Reflection on the Passing of Our Founding Father Lee Kuan Yew
I think the best tribute to show our appreciation and respect for our founding father is to follow his example, and continue to build and grow upon this foundation that he has laid for us. Here are a few key things that I can learn and do —- pursue wisdom and righteousness, be bold to do them and stick to them, willing to take advice and be corrected especially to share and listen to your wife and love your wife truly.
During this period of mourning for our nation founding father Lee Kuan Yew, every one of us, in our own, may be even little, ways wish to express our appreciation and respect for the man who has impacted our lives much. There was this artist Ong Yi Tech who painted a portrait of Lee Kuan Yew by writing his names! See Lee Kuan Yew is a ‘legend’: Man behind the viral portrait. Since my interests are in Chinese Philosophies and their applications in modern management (see Ancient Chinese Wisdom), I shall show my respect and appreciation from such a viewpoint.
The Life of a Great Man is much Longer than his Age
Lao Zi’s DaoDeJing Chapter 33 verse 4 has a saying: (for more see The Principles for Greatness
- Not losing oneself will last.不失其所者久，
- Died and yet one’s legacy continues is long life.死而不亡者寿。
While our founding father may have passed away, his legacies and his influence, will continue on through many generations after. He will always be remembered as the founding father of Singapore. He and his team will always be cited as examples for all to follow. Legacies come from sticking to one’s values and mission. Despite the difficulties, the risks, and against all odds, under his leadership, Singapore succeeded. There are many great things that he did and many people will write about that. One particular and vital key to his success was the support of his extremely wise and talented wife and their true love for each other. See The Lee Kuan Yew And Kwa Geok Choo Love Story … The post has the title “Behind every successful man there stands a woman“.
While not many will be as wise and great as Mr Lee, there are simple lessons that we can learn from him and apply to our own lives and making whatever small contributions that we can. Chinese has a proverb “勿以恶小而为之，勿以善小而不为。 –《三国志·蜀书·先主传》”
Do not do something because the harm/evil is small nor
fail to do something because the benefits is little.
There are four lessons for us:
- pursue wisdom and stick to the righteous values.
- be bold to execute and realise one’s dreams despite the challenges.
- be ever ready to seek and listen to advice, especially one’s wife.
- love one’s wife truly.
In my study of China history, one particular emperor and his wife, had a similar story to tell. It confirms the applicability of the above lessons. It is the story of Emperor Tang TaiZong 唐太宗 and his wife Queen ZhangSun 长孙皇后。
Emperor Tang TaiZong Li ShiMin 唐太宗 李世民 and his wife Queen ZhangSun 长孙皇后
While Tang TaiZong
was the 2nd emperor of Tang Dynasty 唐朝
, he was actually the son that encouraged his father to rebel against the oppressive Sui Emperor then. He was the one that planned, fought and won the many battles that established the Tang Dynasty. He was one of the few emperors that founded and then ran the kingdom well. The period under his rule, popularly known as, 贞观之治, is one of the most powerful, prosperous and peaceful period in China History. China town in many countries are called Tang Ren Jie 唐人街 Streets of the Tang’s people. We can see the success and influence of Tang. Tang dynasty with 291 years was also one of the longer lasting dynasties of China. It was also the period where the women had the most freedom and were most well-educated. The only Empress in China, Empress Wu, was in this period. One of the key contributors of Tang TaiZong success was his wife ZhangSun.
was one of the best Queen in Ancient China. She was well-educated and married at 13 years old to Li ShiMin who was 16 then. This was before they started the rebellion against the Sui Emperor. So, we know that ZhangSun took good care of and encouraged Li ShiMin in the challenging times of wars to established the Tang Dynasty. ZhangSun later helped ShiMin to overcome the murderous attempts of his brothers to become the 2nd Emperor of Tang. Even after she became queen, she still stuck to being frugal and loving. She refused to meddle in the political affairs of the country even though her husband has often consulted her. Her advice to the Emperor is:
- When living security, think about the probable dangers.
Appoint the talented and listen to criticisms.
I do not understand other things at all.
Once, the Emperor was very angry about his officer stopping him from hunting in the spring season because it was the period for animals mating and feeding the babies, ZhangSun got her ladies to all dressed up in official ceremony dresses to congratulate the Emperor. The Emperor was surprised and asked why. She said that she heard that only the wise and good king can have his officers who dare to advise him. Now that there is an officer who did that, it showed that he was a wise king indeed. That made the Emperor very happy.
Her son complained through his nanny that he did not have enough things to enjoy. ZhangSun said,“为太子，患在德不立，名不扬，何患无器用邪！As a prince, the concern is about not having the right virtues, not being well-regarded, why care about not having enough things to enjoy?”. She rejected the request.
Her love for ShiMin was seen with her care for ShiMin and readiness to die with him. ShiMin was sick for a long period of time and she stayed with him day and night. She carried with her a bag of poison all the time. She was prepared to take the poison once ShiMin died! (上得疾，累年不愈，后侍奉，昼夜不离侧。常系毒药于衣带，曰：“若有不讳，义不独生。”)
On her death-bed, she requested the Emperor to give her a simple funeral and not to waste money on building great grave. She said she did not contribute anything in her life and should at least not harm people in her death. She reminded the Emperor to be close to the good man, distant himself from the villain, accept corrections, reject gossips, do not labor the people, stop travelling & hunting for pleasures (妾生无益于人，不可以死害人，愿勿以丘垄劳费天下，但因山为坟，器用瓦木而已。仍愿陛下亲君子，远小人，纳忠谏，屏谗慝，省作役，止游畋，妾虽没于九泉，诚无所恨！儿女辈不必令来，见其悲哀，徒乱人意。” – 资治通鉴).
The sad thing was ZhangSun did not live long. She died in the 10th year of the reign of ShiMin at the young age of 36! Li Shin Min was much blessed to find another young, brilliant and righteous lady XuHui 徐惠妃. Like ZhangSun, she was able to remind and advise ShiMin not to waste resources on fighting wars and building palaces. Her famous words to ShiMin was “故有道之君，以逸逸人.
无道之君，以乐乐身. A Good King ensures his people live in comfort but a bad king only selfishly enjoys himself (at the expense of his people)”. XuHui loved ShiMin so much that when ShiMin died, she fell ill and refused the medicines offered. She died as she wished one year later at the young age of 24! It goes without saying that we are truly touched by these loving relationships.
Strong Nation, Great Leader and Loving & Wise Wife
A Strong and prosperous nation is built by a great leader. A great leader has a wise and loving wife. He loves and appreciates his wife advice and correction if any. Let me ends with a quote from Mr Lee on marriages:
- “We have never allowed the other to feel abandoned and alone in any moment of crisis. Quite the contrary, we have faced all major crises in our lives together, sharing our fears and hopes, and our subsequent grief and exultation. These moments of crisis have bonded us closer together. With the years, the number of special ties which we two have shared have increased.”
Let Do Our Part:
I think the best tribute to show our appreciation and respect for our founding father is to follow his example, and continue to build and grow upon this foundation that he has laid for us. Let every one of us contribute in whatever small way that we can towards the continued growth and well-being of Singapore and our fellow-men and women.
I shall offer an amended wording as follows:
“behind every great man is a wise woman who loves him much and who he appreciates and listen to”.
May the legacies and the contributions of our founding father Lee Kuan Yew continues through all generations.
Lim Liat (c) 23 March 2015