Fan Zhongyan was a prominent Chinese statesman, strategist, educator and writer of the Northern Song Dynasty.
In 989 A.D., Fan Zhongyan was born in Wuxian County, Suzhou in present茂录聧day Jiangsu Province. When he was a child, his father died and his mother married another man. He was poor, but he learned diligently. At the age of 26, he became a successful candidate in the highest imperial examination and began his long official career. He was always anxious about the rise and fall of the nation and the joys and sorrows of the people.
Xixi, Taizhou was a small town on the coast of Jiangsu . The land was fertile and products were plentiful. As the waves lashed the shore, the land turned saline and alkaline. The local people became destitute and homeless. When he served as the magistrate of Xinghua, Fan Zhongyan encouraged the local people to build a breakwater dozens of kilometres long. The people returned to their homeland and called the breakwater "Lord Fan Embankment".
At the beginning of the 11th century, troops of Yuanhao, King of the Western Xia regime, incessantly harassed the northwest border of the Northern Song Dynasty, causing serious losses of the people"s lives and property. The troops of the Song Dynasty suffered one defeat after another. Fan Zhongyan was appointed the deputy military commissioner of Shaanxi. He displayed outstanding military talent and followed a policy of national concord. A peace treaty was signed between the Western Xia regime and the Northern Song Dynasty.
After the war, Fan Zhongyan was transferred to the capital and appointed a participant in determining governmental matters. In 1043, the third year of the reign of Qingli, Emperor Renzong granted an audience to his ministers, seeking their opinions on major policies. Fan Zhongyan proposed a reform in the administration of local officials and nine other reforms. Historically they were known as "Qingli New Policies".
The New Policies failed in about a year because of opposition from conservative officials. Fan Zhongyan was forced to leave the imperial court, but he was still concerned about his country and people.
He believed that the shortage of talented people was the major problem of the country, so education should be developed vigorously to train such people. Wherever he went, he made painstaking efforts to run schools. He founded the well茂录聧known Suzhou Prefectural School. Thanks to his pioneering endeavours, a good many talented scholars came to the fore during the Song and the ensuing dynasties.
Fan Zhongyan was one of the outstanding writers of poetry and prose during the Song Dynasty. "On Yueyang Tower" was his representative work. The well茂录聧known essay was not an elaborate portrayal of the tower alone. It was a depiction of the vast scene of the surrounding Dongting Lake, then a description of the mentality of banished officials and poets, and finally an elevation to a higher plane of philosophy.
Fan Zhongyan made contributions to the country and the nation in many aspects.
"One should be the first to bear hardships and the last to enjoy comforts." This maxim of his had great influence on people of later ages.
This well茂录聧known remark has been quoted very often over the centuries. It has made Fan Zhongyan immortal and become a motto for people with high ideals.