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Paying Attention to Courtesy
A contemporary of Confucius named Qu Boyu lived during the Wei Kingdom era of the Spring and Autumn Period. His home-town was Boyu Village in Changyuan County, Henan Province. He served three kings: Wei Xian Gong, Wei Xiang Gong and Wei Ling Gong. He was renowned for his virtue. His behavior was righteous and his manner courteous. Qu Boyu paid particular attention to self-examination. Confucius, his good friend, would stay at Qu's home each time he traveled to the Wei Kingdom.
One night when king Wei Ling Dong and his wife, queen Nanzi, both were in the Royal Palace, they heard the sound of a horse-drawn wagon approaching the palace; then it stopped. Some time later the sound started again. Queen Nanzi said, "This must have been Qu Boyu." Wei Ling Gong asked, "How do you know?" The queen said, "Royal protocol required that when the ministers passing the Royal Palace, they are supposed to step down from their wagon to show their respect. Most even loyal ministers or devoted sons would not do so at night when no one sees them. Qu Boyu is an honest and dignified minister; he is a wise man with consistent good manners. He will not ignore the protocol when no one sees him. It must be him!" When king Wei Ling Gong sent someone to check, it was determined it was indeed Qu Boyu.
The Chinese Idiom, "Boyu knows his problem" refers to Qu Boyu. He was very humble and polite and constantly looking at his own shortcomings and mistakes. He always made his best efforts to correct himself.
When Qu Boyu was 20 years old, he could already identify many of his own mistakes and shortcomings and tried to correct them. When he was 21, he found that he still had many issues to be worked on. So, year after year, day after day, he was constantly looking for his own shortcomings. When he was 50, he found that what he had done in the past 49 years was not that good.
Once Qu Boyu dispatched someone to visit Confucius. When they met, Confucius invited the visitor to sit down and asked," How's Boyu?" The visitor said, "Boyu always wants to minimize his own mistakes, but he always comes short." After the visitor left Confucius praised both Qu Boyu and the visitor.
King Wei Ling Gong gave many responsibilities to good and capable ministers such as Qu Boyu; as a result, the Wei Kingdom became stronger and more prosperous. Once general Zhao Jianzi from the Jin Kingdom planned to attack King Wei. He sent spies to the Wei Kingdom. The spies returned and told Zhao Jianzi, "Qu Boyu is running the Wei Kingdom. We must not attack them now." General Zhao Jianzi agreed with the advice and canceled his war plan.
After Qu Boyu died, many future generations admired his conduct and virtue. The famous writer Ban Zhao, who lived during the Eastern Han Dynasty, wrote the "Tribute to Journey to the East" (Dong Zheng Fu) to praise Qu Boyu. Emperor Tang Xuanzong in the Tang Dynasty honored Qu Boyu as "Wei Bo." Emperor Song Zhenzong in the dynasty of his name called Qu Boyu "Nei Huang Hou" and built a temple in his honor in Changyuan County. The temple had several halls, such as "Gentlemen's Hall;" "Sacred Hall;" "The Hall to Know Your Own Mistakes" and the "Hall of Few Mistakes."
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