Wang Dan (957-1017), a famous minister of the Northern Song Dynasty, was a graceful and talented man who lived a clean Life and did not own any land or house. With his outstanding talent, Wang Dan assisted Emperor Zhenzong of the Song Dynasty and governed the world, contributing greatly to the political and economic development of the Song Dynasty.
In addition to his extraordinary talent, Wang Dan had his own unique set of opinions on the use of talents.
The new general followed the rules of his predecessor
Cao Wei (973-1030), a famous general of the Song Dynasty, was a brave and warlike general who governed the frontier with great skill and made the Qiang people very afraid. One of Cao Wei’s legends in history is that he predicted ten years in advance that the young Tuohu Yuanhao would become a border problem for the Song Dynasty, which was later fulfilled. (Song Shi – Wang Kettle Biography)
Cao Wei was stationed in Qinzhou for seven years, and he submitted several times to the court asking for a replacement to take his place. Song Zhenzong asked the chancellor Wang Dan: “Which minister can replace Cao Wei and guard the border?” Wang Dan recommended Li He, and Emperor Zhenzong agreed.
The ministers in the court thought that although Li He was prudent, loyal and upright in his words and deeds, he was not the right general to guard the border. Wang Dan’s son-in-law, Han Yi, conveyed the concerns of the people to his father-in-law, but Wang Dan was unmoved.
Li and arrived in Qinzhou for his appointment, and when he first arrived, the generals and officials at the border did not take him into account. However, an incident soon happened that changed the attitude of the people.
A soldier snatched a woman’s silver hairpin in broad daylight at a marketplace and was captured by the officials. The officer took him to the government office and reported him to Li He, who was sitting and reading a book at the Time.
Li He ordered the soldier to be brought up and interrogated him. When the soldier finally pleaded guilty, Li He stopped handing him over to the lower officials and ordered his execution according to the law, and then he continued reading his book.
When the soldiers and officials at the border were informed of this, they were amazed and from then on they were in awe of Li He.
Wang Dan’s knowledge of people is amazing
When the story reached the capital, Han Yi heard about it and came to see his father-in-law, Wang Dan, and recounted it to him in detail, praising his father-in-law for his knowledge of people. Wang Dan smiled and said, “It is not surprising that a soldier is executed according to the law when he commits an offense!”
Wang Dan explained to his son-in-law that the general Cao Wei had been guarding the border and ruling Qinzhou for seven years, and even the Qiang people were afraid of him and feared him, which showed that his method of ruling the border was appropriate and proper; if someone else succeeded Cao Wei, he would certainly be proud of his talent and ambition, and change the rules Cao Wei had established, and ruin the achievements he had built up, while Li He was a loyal man, and would surely inherit the system created by his predecessor with care. Upon hearing this, Han Yi became more and more impressed with his father-in-law’s insight.
Appointing officials Good at keeping things in order
There was another incident that also showed Wang Dan’s wisdom in knowing people. At that time, the court was ready to recall Zhang Yong (946-1015) from Chengdu and send Ren Zhongzheng to replace him. Some ministers held opposing views, and The Emperor again asked Wang Dan for his opinion. Wang Dan replied, “If we do not send Ren Zhongzheng, we will not be able to keep the rules established by Zhang Yong.”
When Ren Zhongzheng arrived in Sichuan, the first thing he did was to ask Zhang Yong for advice on how to govern the place. Zhang Yong said, “If your opinion is more brilliant than the court law, you can abandon the law and adopt your own opinion. In handling political affairs, you must not always follow your own ideas.”
Ren Zhongzheng followed Zhang Yong’s admonition and later made remarkable achievements in governing the local government, which was praised by the people of his time.
Because of his wisdom of knowing people well, Wang Dan was able to identify talents and appoint them according to their qualities, so that they could give full play to their strengths, and therefore recommended officials who were just right.