Zi-chan Advised Xuan-zi Fan to Reduce Taxes

(A historical event in 549 BCE)

Zuo's Extended Version of the Spring and Autumn Annals

    Xuan-zi Fan was the Prime Minister of the State of Jin. He imposed heavy taxes on Jin's satellite countries, The State of Zheng, one of Jin's satellites, could not bear such a burden.

    In February 549 BCE, the King of Zheng visited Jin. Prime Minister Zi-chan of Zheng wrote Fan a letter and asked Official Xia Gong-sun, who followed the king to visit Jin, to deliver it to Fan. The letter said, "You are Jin's prime minister. The small neighboring countries do not hear the good things about your leadership, they only hear that you impose heavy taxes. I am very puzzled. I have heard that a virtuous prime minister will not be worried about the problem of finance and will only worry about the difficulty in gaining a good reputation. If you accumulate all the money of satellites into Jin's treasury, the satellites will be forced to rebel. If you gather the taxes for your personal use, the King of Jin will question your loyalty. If the satellites rebel, then the State of Jin will not be able to have peace and security. If the King of Jin doubts your loyalty, your family will no longer have security. Collecting heavy taxes will cause great damage. Why did you do it?

    A good reputation is the vehicle of virtue. It can carry virtue far. Virtue is the foundation of a country. A country with a good foundation will not collapse. Why don't you regard pursuing a good reputation as your first priority? Once you have virtue, you can share happiness with others. Once you share happiness with others, you may keep your position for a long time. The Book of Poetry says, 'Virtuous men who share happiness with others are the pillars of society.' This is because they have virtue. It also says, 'If the Creator chooses to help you, people will trust and follow you.' This means that you have a good reputation. If you have a forgiving heart and promote virtue, then you will gain a good reputation which will carry your virtue everywhere. Hearing of your virtue, people far away will come to enjoy your teaching and people nearby will remain content and peaceful. It is better for people to say that you make them prosperous than for them to say that you deprive them of their possessions to fatten your own purse. An elephant is killed simply because it possesses valuable tusks."

    Fan was glad to hear Zi-chan's advice, so he reduced the satellites' taxes.