The good emperor sits in his court to seek the Way.


Chou Hsing-Szu (周興嗣), The Thousand Character Classic (千字文)

Translation mine: [The good emperor] sits in his court to seek the Way.

The good emperor (said to be King Wen of the Chou Dynasty) is one who makes it a point to be present at the court so as to be aware of the important matters that fall under his care. He does not shirk his responsibilities nor does he irresponsibly delegate them to others. He takes the matters into his own hands.

In the court, he is surrounded by advisors and other wise men. Despite his status, he is not proud. He is aware that his judgements may err, and so, as a responsible leader, he humbly seeks the advice from others who are wiser and more experienced that he is, and carefully weighs the situation before deciding on the Way – the right course of action, the right course of governance.

When a healthy, able-bodied person, does something stupid (like run across the highway in an attempt to play Frogger in real life – someone recently tried that) and severely injures himself, we are sadden over how such a person did not make good use of his capacity to make the best out of his life. Though we are not emperors, we have the capacity in us to live and act nobly like the good emperor. And just as how we are sadden over the waste of a person’s capacity, we should not let our own capacity go to waste. Otherwise, in the future, we (and others) may come to regret and be sadden over the waste of one’s capacity. What we want is to live a fulfilling life – a life where we can pat ourselves on the back at the end of the day and say: Good job, you have not wasted the capacities within you. You have flourished and blossomed like a flower. You have made the most of your life.

Each of us have our responsibilities and duties, and like the good emperor, we should be as noble and admirable as he is in taking matters into our own hands, and not pushing our responsibilities aside. But we too should be aware that we are prone in making bad decisions all the time, and so it is important that we turn to wise friends or family members for advice.

Yet, it is important for us to discern the advice received. Some advice may come from friends who are not truly wise, or some advice are unfeasible in the given context. And so, like the good emperor, it is important (especially so if people will be affected) that we never be hasty in our decisions, but to slowly contemplate and discern so as to seek the right way before finally acting on it.

To act in such a way is to be wise and noble like the good emperor.