of the State of Jin. He imposed heavy taxes on Jin's satellite
countries, The State of Zheng, one of Jin's satellites, could not bear such a
In February 549 BCE, the King of Zheng visited Jin. Prime
Minister Zi-chan of Zheng wrote Fan a letter and asked Official Xia Gong-sun, who
followed the king to visit Jin, to deliver it to Fan. The letter said, "You are
Jin's prime minister. The small neighboring countries do not hear the good
things about your leadership, they only hear that you impose heavy taxes. I am
very puzzled. I have heard that a virtuous prime minister will not be worried
about the problem of finance and will only worry about the difficulty in gaining
a good reputation. If you accumulate all the money of satellites into Jin's
treasury, the satellites will be forced to rebel. If you gather the taxes for
your personal use, the King of Jin will question your loyalty. If the satellites
rebel, then the State of Jin will not be able to have peace and security. If the
King of Jin doubts your loyalty, your family will no longer have security.
Collecting heavy taxes will cause great damage. Why did you do it?
A good reputation is the vehicle of virtue. It can carry
virtue far. Virtue is the foundation of a country. A country with a good
foundation will not collapse. Why don't you regard pursuing a good reputation as
your first priority? Once you have virtue, you can share happiness with others.
Once you share happiness with others, you may keep your position for a long
time. The Book of Poetry says, 'Virtuous men who share happiness with
others are the pillars of society.' This is because they have virtue. It also
says, 'If the Creator chooses to help you, people will trust and follow you.' This means
that you have a good reputation. If you have a forgiving heart and promote
virtue, then you will gain a good reputation which will carry your virtue
everywhere. Hearing of your virtue, people far away will come to enjoy your
teaching and people nearby will remain content and peaceful. It is better for
people to say that you make them prosperous than for them to say that you
deprive them of their possessions to fatten your own purse. An elephant is
killed simply because it possesses valuable tusks."
Fan was glad to hear Zi-chan's advice, so he reduced the