The Gods Knew the Official Was Lying

Zheng Jian, Contributor, Dora Li, Contributing Translate

A boy named Chen Sheng lived during the Song Dynasty. He was about 13 years old. One day, when he was walking back from the market, he stopped on a bridge to rest. As he sat there, he noticed a Taoist coming towards him. Although the Taoist looked healthy, his body was covered with sores. Even though Chen Sheng was just a boy, when he saw the Taoist, he immediately knew that he was not an ordinary person, so he respectfully bowed to him.

The Taoist seemed to know the boy. He smiled at him and said, “How many miles have you walked?”

Chen Sheng answered, “About 12 miles.”

The Taoist said, “You must be very hungry. I have prepared some food for you.” He reached into his robe, took out two sesame cakes and handed them to the boy. Chen Sheng happily ate one, but when he started to eat the second one, he smelled something unpleasant about it. He rinsed the cake out in the river and then ate it.

After the Taoist left, Chen Sheng felt his body becoming very light. From then on, he had the ability to predict the future.

People came from far and wide to ask him for help. He was respectful and always listened carefully. Soon, people began to call him, “Monk Chen.” When natural disasters such as droughts or plagues occurred, the villagers asked him to pray for help from Heaven, and it always worked.

In July of the year of Qiandao during the reign of Emperor Xiaozong, the entire country was gripped by a severe drought. The scholars wrote letters to the head of the county, whose name was Ding Yizai. In their letters, they asked him to invite Monk Chen to pray for rain. Monk Chen came to help, but in his heart he did not trust Ding Yizai.

After he made an announcement telling people to fast and pray for rain, Ding Yizai sent someone to ask Monk Chen, “Do you know which day it’s going to rain?”

Monk Chen said, “At 3:05 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, but you must be sincere, and do not eat meat.”

It did not rain the next afternoon, and Ding Yizai told everyone that Monk Chen was lying. Ding Yizai threatened to sue Monk Chen in court.

When he heard this, Monk Chen smiled and said, “Everyone in the county fasted and sincerely prayed for rain. You are the only one who did not fast. You are an official, but you do not care about people’s lives. Instead you blame me.”

Ding Yizai asked, “How do you know that I did not fast?”

Monk Chen said, “You ate half a duck today, the other half is left. Even your cook did not dare to eat the leftovers; they’re still in the kitchen. I speak the truth.”

Ding Yizai was very regretful and said, “Please give me time to repent, then we will pray for another three days and see if it rains.”

Monk Chen said, “As long as you are sincere and carry out your promise this time.”

Thus, Ding Yizai asked the people to pray for three days. At the end of the third day, looming, dark clouds appeared in the northwest. Suddenly, the ground shook with thunder and the rain began pouring down. It rained all that night and the next day. Ding Yizai said that he had learned his lesson, “It’s not because the Gods were not willing to help, it was because I was not sincere!”

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