Three good men

微子去之,箕子為之奴,比干諫而死。孔子曰:「殷有三仁焉!」
The Lord of Wei fled from Zhouxin, the Lord of Ji became his slave, and Bi Gan was executed for remonstrating with him. Confucius said: “The Yin Dynasty had three good men.”

Zhouxin (紂辛) was the last king of the Shang/Ying Dynasty (1600 BC to 1046 BC), and by all accounts ruled with appalling brutality and depravity. The Lord of Wei was Zhouxin’s half-brother or son, and reportedly fled into exile in order to safeguard the royal family’s ancestral temple so that it would be preserved for future generations.

Lord Ji was Zhouxin’s uncle. After failing to convince his nephew to change his ways, he pretended to be insane in order to avoid being forced to assume a senior official position in the evil regime and was made a palace slave.

Bigan was another uncle of Zhouxin. As just a minor official with no family to protect, he took a firmer stand against his nephew and was disemboweled for his resistance.

Confucius praises all three as “good men” because of the great courage they showed in remaining true to their moral principles by refusing to serve such a tyrant. Given the particular circumstances they found themselves in, each one took the appropriate course of action to avoid supporting Zhouxin.

I can’t help feeling especially sorry for poor old Bigan, however, who ended up paying the highest price for his valor because he had the least to lose for standing up against the tyrant.

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