Emperor Kangxi Was a Wise Ruler and a Paragon of Benevolence (2 of 3)
2) Emperor Kangxi appointed officials according to their virtues
People were Kangxi's first priority. He loved the people. He observed them and was mindful of their hardships. During his political career, he constantly developed principles and policies that benefited the people. Kangxi was intent on restoring and expanding productivity based on people's abilities, life cycles and reproduction cycles. He forbid the seizure and occupation of people's lands. He eliminated grain taxes 545 times at a cost of 1.5 billion yin liang (silver, the ancient Chinese monetary unit). Kangxi announced the policy of "no extra taxes on additional children," and froze the "population tax" to lessen the financial burden on farmers. He studied and investigated river management for more than ten years, and placed importance on managing and controlling the Yellow River. He was mindful of people's distress and so reduced damage and suffering brought by flooding.
At one time, a part of the Great Wall in the area of Gubeikou collapsed. The ministry of public works discussed the reconstruction project. Kangxi told the senior engineers, "When an emperor rules a nation, he relies on internal sources and does not solely depend on barricades. The Great Wall was built during the Qin Dynasty and constantly repaired during the Han, Tang, and Song Dynasties. Yet, this did not prevent foreign invasions. At the end of the Ming Dynasty, my ancestor led his army through it, destroying any obstruction. No one could stop them! Therefore, to defend a nation is to cultivate one's virtue and treat the people respectfully. When people are happy, the nation is in harmony and the frontier is fortified. My thoughts concerning this are clearly represented by the proverb 'Unity of the people with the same purpose is a formidable force.'"
Kangxi, when inspecting an area north of the Great Wall, found a man lying on the road. He approached the man and found that his name was Wang Sihai and that he was a servant. On his way home, he laid down from hunger and could not get up again. Kangxi immediately ordered his aides to feed him warm porridge. After Wang Sihai was well again, they took him with them to the place where the Emperor stayed while on this inspection tour. Then, they gave him travel expenses and send him with an escort back home.
Kangxi put in practice a "lenient punishment" policy. During 22 years of his reign, less than forty prisoners received the death penalty.
Emperor Kangxi was a benevolent emperor. He directed that all officials treat people as if they were their children. When selecting people for government positions, he held to very strict standards. He used the following principle when selecting an official, "When a nation chooses its official, a person's morality, fairness, and generosity of spirit come first, his talents and skills come last. It would be ideal if the person possessed virtue and talent. However, it is more important that he possesses virtue instead of talent. A person's talent must be based on his virtues. Therefore, when he possesses more virtue than talent, he is a true gentleman. If he possesses more talent than virtue, he is a spiteful man."
In order to reassure Han officials, Kangxi told them repeatedly, "The Manchus and the Hans are both my ministers. The Manchus and the Hans are one body. All officials, regardless of position, are my trusted aides. Every official must submit admonishments, submit written reports, and must not avoid responsibilities." Therefore, many scholars who had lived in seclusion came to serve the government. The barrier between the Manchus, Hans, and other ethnic groups gradually disintegrated and they all lived in harmony.
To foster an honest and upright environment among government officials, Kangxi issued imperial orders soliciting advice from honest officials from throughout the government. He personally honored some of them. During his reign, there were many well-known, honest, and upright officials, such as Tang Bin, Li Guangdi, and Zhang Boxing. When they governed a county, its residents' lives improved, and when they governed a province, people's lives in the province improved.
For example, Yu Chenglong, the governor of Jiangsu, Anhui and Jiangxi Provinces, was loyal, responsible, and an honest public servant. Although he was the governor of several provinces, he did not seek personal gain. He had two meals a day, and they consisted of unpolished rice and vegetable dishes. His habit earned him the nickname of "Vegetable Yu." He set a personal example and prohibited officials from offering or accepting bribes. Thus, he won the deep support of the people. After he died, his subordinate generals and officials went to his house to offer their condolences. They saw that he only had one gown in his bamboo chest and several containers for salt and grain by the head of his bed. They were deeply touched by his honesty and virtue. People hung his portrait in their homes to commemorate him, and Kangxi praised him as "the number one honest official."
Kangxi paid particular attention to punishing corrupt officials. He said, "The crime of a corrupt official is unlike any other crimes, so I must not be lenient. Otherwise, it would not serve as a deterrent." One autumn he held a court hearing and selected and judged a handful of corrupt criminals. This was to serve as a warning to others. He was even stricter with provincial governors. For example, Mu Ersai, the governor of Shanxi Province, took bribes and was therefore executed. Kangxi explained that if severe punishment was not used when such crimes were committed, then how could officials be disciplined. Between 1681 and 1706 AD, Kangxi punished twenty-six corrupt provincial viceroys and governors. Kangxi's severe treatment of corrupt officials established an effective deterrent.
: 一代明君 仁者风范