Stories from Ancient China: In order to Become a Person with Great Integrity, One Must Be Able to Endure Small Things

Han Qi served as the Prime Minister under three generations of Emperors at the Imperial Court during the Song Dynasty. He was a straightforward and upstanding person known for his generosity and great breadth of mind. People respectfully called him “Sir Han.” He once said, “In order to become a person with great integrity, one must be able to endure small things.”

Han Qi once served as the commanding officer of troops stationed in Dingzhou City. One night, while he was writing a letter, he asked a soldier to stand besides him and hold a candle for lighting. After a while, the soldier looked around in other directions because he was getting bored, and was no longer holding the candle straight up. The candle tilted over next to Han Qi’s head, and Han Qi’s hair caught on fire. He immediately put out the fire with his sleeves and continued to write his letter as if nothing had happened. A while later, he looked up and discovered that a different soldier was holding the candle. Han Qi was afraid that the official in charger of the soldiers was going to punish the first solider. He urgently asked the official to come over and told him, “Don’t relieve that soldier. I am sure he has already learnt how to hold a candle.” All the soldiers and officials under him admired his generous spirit.

While serving as a high-ranking army official in Damingfu, someone gave him two very precious jade cups as gifts. The jade cups were said to be very rare treasures. Han Qi thanked the person who offered the gifts and gave him white gold in return. He loved the jade cups. Every time he held a banquet, he would ask his servants to cover a table with high-quality silk and put the two jade cups on the table. One day, he held a banquet in honour of a highly ranking official who was in charge of water transportation. He was going to use the two jade cups to hold wine for his honoured guest. During the banquet, a servant accidentally hit the table. The two jade cups fell down to the floor and were broken into pieces. All the guests were shocked. The servant was terrified. He knelt down on the floor and placed his head on the ground, waiting for punishment. Han Qi did not lose his temper. Instead, he smiled and said to his guests, “There is a natural law behind the existence and death of all things.” He then told his servant, “What happened was an accident. You didn’t do it intentionally. So you haven’t done anything wrong.”

Once Han Qi was appointed as one of the three chief judges in a imperial civil service examination held in the city of Kaifeng. Wang Gongcheng and Ye Dingji were the two other chief judges. Wang and Ye argued constantly as they reviewed the papers submitted by the participants of the examination. But Han Qi sat quietly and kept reading the papers as if he hadn’t heard anything. One day Wang became angry at Han for not helping him when he argued with Ye. He went to Han Qi and asked him sarcastically, “Are you here to cultivate your generous and broad-minded spirit again?” Han Qi wasn’t offended at all. He just apologised to Wang in a very nice and pleasant manner.

You are welcome to print and circulate all articles published on Clearharmony and their content, but please quote the source.