Guó Yuān appellation Zǐní, was a Lè’ān Gě man. He took Zhèng Xuán as a teacher. (1) Later he with Bǐng Yuán and Guǎn Níng and others fled the chaos to Liáodōng. (2)
- (1) Xuán Biézhuàn states: Yuān at first was not yet famed, Xuán appraised him stating: “Guó Zǐní, is a beautiful talent, I have observed this man, he will certainly be the state’s tool.”
- (2) Wèishū states: Yuān was diligent in study and enjoyed the ancients, at Liáodōng, he always lectured and taught in the mountains, of scholars many nominated and admired him, and by this he became famed.
When he returned to his old lands, Tàizǔ recruited him as Excellency of Works Official and Associate, every time there was public Court discussion and commentary, he always directly spoke with stern expression, withdrawing without personal interest. Tàizǔ wished to expand and install garrison-farms, sending Yuān to manage these matters. Yuān repeatedly explained the losses and gains, appraised the land’s resident people, calculated the people and installed officials, made clear laws for achievements and assignments, and within five years the granaries were abundant and full, the common people competed to exhort themselves happily in work.
Tàizǔ campaigned into Guānzhōng, appointed Yuān as Residing Office Chief Clerk, to preside over remaining affairs. Tián Yín and Sū Bó rebelled in Héjiān, when [Tián] Yīn and the rest were defeated, afterward there were remaining conspirators, and all were to be executed by law. Yuān believed they were not the leaders in evil, and requested to not enact punishment. Tàizǔ followed this, and those that due to Yuān saved their lives were over a thousand men. The written letters about defeating rebels, previously [exaggerated] one as ten, but when Yuān sent up the heads counted, it was the true number. Tàizǔ asked the reason, Yuān said: “The campaigning and suppression of outside enemies, the increasing of the count of beheaded and captured, is to wish to make larger the military achievement, to show to the people. Héjiān is inside our territory, [Tián] Yín and the rest rebelling, though overcoming was quick and with achievement, I Yuān am humbly ashamed of it.” Tàizǔ was greatly pleased, and promoted him to Wèijūn Administrator.
At the time there was someone who delivered letter of slander, Tàizǔ hated it, and wished to certainly know who was responsible. Yuān requested to keep the original letter, and not announce and reveal. This letter frequently cited Èr Jīng fù, Yuān ordered his Merit Officer saying: “This prefecture is large, and now is with the capital and Imperial carriage, but few are those with learning. Thus select out the young, to wish to send them to receive teaching.” The Merit Officer selected three men, when about to be sent they were called to meet, and instructed: “What you’ve learned is not yet enough, Èr Jīng fù is a book of broad things, the world’s people neglect it, with few teaching it, you can seek those able to read it and from them receive it.” He also secretly told the purpose. After ten days they found one able to read it, and therefore went to receive learning. The official therefore requested to to have them make a letter, comparing the letters, it with the delivered letter was of the same hand. They arrested and interrogated, and indeed it was due to his reasoning. He was promoted to Minister Charioteer. He resided in rank of Minister position, but he wore plain clothes and ate vegetarian meals, his salary and bestowments he gave out to old friends and clansmen, with respect and frugality he maintained himself, and died in office. (1)
- (1) Wèishū states: Tàizǔ appointed his son Tài as a Cadet.