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“Death Covenant” between Duong Thai Tong and 390 death row prisoners

In the book “Tu Tri Tong Giam” there is a story about the contract of Emperor Duong Thai Tong with 390 death row prisoners, making posterity can’t help but admire.

In December of the 7th year of Trinh Quan, the snow drifted across the sky, Emperor Duong Thai Tong went to inspect the imperial prison for the last time. This is where the notorious 390 death row inmates are kept. They are criminals of heinous crimes, even though they have been reviewed many times, they cannot be mitigated any more, they can only quietly wait until the day the death sentence is executed.

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Emperor Taizong (January 23, 599 – July 10, 649), was the second Emperor of the Tang dynasty in Chinese history, reigning from 626 to 649 with the only era name Trinh Quan. . Image wikipedia.org.

Emperor Duong Thai Tong said that a dying bird would sing mournfully, and a dying person would have a sound of kindness. Therefore, the heart of a death row inmate who is about to die also needs to be listened to and sympathized with.

Emperor Duong Thai Tong walked to each cell, facing 390 prisoners waiting to receive the death sentence, and loudly said: “I want to ask you two things, answer honestly!”

In that sad and hopeless face, sparkling eyes were looking up at the emperor.

– Firstly, regarding the crime that the Court judges, do you have any other opinions?

– Your Holiness, we are not wrong, we confess!

– Okay! Second, I allow you to say your last wish before you die.

One prisoner knelt down, quickly bowed his head three times, then raised his head and choked, saying:

– Your Holiness, sinners just want to go home to visit their elderly parents to say their last goodbyes.

– This… – Duong Thai Tong looked thoughtful and looked at the other prisoners – What about you?

“My lord, so are we, so are we!” The prisoners said in unison.

– In that case, let me and you make a “death covenant”, are you willing?

– Willingly, willingly, Your Majesty!

– Okay! So I allow you to go home to visit your parents-in-law, your wife and children, you won’t have to be under any supervision.

The prisoners looked at each other in shock, as if they couldn’t believe their ears.

Emperor Duong Thai Tong looked solemnly at the death row inmates and said: “But you need to promise to return fully. Before noon on September 4 next year, I request that everyone, without missing anyone, voluntarily return to the great hall on time to accept the crime and receive the death sentence.”

When the prisoners finished listening, they all had tears in their eyes, then all shouted in unison: “Thank you, Your Highness!”.

At that time, Dai Tru, the chief minister of the household and Dai Ly Tu Khanh, came over to remind Duong Thai Tong:

“Your Majesty, they are all murderers and robbers, the crimes are unbelievable, don’t know what to do when they don’t come back? Please think again.”

Emperor Thai Tong still resolutely replied: “In exchange for loyalty, I believe they will not betray my trust.”


Time flies, and the September 4 appointment has finally arrived. In the imperial citadel of Truong An, people from all over the world flocked here like high tide. In an instant, the square in front of the prison was packed with people, heads bouncing around, everyone standing on tiptoe to look and wait.

The prisoners were not pardoned, will there be any conscience left to keep the promise to the emperor? Moreover, this is a death sentence, it is hard to believe that they will come to receive death.

But the result was surprising, the prisoners one by one returned. 1, 2, 3… 300… 380.. 388… Finally 389 people were present, only one person was missing. The warden hurriedly took attendance and discovered that this absentee was from Kinh Ky Phu Phong, whose name was Tu Phuc Lam.

When the news spread, not only the people were talking about it, but even the other prisoners were disgruntled in their hearts: Huh, the name Tu Phuc Lam is really reprehensible. If we have a chance to get out of here, we have to kill him to vent his anger!

Everyone looked at Duong Thai Tong, not understanding how this young emperor would behave with his promise. Duong Thai Tong clenched his fists and said: “Wait a little longer”. Time passed moment by moment, everyone’s face was thoughtful.

An hour passed, the prisoner still did not return. Everyone started discussing again, maybe this Phuc Lam didn’t keep his promise, betraying the emperor’s trust…

Another half hour passed, still no news from Tu Phuc Lam. Everyone was worried, the fire in their hearts was burning like it was burning, and the prisoners roared like thunder.

Suddenly someone shouted: “There it is! That’s it!”.

All eyes turned to the sound of the wheel coming back. It is true that a bullock cart from afar is approaching, approaching.

Very quickly, from the car came out a thin, thin, yellow-skinned man. That’s right, this is Tu Phuc Lam!

It turned out that on the way back to Truong An, Tu Phuc Lam was seriously ill and could not go, then had to rent a car to come, the results were delayed compared to everyone.

“Now what to do, Your Majesty?” – Dai Tru asked.

The prisoners unconsciously lowered their heads, they knew the hour of death had struck.

“How?”Duong Thai Tong looked at the prisoners once, then suddenly announced:

“I pardon all prisoners, let you go home freely!”

Immediately after the declaration of Emperor Thai Tong, heaven and earth seemed to rejoice, and the whole Truong An citadel rejoiced in new joy. Not only 390 death row inmates, but all the people were moved by the benevolence of Emperor Duong Thai Tong. A wise ruler will not use punishment to deter offenders, but use virtue, tolerance, and generosity to touch people’s hearts., causing even the most notorious criminals to shed tears and willing to change themselves. This is a miracle in the history of feudalism.

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