By: Dr Wong Wee Nam
During the Spring and Autumn Period, when Zichan became the Prime Minister of the State of Zheng, the State was in turmoil with troubles from within and threats from outside. Zichan managed to clear the internal problems with good administrative skill and solve the external conflicts with good diplomacy.
However at that time, there were many in the court who believed in ruling oppressively with the iron hand. Zichan told them, “If the country does not care for the people and think of exploiting them, the people can only view the country as their enemy. In this case the country is unlikely to grow and prosper. Doing something for the people is like rearing fish. The benefits may be intangible but in the long run they are there.”

Once a minister suggested to him to close down a village school had been used by the villagers to meet at night for relaxation and idle chats. It had now become a venue for criticisms against government policies. Zichan turned down his suggestion. He said, “Why tear down the school? This is the only place where the people can gather after a hard day’s work to discuss our policies. We can use their views for reference. We can then try to implement policies that are favourable and change those that received strong criticisms. Don’t you think we should regard them as our teachers?
“Have you not heard that when you do good, you lessen the hatred? I have never heard you can lessen hatred using force and high-handed methods to seal people’s mouth. It is like a flowing river. If you block the flow, you will end up with a flood. Then it’s too late.”
In Chapter 78 of the Way of Tao, Lao Zi wrote :
“Nothing in the world is as soft or weak as water,
Yet in corroding the firm and strong,
There is nothing that surpass it.”
Zichan obviously believed in Lao Zi’s soft principle of government and was able to put it into practice.
Zichan was a wise leader but there are many who are not like Zichan. They only know how to abuse their power.
The ever insightful Lao Zi foresaw this. That is why in the same chapter, he wrote:
“There is no one in the world who does not understand this principle,
And yet none are able to put it into practice.”
Lao Zi’s Daodejing (Tao Te Ching) should be make compulsory reading for ministers and civil servants. It would be value for money to get someone like Zichan.

Republished from Dr Wong’s FB.