Guo Yuanzhen, born in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), was easy-going and generous. At the age of 16, he entered the Imperial Academy to study and his parents sent him 400,000 yuan for his tuition fees and living costs.
One day, a person dressed in mourning clothes unexpectedly knocked at the door. He told Guo Yuanzhen sadly: “Five generations of my ancestors have not been buried and their coffins are not together. Now, I want to bury them but have no money. I heard that your family just sent you money to pay your tuition fees. Can you help me?” After hearing the request, Guo Yuanzhen gave him the 400,000 yuan without asking him his name. When his classmates heard his story, they laughed at his stupidity. Guo Yuanzhen said calmly: “Helping someone bury his ancestors is a serious event, not ridiculous!”
Guo Yuanzhen passed the examination to be an official at the age of 18. He asked to work in Liangzhou, a border area far away from the capital. He governed the place for five years so well that the people of Liangzhou lived in peace and were safe. The official administration was efficient and the borderlands stable.
Later, Guo Yuanzhen was promoted and transferred to the capital. Although he was a high-level official, he still did not own his own house. Before taking up his office, he stayed at a friend’s house. One day when he went out, he was approached by a stranger who gave him a written message and then left quickly. Guo Yuanzhen opened it up and the message contained the name of a place and a list of items with a corresponding quantity for each. There was no signature.
Following the instructions, he arrived at a tree and found more than 20 horses and 3,000 bolts of good quality silk. Thinking the matter over for a long time, he finally came to the conclusion that these must have been given by the man who asked him to help bury his ancestors!
Guo Yuanzhen generously donated his money, asking no return and did not even ask the person’s name. Now, the person returned his gratitude in the same way. Guo Yuanzhen then purchased a house with these gifts and settled his family down. His Imperial Academy classmates all were deeply touched.
Guo Yuanzhen’s story confirms the heavenly principle: “Just do good deeds, don’t think of the return.” As long as you do good deeds, good things will come to you.
Translated by Jean Chen and edited by Helen