Stories from Ancient China: Some Things in Life are Worth More Gold

As human beings, we might be poor or be in a difficult situation, but we have to understand the fundamentals of being human. We cannot acquire wealth by immoral means, and we must not lose or damage our virtue.

During ancient times, Yanli Jizi, the brother of the king of Wu Kingdom, went out for a stroll and saw a gold piece that someone had lost on the road. It was the month of May and very hot. A poor woodsman in feather-down clothes was passing by, and Jizi said to him, "Pick up the gold on the ground."

The woodsman threw his sickle to the ground, raised his eyebrows, and said angrily, "You are a noble, but why do you treat other people as if they are beneath you? You have a grand and heroic appearance, but why do you speak so rudely? I would rather wear feather-down in hot May while chopping firewood. Why should I pick up gold that someone else has lost?"

Yanli Jizi was very ashamed when he heard this. He hurriedly apologized to the woodsman and asked for his name. The man replied, "You look like someone of high status. It would be a waste of time to tell you my name," he then left.

The king's brother admired the woodsman's morality and personal integrity and he fact that he was able to endure poverty and hardship without accepting immoral wealth. This is a virtue that human beings should have, and it is consistent with what has been taught in the divinely-endowed culture--human beings must be noble, pure, and ethical. We should not pocket money that we have not truly earned.


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