Han Huang (723-787 AD), a renowned official and artist, lived in the middle era of Tang Dynasty.
He had served four emperors including Xuanzong, Suzong, Daizong, and Dezong.
As a chancellor, he was respected for his candidacy and honesty. His artwork, Five Oxen, is considered a masterpiece of Chinese painting.
Below are two interesting stories of Han that give us new perspectives of prophecy and fate.
A Predetermined Meal
Han used to work at the Zhongshu Sheng (Central Secretariat, a department responsible for imperial decrees).
He once scheduled a meeting with a lower level official, who arrived at the meeting late. Han planned to punish him, but that official asked for forgiveness, “I am also serving other officials and was thus late for your meeting.”
“You are under the supervision of the chancellor. But I know he didn’t have a meeting with you,” Han asked.
“I also serve the underworld,” replied the official.
Han did not believe him and asked, “If so, what are you in charge of in the underworld?”“I’m in charge of meals for officials with the third rank or higher,” the official answered.
“If this is the case, what will I eat tomorrow?” Han asked.
“I cannot disclose it, since it is not a trivial thing. But I can write it on paper and we can verify it later,” the official said.
The Emperor summoned Han into the palace the next day. The Emperor was served with food and he gave one half of the cake to Han. Seeing Han enjoying it, the Emperor also gave him the other half.
Han felt bloated after getting home. His doctor said that it was due to food stuck in his stomach and that drinking orange peel soup would fix it. Recalling his conversation with the lower level official earlier, Han asked him to show the paper, which indicated he’d eat cake and orange peel soup.
“Is the food of everyone in this world prearranged?” Han asked.
“Officials with third rank or higher are arranged every day, level four and five officials every ten days, and level six to nine once every quarter. The general public are not on the government payroll and they are arranged once a year.”
Message from Confucius
It is said that Han Huang was the reincarnation of Zilu (also known as Zhongyou, one of Confucius’ most famous disciples).
Han was promoted to be chancellor in the second year of Zhenyuan Period during Emperor Dezong’s reign. People all knew Han was a modest and upright official, but they did not know that he harbored the thought of usurping power.
One day a businessman named Li Shun moored his boat at a dock. Suddenly a gust of wind broke the rope that tied the boat to the dock. The wind carried Li’s boat for a day and landed in front of a mountain.
Li came off the boat and met a man in a black turban, wearing clothes different from Tang Dynasty’s style. That person led Li to a gorgeous palace that no human palace could compare. He led Li through many doors and arrived at the inner court, where there was a big hall.
A person opened the curtain of the hall and came out. “Could you help us give a letter to Han Huang? Thank you very much.” He then handed a letter to Li and walked Li all the way back to his boat.
Li asked curiously, “What is this place? How should I answer Han if he asked whom this letter was from?”
“This is the Guangsang Mountain of a fairy island in the East Sea. After Confucius left the human world to become an immortal, he was asked to manage this divine island. Han is the reincarnation of Confucius’ disciple Zilu. Han was strong with a self-inflated ego. Confucius is afraid that he might make mistakes in the human world, so he sends a letter to remind him.”
Li came back to the boat. A messenger of the fairy world told everyone on the boat, “Please sit well and don’t be scared. As long as you don’t look outside the boat, you will return to where you were quickly. If you look outside, the boat will flip over.”
No one looked outside. Shortly the boat appeared back at the dock.
Li delivered the letter to Han’s office. Han opened it, saw nine characters written in an ancient way. He could not understand them.
Han invited several people knowledgeable about ancient writing to take a look, but none of them could decipher it.
Then a person who had a mole in his eyebrow and wore ancient clothes came to see Han, claiming he knew ancient writing. Han showed him the letter.
Holding the letter above his head, he bowed to Han, “This letter is from Confucius. It was written in the tadpole character style that was used in the time of King Yu the Great (about 2,223-2,025 BC). The nine characters have the following meaning: ‘Tell Han Huang to guard his thoughts of being a loyal official without other thoughts.’”
Han bowed formally to the man, who then stepped out of the door and disappeared. Han sat on his chair quietly for a long while and decided to correct his action. He gave Li a big set of gifts.
After that, Han humbly and diligently supported the emperor with loyalty.
Recording of Predefined Activities – Han Huang, Duke of Jin, written by Zhong Lu in Tang Dynasty.Taiping Guangji (also known as Extensive Records of the Taiping Era), written by Li Fang in Song Dynasty.