Stories from Ancient China: Food is Just for Alleviating Hunger

Liu Nanyuan was a minister of the Ministry of Public Works in the Jiajing Era (1522-1566) of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) of ancient China. By the time he retired and returned to his hometown, a provincial official in charge of the area was quite demanding when it came to food and so the county officials felt rather intimidated. Liu Nanhuan told them, "He was once my student. I should offer him some advice."

One morning, the provincial official came to Liu's home for a visit and Liu told him, "I'd prefer to set up a banquet for you. However, it may take too much of your time and interfere with your official business. So, let me treat you to a meal. My wife is out of town, and we don't have anyone to prepare anything special. How about a simple meal?" The official could not decline the invitation since it was from his teacher.

However, it was well past noon time, and the meal still had not been served. The official was getting very hungry. When the first dish was finally brought to the table, it was only comprised of rice and bean curd. Liu and the official each had three bowls of rice, and the official felt quite full. Shortly after, gourmet food and exquisite wine were brought to them, and it took up the entire table. The official was too full to have more food. Liu Nanyuan insisted on him trying more. The official had to say, "I'm really full. That is all I can eat." Liu smiled at him and said, "You see, it doesn't matter too much whether food is rich or simple. When you are hungry, it's easy to take in food. When you're full, it doesn't entice you as much. The difference is in timing."

The purpose of food is to fill one's stomach and alleviate hunger. Only extravagant people who lack virtue would demand gourmet food. The provincial official took the advice from his teacher and never placed unreasonable demands on others again.

You are welcome to print and circulate all articles published on Clearharmony and their content, but please quote the source.