Premier Shang Yang By Wang Anshi 商鞅 (王安石)

Premier Shang Yang

By Wang Anshi


A ruler should be trustworthy from of old;

His word should weigh heavier than gold.

Of Shang Yang’s merit none should doubt;

His orders were all carried out.









This poem is about politics and law rather than literature. The poet himself was a great statesman who had the courage to reform the society. The reason why he composed this poem extolling an ancient political reformer was to express his determinations to initiate reforms, so its significance lies not in literature, but in politics. “Yi Yan Wei Zhong Bai jin Qing” or “value one’s word more than money” has become an often quoted epigram in the Chinese language; and being faithful and trustworthy, fulfilling one’s promise and valuing one’s moral character more than material benefits have also become good virtue and style of the Chinese people.

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