Ximen Bao Governs Ye-西门豹治邺


In 406 BC, Duke Wen of Wei appointed Li Kui as chancellor to implement reforms aimed at strengthening the state of Wei. At the same time, due to the strategic importance of Ye as a military stronghold adjacent to the states of Han and Zhao, Ximen Bao was sent to serve as the magistrate of Ye. Upon his arrival in Ye, Ximen Bao found the region in a state of neglect, with fields lying fallow and the population sparse, presenting a desolate and bleak scene. He immediately delved into the local community, inquiring about their hardships and summoning respected individuals to gather information from them.

They informed Ximen Bao that the population decline and impoverishment were attributed to an annual tradition of offering brides to the River God, which resulted in exorbitant taxes imposed by the local officials under the pretext of funding these marriages. However, most of the collected funds were pocketed by the officials and witches involved in the scheme. The selected brides were adorned and placed on beds before being cast into the river along with the bedding, causing families to flee the region to avoid their daughters being chosen.

Ximen Bao quickly discerned the situation and instructed them to proceed with the marriage ritual as planned, promising to join them when the time came. On the day of the ceremony, Ximen Bao arrived at the riverbank to find a large crowd gathered, including local elders, officials, and witches with their apprentices, all dressed extravagantly. Before the ceremony began, he inspected the chosen bride and declared her unsuitable, ordering the witches and officials to find a more beautiful bride and delaying the ceremony. When the officials and witches failed to return promptly, Ximen Bao feigned concern for their safety and humorously suggested sending more messengers to fetch them, ultimately dissuading the locals from continuing the tradition of offering brides to the River God.

Having abolished the harmful tradition and imposed laws to prohibit witchcraft, Ximen Bao then focused on managing the flooding issues of the Zhang River. He personally surveyed the water sources, mobilized the people to dig twelve canals, and diverted water from the Yellow River to irrigate farmland, ensuring stable agricultural production. Under his governance, Ye prospered economically and became a stronghold in the northeast of Wei, as Ximen Bao reduced taxes and corvée labor, allowing the people to store grain and maintain a strong militia, further strengthening the region’s defenses.