Glory Chamber in Xiang-zhou City

Ou-yang, Xiu (1007-1072 CE)

   After one has pursued his political career for years, he finally reaches the top of his profession. After one becomes wealthy and powerful, he desires to go home and share his glory with his previous neighbors. People do this all the time. After all, colorful clothes worn at night can garner no praise.

   When a scholar was poor, he would have a hard time living in his neighborhood because his neighbors, even children, would look down upon him and insult him. For example, Qin Su's sister-in-law would not cook for him after he went to a job interview and failed. Before Mai-chen Zhu became a  mayor, his wife left him, because he spent most of his time studying instead of making money. Once a scholar becomes wealthy and powerful, he can be seen riding in a tall carriage driven by four horses. The guards holding official flags lead the procession and a retinue of cavalry follow behind the carriage. People along the roadside stand shoulder to shoulder and step on each other's feet trying to look up into his carriage and praise him. People who used to insult the scholar, like Mai-chen Zhu's wife, are shocked and sweating. They feel ashamed, rush to the front of the carriage, and kowtow among the horse feet and the dust of the carriage to confess their regrets. Once a scholar assumes an important political position, he surely feels his enormous power over people. The people in the old times would compare his spirit to the magnificence of colorful clothes.

   Only great Prime Minister Qi Han acts quite differently. He was born in Xiang-zhou City. His family has had a good reputation of virtue for generations. He himself is a great scholar of the present time. He passed the Advanced Exam at a very young age and was promoted to a position of high rank. The scholars in China have admired his virtue and have come to visit him for years. So-called wealth and power are the assets that come naturally to him, unlike they do for a poor scholar who becomes popular by unexpected luck, and tries to boost his power by surprising his neighbors. However, the official flags and the retinue are not a concern for Prime Minister Han. The fancy hat and clothes that show his official status are not important to him either. All he concerns himself with is whether his moral influence over people and his devotion to the country are good enough to be recorded in history and to be praised in music and poetry. Thus his glory may illuminate future generations and last forever. This is his ambition and people harbor this great hope for him. His ambition is not limited merely to the present and one location.

   During the 1030s, Mr. Han was appointed to be the army commander to govern Xiang-zhou City. He built Glory Chamber in his backyard to celebrate his glorious return home. Then he wrote several poems and had them engraved on stones as his gift to the people in Xiang-zhou City. In his poems, he said, "It is disgusting to gloat or seek revenge on other people after one becomes wealthy and powerful." Thus he does not consider boasting to be glorious. On the contrary, he constantly guards himself against doing so. Based on his deeds, we can understand how he views wealth and power. It is not easy to measure his ambition on an ordinary scale. He is always devoted to the country no matter if it is wartime or peacetime. Consequently, during wartime he is a great general; during peacetime he is a great prime minister. When our country confronts great challenges, he will remain properly attired, deal with the problems with a tranquil mind, and make important decisions. Thus without affecting his breath or facial expression, he can make our country as stable and peaceful as great Tai-shan Mountain. He can be considered the heavy column of China. His great contributions to the country have consequently been recorded in history and expressed through music. They are indeed the pride of the entire country, clearly extending beyond his hometown. Although I never visited the prime minister's chamber, I was fortunate enough to read his poems privately. I am glad that his dream has come true, and would like to share his accomplishments with others. Therefore, I wrote this essay.


   After one achieves wealth and power, he should go back to his hometown and share his glory with his previous neighbors. Otherwise, it would be like colorful clothes worn at night which can garner no praise.

   Prime Minister Qi Han built Glory Chamber in his backyard to celebrate his glorious return home. He asked Ou-yang to write an essay for the occasion. Ou-yang wrote the above essay in an encouraging tone. He did not describe the magnificence of the chamber. Instead, he pointed out that Prime Minister Han's motive to build the chamber was not based on a desire to gloat, but rather to prevent himself from doing so.