In the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, Feng Menglong wrote three masterpieces — Warning on the World, Yu Shi Ming Yan, and Awakening the World. In the fifth volume of Wu Shi Tong Yan, there is an interesting story about a child named Xier, who goes missing one day and no one can find him. The story takes place in the Ming Dynasty, where there was a family that lived outside the East Gate of Wuxi County, Changzhou Prefecture, Jiangsu Province, China.
In this family, there were three brothers, the oldest being Lu Yu, the second child Lu Bao, the third child Lu Zhen. Lu Yu and his wife became very sad one day when their son Xier didn’t return from a temple fair that he and the neighbor’s children had gone to. Lu Yu and his wife anxiously searched for their son without any luck. He and his wife became very sad.
Several years had passed since Xier’s disappearance when one day Lu Yu decided to go out and conduct some business. But it turned out that this day was not like any other usual day. Yu had decided to visit a place called Chen Liu, where he stumbled upon a green cloth bag in a toilet. When Lu Yu opened it to see what was inside, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The bag was filled with 202 silver coins.
Lu Yu thought to himself: “If the owner doesn’t find his bag, he will probably become very anxious. Maybe his family will even suffer under the burden.” He remembered an old saying: “The ancients didn’t take gold and they didn’t pick up money. I will guard the money and wait for the owner right here.” Lu Yu waited for a day, but no one stepped forward to claim the money.
He decided to look for the owner and doing so he eventually entered a local guest shop in Suzhou, where he met a man named Chen Chaofeng. Chaofeng sighed. “Friend, why do you sigh so heavily,” Lu Yu asked the man. “I have lost a bag in the Chen Liu territory. The bag was filled with two hundred and two silver coins.” After hearing this, Lu Yu asked the man what the bag looked like that he had lost. The man described exactly the same bag that Lu Yu had found. Without a word, Lu Yu pulled out the bag and returned it to its owner.
Chen Chaofeng was overjoyed that Lu Zu returned his bag to him and offered him a reward. However, Lu Yu, to the amazement of Chen Chaofeng, declined the offer of half the coins. “If you do not accept the money, then at least let me repay your deed with my hospitality,” Chaofeng said insistently. “I have a wife and a child,” he added.
Lu Yu sighed upon hearing about Chaofeng’s child. “I had a son. He went missing many years ago.” Chaofeng sighed again and said: “There is a little boy in my family we bought; he comes from another place originally. Now that he is thirteen, I will give him to you as a reward for returning my bag.”
Chen Chaofeng called for the little boy to come out. Lu Yu noticed the little boy’s left eyebrow and that it had a scar just like the one his child had. “Where are you from? Who sold you here?” Lu Yu asked the little child. “I’m not quite sure anymore. I was cheated by people who sold me here.” After listening to the child, Lu Yu stepped forward and hugged the child. “I’m your father. I never expected to be separated from you. All those years have passed, but Heaven has permitted me to finally meet you here.”
The father and son where together again, reunited. Chaofeng and his family were also happy about the reunion. Lu Yu got up and thanked Chaofeng: “If you had not accepted my child, how would we have ever reunited?” Chaofeng sighed and replied: “Big brother, you have the virtue of returning the silver. The heavens guided you to my humble home.”
Chaofeng and Lu Yu set up a marriage contract between their two children, one being Chaofang’s daughter and the other Lu Yu’s son. Chen Chaofeng also gave the boy and his father both 22 silver coins, so that the children could become “entangled” in Chaofeng’s home.
The following day, Lu Yu decided to donate the 22 coins to a Buddhist temple nearby. Thus, early the next morning as Lu Yu and his son were on their way to the temple, they witnessed a tragic scene. A ship on the river was in distress, with people falling into the water and calling for help. Hastily, the boatsman anchored at the shore, went out into the water, and saved the people in distress. Once safely conveyed to the shore, the boatman demanded compensation from the rescued people. Many of them refused to pay and so a lively quarrel between the two sides started.
Having witnessed the whole scene, Lu Yu thought to himself: “It was good that the people got saved and brought ashore by the boatman. I should reward the boatman for his deed, first, before I go to the temple.” Lu Yu approached the boatman and said: “If you save the rest of the people in distress I will give you these twenty-two silver coins in my hand.” The boatman rushed out to save the people after hearing Lu Yu’s words. Unfortunately, not all the people in distress were rescued; those however who were rescued came to Lu Yu to show him their appreciation.
One of the people among the crowd suddenly cried out loud toward Lu Yu: “Brother, where did you come from?” Lu Yu recognized that the voice wasn’t coming from any stranger, but from his third brother Lu Zhen. “It seems the heavens sent me to save my brother’s life,” Lu Yu replied. Then he turned around and called Xier, his son, to come and greet his uncle.
The story continues further, recalling many instances where Lu Yu was put before difficult situations that demanded he make morally based decisions. When Lu Yu found the bag of silver coins, he was confronted with the choice of keeping the money and pleasing whatever desires he had that money could claim or he would forbear the disappointment and return the money to the rightful owner, which he did. Doing so, he not only validated virtuous principles like honesty and kindness, but he also was rewarded with finding his son and reuniting after he had thought him lost forever.
In each case, it seemed that Lu Yu lost out on some benefit, like when he intended to donate the 22 silver coins to a temple for his and his families salvation, but instead, he sacrificed all his coins to pay the boatman for saving complete strangers that were in despair. Again, Lu Yu made a tough decision and chose to sacrifice his own fortune for the wellbeing of others. As a reward, one of the people who got saved was his brother Lu Zhen. Even though he sacrificed, what he gained always outweighed his sacrifices manyfold.