An honest and upright official of an era—Hai Rui

Hai Rui (from 1514 to 1587) was a famous statesman of the Hui nationality in the Ming dynasty. He came from Qiongshan (present Haikou), Hainan province. He styled himself Ruxian, and gave himself the literary name of Gangfeng. He diligently studied Confucian classics and commentaries since childhood, was learned and versatile, and passed the imperial examinations at the provincial level in the 28th year of Jiajing (1550). At the beginning, he was appointed the post of Fujian Nanping Jiaoyu, then was promoted as the magistrate of Chun’an county in Zhejiang and Xingguo county in Jiangxi, he pursued the policy of measuring land carefully and equalizing the tax, and reversed many unjust cases, cracked down corrupt officials, and enjoyed the ardent support of the people. In the 45th year of Jiajing emperor, he was promoted as president of Yunnan department of the Board of Revenue, he submitted a memorial and criticized that Shizong emperor blindly worshiped witchcraft, lived luxuriously and did not care for the court administration, and so on, then he suffered persecution and was thrown into prison. After Shizong died, he was released. In the 3rd year of Longqing emperor (1569), he was promoted as vice Qiandu Yushi. As in the past, he punished corrupt officials, cracked down despots, dredged and built river channels, constructed irrigation works, and pursued One Lash Law, forced corrupt officials to return the fields to people, thus he got the good fame of “Hai the Clear Sky”. After that, he was squeezed out and dismissed from his post, stayed at home idle for 16 years. In the 13th year of Wanli emperor (1585), he was appointed to an important position again, took the posts of vice president of the Board of Civil Office, Nanjing, and vice Qiandu Yushi of Nanjing, made every effort to strictly punish corrupt officials and forbid accepting bribes. Two years later, he died of illness in Nanjing.

Throughout his life, Hai Rui was an honest and incorruptible official, upright and above flattery, and was deeply respected and venerated by the people. It was said, when hearing the grievous news of his death, the local ordinary people were filled with deep sorrow and felt like losing their family members. When his bier was transported back to his hometown by the waterway in Nanjing, the banks of the Yangtze River were filled with people that saw off her. Many ordinary people even manufactured his portrait and consecrated him at home. The legend stories about him were more widely spread among the people. After the processing and collation of scholars and literary men, his stories were written into famous case novels, such as The Big Red Gown of Lord Hai and The Small Red Gown of Lord Hai, or dramas, such as Hai Rui, Hai Rui Dismissed from Office and Hai Rui Submitted a Memorial to the Emperor, etc. As Bao Zheng in the Song dynasty, Hai Rui was the model of honest and upright officials and the symbol of justice in Chinese history.