In early Zhenguan Reign, Emperor Taizong said to Xiao Yu (1), "I've been playing bow and arrow since I was little, considered I can play it proficiently. Recently, I got several dozens of "good" bows, showed them to artisans, was told all of them were not good bows; I asked why; They said non-appropriate wood core caused askew textures. Although strong, they still couldn't direct arrows straight forward. I understood then. Had used bows and arrows long and unified the world, I still don't know the nature, need not to say about world governing - plus it's not long since I won the world and I know about world ruling less than bow using." Since then, officials in capital, whose status is above class 5, were called to keep watch prime minister's office in turn. When calling them in, Emperor Taizong allowed them to take seat, talked above words to them and inquired about situations over the nation, in order to know peoples' needs and gain or failure of his policies and doctrines.
In the first year of Zhenguan Reign, Emperor Taizong said to Wang Gui, vice minister of Decree Inspection Office, "As for decrees from Central Secretariat Office, there are lots of opposite points, even some mistakes inside. Have corrected? Setting up Central Secretariat Office and Decree Inspection Office was to avoid mistakes with their mutual remedy. All the different viewpoints from different people - right or wrong, come out for the nation. But we have someone who shields his mistake and hates to hear his fault, arising hatred to those who point them out. There is also someone who implements policies illegally, though he knows it, just for avoiding personal gap and save faces of both. Hurting majority of people by doing an official a little favor is really a disastrous policy to a nation. You must be cautious at it. In Reign of Sui, it's right policy violation by officials that caused unrest, while most people didn't realize it. However, most officials thought it would not bring misfortune on them, so they looked compliant and bite privately, never considered there would be a trouble. Later, when riot arose, both family and nation were ruined. Even if survival without being killed or tortured, they suffered public blame. You must be careful to eliminate selfishness and serve the nation, always straight, enlighten each other in policy implements; mustn't shelter mutually."
In the second year of Zhenguan Reign, Emperor Taizong said to Wang Gui, vice minister of Decree Inspection Office, "Mostly, national governing at late ages is not as good as in ancient times. Why?" Wang Gui answered, "Ancient emperors kept decent ideal and got rid of vanity when ruling the world, taking peoples' needs as his target, whereas emperors at late ages only do harm to people for his own desires, promote officials who were not professionals. Take prime ministers of Han Dynasty as an example, none of them wasn't proficient in at least one field. If encountering a difficulty in court affairs, they always solve the problem by referring to former experiences, causing people to know decency and propriety and the nation peace. But at late ages, force was regarded to be superior to Confucianism and joint into laws, Confucianism was impaired and good social morality was undermined. " Emperor Taizong agreed entirely with him. Since then, most professional officials with political knowledges had been promoted time after time.
In the third year of Zhenguan Reign, Emperor Taizong said to his ministers, "Officials of Central Secretariat Office, Decree Inspection Office and Confidential Office were chosen based on their talent, appointed to solve vital problems. For the decrees with even a little impropriety, they must be presented for discussion. But now, I notice that you follow my will to please me without careful consideration, no one presents any advice; do you think it proper? If I sign the decrees, regard it as a procedure we have to follow, no one could bear it. If so, why I assign it to all of you but not simplify it? From now on, if finding some impropriety in decrees, you must present it to discuss. Keeping silence after noticing them due to fear was not allowed."
In the fourth year of Zhenguan Reign, Emperor Taizong asked Xiao Yu, "What do you think about Emperor Wen of Sui (2) as an emperor?" Xiao Yu responded, "Restricted himself for behaving proper, industrious at imperial court affairs, often sat at imperial court dealing with political affairs till the sun declined towards the west. To the officials above fifth grade, he allowed them to take seat for discussion; to the guards, he provided them with delicacies. Although not naturally kind and straightforward, he was still an industrious emperor."
"You know little about him," Emperor Taizong said, "The man was naturally perceptive of the slightest but lacked tolerance, which led him to a bit of blindness, and perception of the slightest caused him suspicious. Plus, he bullied the orphan and widow to ascend the throne (3), was always worried about the loyalty of the ministers and never trusted them. He made every decision himself. Although suffered from bothering and aging, he still couldn't make things all proper. Had known his characters, ministers dare not say anything frankly. Officials, whose status was lower than Prime Minister, just thought of obeying. I don't think it's appropriate. As the world is so broad, many complex issues must be regulated accordingly; only after being resigned to officials for discussion, carefully considered by Prime Minister and everything is appropriate, policies can be implemented. It's bad that dealing with numerous affairs in one day or policies fully come from Emperor's consideration. Plus, if he makes 10 decisions in one day, there might be 5 of them improper; The proper ones will indeed be beneficial, but what about the improper ones? As time goes by – several years later –cumulated mistakes must lead to a regime change. The better way is broadly opening-up to talents, appointing them in important positions while watching them and thinking deeply. Who dare to act against laws and public willing under such strict law enforcement?" And then, he gave orders to all the officials: stop those decrees with improprieties, mustn't implement them when receiving them, in order to do ministers' duties.
In the fifth year of Zhenguan Reign, Emperor Taizong said to his ministers, "There isn't any difference between ruling a world and recovering from illness. When a sick person feels better, he needs extra rest and special care; if he disobeys any of the medical precautions, he will die; same for ruling the world - when the world is a little stable, special cautions are needed. Arrogance and indulgence would lead the nation to death or failure. Now, I'm vital to the national safety, so I have to be cautious day by day, and not complacent when doing things well. Hope you be functions of my ears, eyes, hands and feet. Now that you are as organs of mine, we should work together with one heart. On finding something improper, you may speak tme out without any reservation. If there are suspicions between a throne and his liegemen, or they could not open their minds, it must be much harmful to the nation."
In the sixth year of Zhenguan Reign, Emperor Taizong said to his ministers, "Throughout all the achievements of ancient emperors, thriving was followed by decline, just like morning is followed by evening. All declines came from obscured ears and eyes, ignorance to the gain and failure of policies, silence of just people and daily-promotion of evil ones which Impeded seeing any mistake. As I live in the nine-tiered deep imperial palace and could not see all things happened in the whole nation, I request all of you to be my ears and eyes. Don't be careless to think that the nation is safe and peaceful. People love their throne, and throne respects and fears for his people. Being an emperor, he would be supported for his good and abandoned for the bad. It should be worried about." Wei Zheng responded, "From of old, all the national demise came from the emperor's forgetfulness of dangers and riots when the nation was safe and peaceful. Now, you have the whole world, everything is in a good order. In such a situation, you still care about the national governing, are often cautious as if you are walking by an abyss or over thin ice, which would make the nation unfailing. I've heard of a saying from our ancestors that throne is like a boat while people are water. Water can carry a boat and also can turn it over. Your thinking of peoples' power as fear is absolutely right."
In the sixth year of Zhenguan Reign, Emperor Taizong said to his ministers, "There is a saying from our ancestors that why using a prime minister who is not of help when nation is in danger or regime is overturned. Concerning the relationship between an emperor and his ministers, no excuse will be accepted to those who don't faithfully correct mistakes and save the nation. When I read about Xia Jie's killing Guan Longfeng (4) and Emperor Jing of Han's (5) killing Cao Cuo (6), I would sometimes put aside the book and suspired. If you expostulate with justice and bestead policies and civilization, I'll never punish you for offending Emperor or violating decrees. Recently, I had done something improper with laws when I made decisions at imperial court. You thought of them negligible and gave no debate. All failures stem from little mistakes. If little mistakes are not corrected, failures will not be avoided, which leads a nation to a peril. Although brutal, Emperor Yang of Sui was killed by underprivileged people; never heard someone felt sorry for him. It would be good that you chew over Sui dynasty's death for me and I contemplate Guan Longfeng and Cao Cuo's being killed for all of you, in order to save both of us – a throne and his ministers."