Xiantan’s High Morals Save the Businessmen

Zheng Jian, Contributor, Dora Li, Contributing Translate

Many years ago, there was a wealthy businessman named Xiantan. He practiced Buddhism and believed that everything in the human world was only an illusion, and only those people with high moral standards were truly wealthy. Thus, he started to do good deeds for others and he thought that this was the only way to ensure that he would enjoy happiness in the future.

He put up an announcement which read, “If you need money, please ask me and I will help you.” He waited for several months, but no one contacted him. He thought, “No one needs money because the country is strong and stable and many people are even wealthy.”

He realized that many people were ill, so he bought many expensive herbs. Then he set up a table in the market to treat patients free of charge. Everyone praised him, saying that he was kind. Soon, news that Xiantan was treating people for free spread far and wide, and patients from all four corners of the country came to him for treatment.

Day after day, year after year, he kept treating patients. Eventually, all his money was gone, but he still kept giving patients free treatment and free herbs. One day, on his way to collect herbs, he saw several cartloads of patients with different diseases. He asked, “Where are you going?”

They answered, “We are going to see Xiantan so that he can help us.”

Xiantan immediately went to the King and borrowed 500 taels of gold with which he bought a lot of expensive herbs to help them. After Xiantan’s intensive care and treatment, the patients slowly recovered. Unfortunately, because of the money he borrowed, Xiantan became a debtor and lived a very poor life afterwards.

At that time, groups of businessmen frequently went out to sea to trade goods, seek rare treasures, and make a fortune. Xiantan thought about seeking a fortune this way to repay his debt, so he went with a group of businessmen. They worked very hard and collected several valuable items from their travels. They happily set out for home, but the weather was very hot and dry, and they became very thirsty after walking for a long time. Xiantan suddenly noticed a well and so he ran over and began drinking from it.

While they were collecting treasure, the businessmen noticed that among the goods Xiantan had collected was an unusually large and lustrous pearl. They were very jealous and they all wanted it for themselves. When Xiantan bent over to drink water from the well, they saw their opportunity to take it. So the next time Xiantan bent over to drink, they pushed him into the well.

But things did not go as they planned. Xiantan had done many good deeds for other people. His kind behavior had moved Heaven, and at the last second the Gods caught him, and he was not hurt.

When the businessmen returned home, the King asked, “Where is Xiantan?”

They all pretended not to know anything. They said, “Your Majesty, we were separated after we left the country, and we do not know where he went.”

The King did not believe them and said, “Tell the truth! Did you kill him?”

The businessmen hurriedly denied it and said, “No, no! We didn’t kill him!”

So, where was Xiantan? After he landed, he noticed that there was a hole on the side of the well. The hole was just big enough for him to squeeze through. After he squeezed through the hole, he walked out of the well. He continued walking for seven days, and eventually he returned home. When the King saw him, he asked, “The others brought back many valuable items. Why have you come back with empty hands?”

Xiantan said vaguely, “I was not successful, so I’ve returned empty-handed.” The King doubted his story, but then he thought, “There must be a reason.” He summoned the businessmen and said, “Xiantan came back alive! Now, you must tell me the truth, otherwise all of you will be executed.”

The businessmen were frightened, so they told the truth. The King was very angry and ordered that they all be imprisoned to wait for their execution.

When Xiantan heard this, he became worried. He hurried to the court and told the King that everything was his fault. The King asked, “What are you guilty of? Their crimes have been fixed and their case is immutable.”

Xiantan pleaded with the King again and said, “Your Majesty, please forgive them!”

The King finally promised not to execute them and he ordered that they return Xiantan’s pearl to him. The businessmen were moved to tears and gave the most priceless objects they collected to Xiantan. But Xiantan only took the things that he collected. The businessmen begged Xiantan to take everything. They said, “Because of your kind heart, we are saved! You must take the treasures.”

In the end, Xiantan had to accept the treasures they offered.

Xiantan repaid all the debt he owed the King and continued to do good deeds for people. Everyone praised him for his high morals.

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The thing about puzzles is some people get entwined with how the pieces fit they forget about the picture except as a means to an end. Remember to enjoy the artwork as well.

Fred October 12, 2023

Nice story but what is moral of the story?

Mike Rogers October 12, 2023

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