Wei Xuantong was a person of integrity and intellect, as proven by the record that he served twice as chancellor under Empress Wu Zetian. History describes him as a personal embodiment of perseverance and tolerance, as is shown by the following account: when Wei was serving as chancellor, he beseeched his brother who went to his new post as the governor not to engage in conflict with others. Wei’s brother responded that he would not, even if someone spits in his face, that he would rather wipe it off by himself. Then Wei again said, “Do not. If someone spat in your face, that’s because he or she despises you. If you wipe it off by yourself, it is as if you treat that person with contempt, which will fuel his anger even more. The spit dries in a moment, so do not wipe it off.” The Chinese idiom “tuo mian zi gan,” which means to be spat on in the face and let it dry by itself, instead of wiping it off, or to simply put, to turn the other cheek, came from this episode. The idiom is an analogy for strong tolerance.
Wang Xiojie was a high-spirited man who promised to fight to death for the recovery of the Zhongyuan area when the Southern Song dynasty was forced to the south by the Jin dynasty. Wang revered Wei for Wei’s glorious feat at the war against barbarians. Yet Wang had been always unsure of Wei’s distinguished perseverance. It is not easy to show tolerance towards those who stand against you in order to avoid confrontation. To show tolerance becomes even more demanding if someone spits in your face. However, after experiencing peace of mind that followed the practice of tolerance, Wang wrote this poem, showing deference to Wei Xuantong, saying, “Now I can finally understand Sir Wei’s magnanimity.” That Wang entitled the poem “Wei Xuantong” might have been another way of Wang paying courtesy to Wei.