Stories from Ancient China: Tang Dynasty Prime Minister Li Deyu and the Three Hermits

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Li Deyu was a Prime Minister in the Tang Dynasty. Before he became the Prime Minister, he met three people with special powers. All three were hermits.

One day Li met a hermit named Guan Chenshan. At that time, he was a low-ranking official assigned to guard the north gate of a city. Guan told him, “You will be promoted and serve as a secretary for the Emperor next year. But you will actually work for the Crown Prince.” Li was so astonished by the hermit’s words that his face turned white. The hermit seemed to regret his words and hurriedly got up to leave. As he was leaving, Li asked him, “Why will I work for the Crown Prince?” The hermit replied, “You have a predestined relationship with the Crown Prince in several past lives, so you will.”

In the Fall of that year, Li Deyu was summoned to the capital. Shortly after, the Crown Prince usurped the throne and became Emperor Muzong. In January of the following year, Li Deyu was assigned to work in the imperial court and to work closely with the new Emperor.

While he was serving as a high-ranking counselor to the Emperor, a hermit from central Min (now Fujian Province) came to visit him. When Li greeted him, the hermit said, “The current situation will not last. If you don’t leave, you will be appointed Prime Minister. However, a disaster will follow. If you apply for a position in a remote place, the person who replaces you here will suffer. Ten years from now, you will become Prime Minister and return to the capital from the west.” In the fall of that year, Li asked for and received a post to guard the remote city of Wumen. One year later, he went to the capital to pay his respect to the Emperor and was sent to guard the border township of Nanyan.

At the end of that Fall, a county official accompanied by a Taoist [Someone who follows the "Tao" or "way of the universe"] from the Ye Shire came to visit Li. Before the Taoist even walked to his seat, he said to Li, “You will be appointed General of the Southwest. You will receive your seal for the General’s post before October 15.”

The events that occured later was exactly like what the three hermits had predicted. The time frame they predicted was also very accurate. The person who replaced Li as a high-ranking counselor to the Emperor was sent into exile shortly after Li left for his post in the remote city of Wumen. Ten years later, Li Deyu became the Prime Minister, where he indeed held an official post in the west before his appointment to become the Prime Minister came.

Adapted from Chuqiong Zhi

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