A policy of rewards and penalties means rewarding the good and penalizing wrongdoers. Rewarding the good is to promote achievement; penalizing wrongdoers is to prevent treachery.
It is imperative that rewards and punishments be fair and impartial. When they know rewards are to be given, courageous warriors know what they are dying for; when they know penalties are to be applied, villains know what to fear.
Therefore, rewards should not be given without reason, and penalties should not be applied arbitrary. If rewards are given for no reason, those who have worked hard in public service will be resentful; if penalties are applied arbitrary, upright people will be bitter.
The Mightiest Warrior - Lu Bu
During his era, Lu Bu, was most powerful warrior in all of China. His prowess in wielding his ji, ‘Sky Piercer’ 方天畫戟, on top of his steed Red Hare was legendary. In AD 190, Dong Zhuo’s tyrannical ways angered many regional warlords and they formed a coalition under Yuan Shao and came for Dong Zhuo in the capital Luo Yang, to vanquish him. However, they were stopped at Hu Lao pass, 50 li from Luoyang. Riding forth on his Red Hare, his halberd in hand, Lu Bu taunted for challengers to duel him. Every warrior who came within range of his halberd met a swift, bloody death. Wielding his ten-foot Serpent Halberd, Zhang Fei insulted Lu Bu to get his attention and galloped out to fight him.
Zhang Fei wielding the strength of a hundred men in battle struggled against Lu Bu for more than fifty bouts, unable to gain an advantage. Then Guan Yu, brandishing his Green Dragon Crescent Blade, dashed out to assist his brother. The three fighters were engaged in another thirty bouts or so when Liu Bei, holding up his Dual Swords, also joined the battle.
Like a merry-go-round, the three brothers galloped in a circle caging Lu Bu inside, who finally began to tire. Unable to face the combined efforts of his three opponents at once, Lu Bu then made a feign at Liu Bei and retreated through the resulting gap back to the pass gate. The Trio chased after Lu Bu but due to the speed of Red Hare, his horse, they could not keep up with him.
After Wang Yun’s devious 美人計 stratagem, Dong Zhuo’s faction was destroyed. Lu Bu led those forces loyal to him and settled in Xia Pi. Realizing the immense threat that Lu Bu posed to his ambition to control Northern China, Cao Cao entered into a short-term alliance with Liu Bei to attack Lu Bu. In AD 198, both Cao Cao and Liu Bei laid siege on Xia Pi. The siege dragged on for two months without significant gains. Two advisors to Cao Cao, Xun Yu and Guo Jia, then suggested flooding the city with water from the Yi River (沂水) and Si River (泗水).
As the water level rose and submerged the city gates, Lu Bu's subjects rushed to inform their leader, but Lu Bu dismissed the threat on account that his Red Hare could run as well in water as on land. Thereupon he returned to his wine and consorts.
However, heavy indulgence in alcohol and women had wasted his strength away such that one day Lu Bu looked into the mirror and found himself looking thin and pallid. Making the resolution to quit drinking, he then issued an order that no one should drink wine under penalty of death.
One day, Hou Cheng, an officer under Lu Bu, caught a defector who attempted to steal fifty horses and give it to the Liu Bei. To celebrate the occasion, Hou Cheng brewed a few barrels of wine to be drunk at the feast.
But thinking his chief might find him in fault, Hou Cheng sent the bottles of wine to Lu Bu's palace with a petition explaining, "By your virtue of warlike renown, I have recovered my horses; and as my comrades come with their congratulations, I brew some bottles of wine, first to offer Your Lordship and second to ask your permission to have a little wine at the feast."
Lu Bu took it very angrily, saying, "When I have forbidden all wine, you brew some and begin to give feasts: You are simply defying me!"
Whereupon he ordered the officer to instant execution. However, Song Xian, Wei Xu, and other officers came in and interceded, and after a time Lu Bu softened.
They tried to beg him off this, but only succeeded in reducing the number of blows to one half. When the sentence had been carried out and Hou Cheng was permitted to return home, his colleagues came sadly to console him.
"Had it not been for you, I should have been put to death," said Hou Cheng.
Song Xian replied, "All Lu Bu cares for is his family. There is no pity for anyone else. We are no more than the weeds by the roadside."
Wei Xu said, "The city is besieged; the water is drowning us out. There will not be much more of this, for we may die any day."
"He is a beast, with neither a sense of humanity nor of right. Let us leave him," said Song Xian.
"He is not worth fighting for. The best we could do, would be to seize him and hand him over to Cao Cao," said Wei Xu.
That very night, Hou Cheng sneaked into the stables and got Red Hare away and presented the horse and told Cao Cao that they would show a white flag and open the gates to his army. Early next morning, Cao Cao began a fierce attack as the white flag had just appeared. The battle dragged into high noon and the attackers backed off for a rest.
The exhausted Lu Bu then took a nap himself on top of the wall. Taking the opportunity, Song Xian and Wei Xu tied Lu Bu up and hoisted a white flag. The two also threw Lu Bu's halberd down the wall as proof. Seeing the signals, Cao Cao's troops then poured into the city and seized it in no time. Thus, Lu Bu’s fate now laid in the hands of Cao Cao.
Lu Bu should have governed in an upright and fair manner. By dispensing penalties in such an arbitrary manner, he lost the confidence and support of upright people. By formenting such bitterness in the hearts of his officers and supporters, he merely hastened his defeat at the hands of Cao Cao.