The Feiyundu River is a place where capsizing occurs frequently due to rough water. A wanton and unrestrained young man asked a fortune-teller about his luck and life expectancy. The fortune-teller told him that his life expectancy would not be longer than 30 years. When asking other fortune-tellers, almost all the answers he could get were the same.
Thinking that he would not live long in the world, he decided not to get married or endeavor after wealth. He therefore devoted himself to upholding justice without caring for wealth.
One day, when waiting for the boat at a ferry point, he spotted a girl roaming around the river bank with a sorrowful face, seemingly trying to jump into the river to commit suicide. The man stopped her immediately and asked: “Why don’t you treasure your life?” The girl replied: “I am a maidservant of a wealthy family. My master borrowed a pair of pearl earrings with the value of 30 pieces of silver from his relatives for the wedding. I was assigned to return the earrings to the owner today; however, I lost them halfway. I would rather die than go back to face my master.”
The young man said: “I happened to find something on the ground, but I’m not sure if they belong to you.” The man further asked the details about the earrings, such as the number of pearls and the style of the earrings. After making sure that the earrings he had found were identical to what the maidservant had described, the young man accompanied her to return the earrings to the owner. The master was very thankful to the young man, and wanted to give him a present in appreciation for his great help, but he declined the offer.
Before long, the master arranged for the girl to marry a barber who lived not far away from the ferry point, as he was still not happy about her negligence.
About one year later, the young man and 27 other people were going to cross the river by boat at the ferry point. He came across a girl who knelt down on her knees expressing her thanks to him. The man recognized that she was none other than the maidservant who had lost her earrings one year ago. The girl told her husband how the man saved her life. The couple therefore invited him to come over for lunch as a token of their appreciation. So the man did not take the boat when the other 27 people boarded it.
Shortly after, giant wave engulfed the ferry, and all 27 people on board were drowned. It was simply because of the young man’s compassion in saving the maidservant that Heaven arranged for her to save him in return for his compassion.
Therefore, saving others is tantamount to saving yourself.
Eventually, the young man lived a long life.
The ferry point in this story is actually located at Ruian, Wenzhou City, Zhejiang Province nowadays.
(Translated from volume 8 of South Village Cease Cultivation Recorded written by Tao Zongyi of the Yuan Dynasty.)
Translated by Billy Shyu, edited by Julia