Biography (SGZ): Gu Yong (Yuantan)

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Gu Yong (Yuantan)

Sanguozhi Officer Biography
translated by Chen Qiang

Gu Yong, styled Yuantan, hails from Wu county in Wu prefecture. He learnt the fine arts of music and calligraphy from Cai Yong when the latter, also known as Cai Boshe, came to Wu to hide from his enemies. His fellow prefecture and countymen all petitioned to recommend him for political office.

When he matured, he had always been an efficient administrator in the region, e.g. HeFei, Qu-Ah, Shang Yu etc. When Sun Quan was the Governor of Kuai Ji, he did not set up an office but rather appointed Gu Yong as Jun Cheng and delegated the responsibilities of the governor to him. Gu Yong succeeded in capturing the rebels around the lands of his jurisdiction, and brought peace and stability, making the people content with his rule.

A few years later, he was promoted as Zuo Si Ma and when Sun Quan became the Prince of Wu, Gu Yong was promoted to Da Li Feng Chang and managing a dual position as the Head of the Imperial Secretariat. He was also conferred the title of Yang Sui Xiang Hou. His family knew nothing of it and was surprised when they eventually found out.

In the Fourth year of Huang Wu, when Gu Yong went to fetch his mother in Wu, Sun Quan welcomed her arrival and paid his respects personally at the celebrations. All of the main officers and the Crown Prince were present.

Gu Yong was a quiet man who did not drink and always behaved appropriately. Sun Quan once remarked, “Master Gu may be a quiet man, but when he speaks, he does so with reason.” Indeed, SunQuan had the utmost respect and trust for Gu Yong as he believed that when Gu Yong is pleased, it meant that the suggested ideas can be implemented and vice versa.

The late Prime Minister of Wu was also a stern man as officers in banquets feared him. Hence, there were few occasions of Wu officers getting drunk. Sun Quan again commented, “If Master Gu was seated, all enjoyment would be lost.” This fully illustrated the extent of fear and respect others had of Gu Yong.

In this year (still Huang Wu 4th year) he was appointed the Master of Ceremonies, promoted to Li Ling Hou, replaced Sun Shao as the Prime Minister and managing the Imperial Secretariat as well. He was effective in delegation as all his chosen appointments were themselves capable officers tasked with areas which they were best at. Indeed, he was most objective with no personal discrimination when he set about doing such a task.

He often visits the public places to observe and attain opinions about certain matters from the civilians. If there are some suggestions which ought to be implemented, he would secretly report. If later the new policy was implemented, credit would be given to his Lord and even if its not implemented, the plans would not be revealed too. This was percisely why Sun Quan valued Gu Yong.

However, even though Gu Yong appeared to be modest and respectful in his words and deeds, he persisted in maintaining the fairest and correct stand when giving his opinions and reports. For instance, Sun Quan once inquired about the good points and bad points of his administration in which Zhang Zhao suggested that Wu laws were too bureaucratic, strict, and needed more lenient to show compassion. Sun Quan was initially refused to reply and asked Gu Yong for his opinions. The latter replied that his understanding of the situation and his findings were exactly the same as Zhang Zhao’s. The laws were thus later revised.

After a period of time, Lu Yi and Qin Bo was appointed the Zhong Shu, in charge of examining and clearing the various documents handed in by the various government departments and provincial governments. Lu Yi etc hence tried to overstep their authority and instilled certain laws regarding the forestry, minerals, rivers, alcohol etc in order to profit themselves through taxation. They investigated in depth about any minute details on possible crimes committed by the innocent and important officers. These were in fact exaggerated and used to malign them. Gu Yong was also persecuted in this manner and deeply reprimanded. In the end, Lu Yi’s plans were revealed and Gu Yong was tasked as the judge for the case. Though Lu Yi was a criminal, Gu Yong maintained gentle and kind while asking the details. Before he left, he also asked Lu Yi for any last words. Lu Yi only repeatedly kowtowed with no words to say. At this time, Shang Shu Lang Huai Xu cursed and humiliated Lu Yi repeatedly to which Gu Yong only reprimanded, “The state has laws, it is not necessary for you to do that.”

After 19 years of his tenure as the Prime Minister, he finally died in Chi Wu sixth year at the age of 76 with Lu Xun being his replacement. Initially, when his illness is relatively mild in nature, Sun Quan sent medical officer Zhao Quan to attend to Gu Yong’s illness and later appointed his son Gu Ji as the Qi Du Wei (Chief Commandant of the Cavalry) When Gu Yong heard this, he bemoaned, “Zhao Quan is proficient in analyzing the conditions of the patient. I am certain that I would not recover and that’s why my Lord wanted to let me see my son’s appointment personally.” Sun Quan mourned his death personally with simple clothes and conferred him the title of Ri Su Hou.

Copyright © 2002 - 2003 Chen Qiang
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi