Yuan Shangbao Could Tell Fortunes by Merely Seeing a Person’s Face

He went over and found that there were hundreds of pieces of gold in the garment. (Image:  Lawrence OP  via  flickr  /  CC BY 2.0 )
He went over and found that there were hundreds of pieces of gold in the garment. (Image: Lawrence OP via flickr / CC BY 2.0 )

Once Yuan told a friend that his teenage servant would bring him bad luck. His friend was surprised to hear this, as the boy was handsome and clever, and he had not done anything wrong. Yuan repeatedly asked his friend to let go of the young man. In the end, he followed Yuan’s advice and let the boy go.

The boy was homeless after being driven out, and was forced to take part time jobs at different houses to make a living. One night, the boy spent the night in an old temple. He was so full of self-pity that he could not fall asleep. Suddenly in the dim light, he saw there was an old worn-out garment in the corner of the temple.

There was something glittering inside it. He went over and found that there were hundreds of pieces of gold in the garment. To begin with, he wanted to take the gold as his own. Then he thought:

Confucius Temple in Taipei. (Image: edwin.11 via flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Suddenly in the dim light, he saw there was an old worn-out garment in the corner of the temple. (Image: edwin.11 via flickr / CC BY 2.0)

So he stayed in the temple and waited. Soon, he heard the crying of a woman drawing near. It seemed that she was looking for something. He approached her and asked what she was looking for. She answered in tears: “My husband is a soldier who has been put into prison and is going to be executed soon.

I heard of an official who will help me to rescue him, so I sold all our land and possessions to get some gold to save my husband. But after taking a rest here in this temple the other night, I just couldn’t find the gold anymore. Without the gold, my husband will die soon!”

The boy calmed the poor woman down and asked for the details about the gold. When he found that she was indeed the owner of the gold, he took out the worn-out garment. The woman was very surprised and thankful. She gave him some gold coins, but he turned them down. The woman then left, and not long after, her husband was released.

The couple told everyone of the boy’s good deed. A general who lived locally heard the news. He looked for the boy and was glad to meet him in person. Seeing that he was such an honest and clever young man, and that he had no son of his own, he decided to adopt him.

A statue of Sun Tzu stands tall in Japan. (Image: 663highland via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.5)

When the general retired, according to the law at that time, his son – the boy – was to succeed him. (Image: 663highland via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.5)

When the general retired, according to the law at that time, his son — the boy — was to succeed him. The young man who had been driven out now wanted to visit his ex-master to break the news. His former master was surprised to see that his servant was to become a general.

He wanted to make fun of Yuan’s “misfortune-telling,” so he asked the young man to change back to his servant’s clothing and to serve Yuan. Yuan was surprised to see the former servant. “Isn’t he the former servant who was driven out? How come he is back?” Yuan asked. The master made fun of him by saying: “Yes, he is. He couldn’t find a decent job, so he came back.”

Yuan said: “Stop making fun of me. He is not your servant anymore. He must be a general now because his facial appearance is completely different from before.” Then he held the young man’s hand and asked: “Did you do something good during this period of time?” The young man told them what had happened after he was driven out in great detail.

Since then, Yuan’s friend — the master — came to admit the ability of Yuan’s fortune telling.

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