Ancient Cultivation Stories: Zhang Shiping’s Dedication Rewarded

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Zhang Shiping was a governor of the state of Shouzhou during the Tang Dynasty. Ever since he was middle aged, he and his wife suffered from illnesses pertaining to the eyes. They sought medical treatment from many doctors, but none of them could cure the ilnesses. Zhang Shiping eventually resigned from his post, and retired to a villa. He turned away all visitors, and thoroughly examined his inner self. He set up an altar to pray to the stars, begging for a blessing from the Heavenly Immortals. As years passed, Zhang Shiping’s wealth grew thin, but he remained dedicated to his self-cultivation.

On August 17 of the seventh year of the Yuanhe Period, a scholar visited Zhang at his villa. When the scholar arrived, he was told by a servant, “My master and his wife have been suffering from illness, and have stopped receiving visitors.” The scholar said, “It is true that I’m a scholar, but I also study medicine. I heard that governor Zhang is ill, and this is why I come here today.” The servant relayed his message to Shiping, who gladly replied, “I have not received any guests because I have been sick for so long. If he does have the right prescription, I hope that he will be merciful to me.” The servant passed on Shiping’s words to the scholar, who replied, “As long as I can meet Governor Zhang, I will certainly come up with the right prescription.”

After Zhang heard the scholar’s words, he immediately rose to meet the scholar. The scholar said, “The cure of your illness does not lie in medical herbs. Tomorrow you will hire ten laborers to build a well for you. The well will be your cure.” The next day Zhang Shiping fulfilled the scholar’s request and had ten laborers ready for the scholar’s command. After the scholar picked a spot for the well, the laborers began to dig until morning arrived. While the laborers were building the well, Zhang Shiping’s eyes felt better immediately. After Zhang Shiping doused his eyes with the water from the new well, he regained his vision. In just one day both Zhang Shiping and his wife finally purged the illnesses that had plagued them for ten years. They were both immensely thankful for the help of the scholar and offered him gold, silver and cloth as tokens of their appreciation.

The scholar said to them, “I am not a mortal. I govern the Tai Bai Star. For the past 10 years when you were infected with the disease, you remained dedicated to cultivating in the Tao and prayed at the altar every night. Your utmost dedication has touched the stars above. Therefore, the governor of the Five Stars asked me to descend to the human world and teach you a way to treat your illness. It is our way of repaying you for your dedication to cultivation of the Tao. I need neither gold nor cloth, but I would like you to pass this treatment method to the world and help your fellow mortals in need. By doing so you will increase your virtue. You will determine the date, time, and location for a healing well by doing such and such. The water from such healing wells will have miraculous healing effects.” After hearing these words, Zhang Shiping bowed repeatedly to thank the scholar for teaching him the divine skill. Then the governor of Tai Bai Star soared into the sky and disappeared into thin air.

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