Li Yuan (李渊), courtesy name Shu de (叔德), was the founder of the Tang Dynasty of China, and the first emperor of this dynasty from 618 to 626. Under the Sui dynasty, Li Yuan was the governor in the area of modern-day Shanxi, and was based in Taiyuan.
Due to the tyranny of the last emperor of Sui Dynasty, millions of people were up in arms which soon resulted in the disintegration of the empire. In July of 617, Li Yuan, urged on by his second son Li Shi Min (the eventual Emperor Tai Zong), rose in rebellion as well.
He led his men to attack a fortress named Huo Yi, when many slaves and private servants who used to belong to the noblemen of Sui Dynasty joined his army. With the help of these new forces, Li Yuan occupied the fortress in a short time.
When it was time to award, however, most of his generals and officers objected to giving the same rewards to the new soldiers for the reason of their humble birth. Li Yuan said: “On the raging battlefield, swords and arrows are no respecter of persons. How can we treat our warriors differently while rewarding them?”
After entering Huo Yi, Li Yuan ordered his men not to bother the local people and sent his officers to reassure them. Before his troop started on an expedition, Li Yuan gave a position in his government to all soldiers unwilling to fight any more and allowed them to go home.
Some officers thought that he was excessively generous. Li Yuan explained to them, saying: “Sui Dynasty is so mean to its people it loses their support. How can I learn from it? Besides, isn’t it much better to win their hearts by positions than to conquer them by force? ”