Story From Ancient China: Giving up Credibility and Ruining One’s Life

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Credibility is the basic principle of doing business from the ancient times to the present.

Merchants who become wealthy must take credibility, reputation, and honesty as the important parts of business ethics. Some people, however, think differently.

Yu Fu, a paint merchant from Kingdom Yue during the Spring and Autumn Period, was tired of living a poor life. When his merchant friends became wealthy, he was anxious to be a merchant. He talked to his friend, Ji Ran, and asked him how to become rich. Ji Ran said, “Right now paint is in demand, why don’t you plant sumac, harvest the leaves and sell paint.

Yu Fu was very excited and worked from dawn to dust after Ji Ran patiently taught him how to grow the sumac. Finally Yu Fu had a huge sumac grove.

Three years later, the sumac grove was fully grown. Yu Fu was extremely excited and he knew that he could pick off the sumac leaves and make a lot of money.

When he was about ready to take his paint to the Kingdom Wu, his brother-in-law came to see him. He told Yu Fu, “I do business in Kingdom Wu often and I know how to sell paint there. If you do it right, you can double your profit.”

Yu Fu was so anxious to make money that he asked his brother-in-law again and again how to double his profit.

His brother-in-law said, “Paint is in demand, and I see many paint merchants cook the sumac leaves and mix the resin into the paint. As a result, you can get twice the profit, and people in Wu would not notice.”

Yu Fu could not pass up such a good idea, so he cooked the leaves overnight and took the resin and paint to Kingdom Wu.

At that time, the relationship between Kingdom Wu and Kingdom Yue was tense, and there was no trade between them.

When the merchants from Kingdom Wu heard that Yu Fu brought paint, they were very happy. They went out of the city to greet him and provided him with room and board. They looked at his paint and were delighted with the superior quality. They agreed on a price and sealed the containers; they wanted to pick up the paint next day.

After the merchants left, Yu Fu took the seals off and added the resin. He was in a hurry, therefore there were marks left. The merchants came back next day, and they found that seals had been touched and became suspicious. They made an excuse to come back in a few days and left.

Yu Fu stayed in the inn for several days, but the merchants did not show up again. Furthermore, the paint had changed its quality after the resin was mixed in it. As a result, Yu Fu did not sell even one pint of paint.

The merchants from Wu who heard about it all said,” To be a merchant, you must have credibility and honesty, and you cannot deceive others. No one will feel sorry for you, because you have brought your misery on yourself.”

Yu Fu could not go back home because he had no money. He became a beggar and people often laughed at him. He finally died of poverty and misery in Wu.

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