Letter to the Minister of Personnel              (July 3rd, 798 A.D.)

Harn, Yuh (768A.D.-824A.D.)

Dear Honorable Minister Yu,

    A talented man can enjoy fame and become popular only if a senior official with a great reputation recommends him. A talented man can enlighten later generations and illuminate the future only if there exists a well-known scholar of a later generation who will promote the man's work. If no one recommends the work of talented people, then the reputation of talented people cannot spread. If the later generation lacks someone to promote great work, then its splendor cannot last even though the work is popular at one time. The talented depend on sponsors to promote their work and people in power rely on recommending talented people in order to glorify themselves. However, a talented person would have to live for a thousand years in order to enjoy such great assistance during his lifetime. Does this mean that no one in power is willing to help poor people with talent or that no one in the lower social rank is talented enough to deserve recommendation? Why are so few talented people able to meet a good sponsor even though the talented and the sponsors depend on each other so much? The reason is that the talented person is too proud of his ability to flatter the one in power and that the one in power is too proud of his social status to meet people of lower social rank. Consequently, the one with talent is often poor and worrisome, and the one in power often lacks the splendid reputation that comes from recommending talented people. Indeed, what these two types of people are doing is wrong. If one with talent does not ask for sponsorship, he should not say that the officials in power are unwilling to help talented people. If one in power never tries to look for talented people, he should not say that no one of the lower social rank deserves recommendation. I have had this thought for a long time, but I dared not tell it to other people.

    I have heard other people say that you are a man of high principle and outstanding talent. You follow the rules and get things done without bragging. Because your evaluations are not affected by emotions and you appoint people to positions according to their abilities, you must be the above-mentioned sponsor for talented people. However, I have not heard that you have recognized and sponsored any talented people. Is this because you have not yet found them, even though you are looking for them, or because you concentrate on your work and goals too much to have time to appoint talented people? Why have I not heard that you have appointed talented people? Regarding the moral principle and my work, I dare not fall behind average people although I lack talent. In view of this, is it possible that I am the talented person that you are looking for and have not yet found? There is an old saying, "Please begin hiring talented people with Wei.1"

    Now all day what I worry about is nothing but horse feed, rice, servants' pay and rent. The amount you spend in one day is sufficient for me to last a month. Suppose you say, "I aim at my goals and concentrate on returning the king’s favor. Although I find talented people, I have no time to appoint them." Then I dare not agree with you. I do not like to speak to narrow-minded people, but a broad-minded man with great spirit will not listen to me. It is true that I am doomed. Now I respectfully present eighteen of my essays. If you are gracious enough to read them, you will understand my ambition. It is with an anxious mind that I wish you farewell.

1 The king of Country Yen told Wei, "Country Chyi attacked us by taking advantage of the political instability during my father's reign. I would like to appoint talented people and consult with them to take revenge on Chyi. If you find talented people, please recommend them to me." Wei said, "A king in ancient times gave Chuan ten pounds of gold to buy thousand-mile horses. Chuan found a dead one and paid five pounds of gold for it. The king was very angry. Chuan explained, 'When people heard me pay five pounds of gold for a dead horse, they imagined how much more I would pay for a living thousand-mile horse. They will send thousand-mile horses to us.' Indeed, three great horses arrived from a thousand miles away in less than a year. If you want to hire talented people, please begin with me. Then people more talented than I will come even if they lived a thousand miles away." Consequently, the king of Yen appointed Wei as Adviser and built him a nice house. From then on, talented people strove to go to Country Yen.