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Emperor Shun

Often referred to collectively with Yao as Yao-Shun, Shun was another role model for ancient Chinese rulers.

According to legend, Shun succeeded Yao to the throne at the age of 30. Before that, Shun was recommended to Yao by venerable ministers, and soon impressed Yao with his abilities in managing state affairs.

A well-known tale about Shun displays Shun’s moral quality of modesty and filial piety. Shun’s mother died very early, and his step-mother and step-brother, along with his blind father, treated him badly. Shun was forced to do almost all the hard work in the household, but was given only the worst food and clothes. But Shun never complained, and would treat them with care and respect as if nothing happened. At one point, his step-brother Xiang became jealous of his achievements and plotted to kill him. When Shun was repairing a barn-roof, Xiang lit a fire to the barn. To Xiang’s surprise, Shun grabbed two wide-brimmed bamboo hat, and “flew” to the ground safe and sound as if holding a parachute. In another “murder case”, Shun was told to dig up a well, when Xiang attempted to bury him alive with stones and soil. Luckily, Shun had got prepared for this by digging a diversion tunnel on the wall of the well through him he returned to the ground. Despite the malicious attempts, Shun never blamed them, silently forgave them, and went on treating them with filial piety and fraternity.

Shun’s virtue and an innate leadership talent made him popular. Wherever he went, people would follow and listen to him. And Shun was able to teach them to treat each other kindly. Once he came to a fishing village where people had been disputing and fighting over allocation of fishing resources. Shun then taught them how to share the resources, steering the village back to prosperity and harmony.

Similar to the way Yao chose him as successor, Shun was to pass the throne to Yu, the Great, who tamed the floods that had long been plaguing the country.


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