(Continued from Part 1)
Story 4 – Propriety: Do Not Go after Ill-gotten Gains
Xie Ting’en, a native of Fuzhou in Jiangxi, was a businessman in the Qing dynasty. He was revered for his integrity and known by the locals as “Master Xi” (since he was from Jiangxi).
He grew up in a poor family and started doing business in Sichuan, Fujian, and Guangdong when he was 16.
When he was doing business in Fujian, a merchant bought some ramie cloth from Xie. After the customer paid for his purchase and left, Xie discovered that the merchant had overpaid him by 50 percent. Those who heard about it told him to keep the money, but Xie refused to.
He learned that the customer was the owner of a silk store, so he went to every silk story in the city to find him. When he finally did, he returned the extra payment to him. Even though he was very surprised, the customer was sincerely impressed by Xie’s honesty, and the two became good friends.
This story became widely known in Fujian. The silk store owner not only became one of Xie’s loyal customers, he also encouraged other businessmen in the city to buy from Xie. Xie’s business grew, and in less than 20 years, he was the richest businessman in Fuzhou.
There is similar to a story about how a taxi driver, the son of a Falun Dafa practitioner, was blessed as a result of his honesty.
One day, he found a bag that had been left in his taxi. It contained a roll of 100,000 yuan in banknotes and a few thousand yuan in cash. It also held a student’s homework, which had the student’s name and the school’s class number on it.
With this information, he contacted the school and found the person who’d lost the money. He returned the money and declined any reward. After that, his taxi business got better and better, with customers coming in one after another. Every day, he earned a tidy sum.
People in ancient times understood that accumulating virtue is better than accumulating wealth. Accumulating virtue by doing kind deeds can not only change one’s own fate for the better but also bring blessings to one’s children and grandchildren.
Story 5 – Benevolence: Be Kind and Always Help Others
Hu Xueyan was a top businessman in the late Qing Dynasty. He was well-known not only for his extraordinary success but also for his ethics.
One day when he was discussing business with the bosses of his sub-branches, a worried-looking businessman came in and asked to see Hu on an urgent matter. As it turned out, the man’s business venture had just failed and he needed a large amount of money to fix things. He was prepared to mortgage all his family assets to Hu at a very low price.
Hu told the man to come back the next day for his decision. After investigating, Hu discovered that what the man had told him was true. He then transferred large amounts of money from the sub-branches of his business and insisted on purchasing the businessman’s assets at their market value.
Hu also told the businessman that he was only keeping these assets for him temporarily and that he could redeem them any time he was ready, at the same price, plus a small amount of interest.
Hu’s extraordinary offer took the businessman by surprise, just as it surprised Hu’s assistants.
Hu then told his assistances something he himself had learned: “When I was a young apprentice in a store, my boss often asked me to go around to collect debts. One day, while I was out on my route, it began to pour and I saw a stranger nearby getting soaked. I happened to have an umbrella with me, so I shared it with the man. Later, I often shared my umbrella with anyone caught in the rain. By and by, I got to know many people who took the same route, and I never needed to worry if I forgot to bring my umbrella, because many of those whom I’d helped in the past would share their umbrella with me.”
He said to his assistants: “When you are prepared to share your umbrella with others in need, they will be willing to share theirs with you as well. That businessman’s family assets might have taken generations to build up, and I would have been taking advantage of the current situation if I purchased them at the price he offered. But if I did that, he might not be able to make a turn for the better for the rest of his life. This is not just a matter of doing business, but it could save a family. By doing what I did, I not only befriended him, but I also have a clear conscience. We can all get caught in the rain sometimes, so we should lend a helping hand when we can.”
Hu’s ethical conduct touched the hearts of the local peasants and gentry alike, which only made his business grow even more.
Later, the businessman who had sold his assets to Hu redeemed his assets and became one of Hu’s most loyal business partners.
Story 6 – Trustworthiness: Never Go Back on Your Word
In the book Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian), there is a section about the life of Ji Bu, a well-known strategist and high-ranking official in the early Han Dynasty. He was upright, always ready to help others, and extremely trustworthy. Once he made a promise, he always kept his word, no matter how difficult it might be. As a result, he enjoyed a very good reputation. There was a saying: “A promise from Ji Bu is worth more than one thousand taels of gold.”
Ji Bu was first hired as a general by Xiang Yu, the king at the end of the Qin Dynasty.
After Xiang Yu’s defeat by Liu Bang, the founder of the Han Dynasty (206BC-8CE), Ji Bu escaped to Puyang (in Henan) because Liu Bang had put a price on his head. Many people spoke up for him and eventually Liu Bang pardoned him. Later, Ji Bu served in various high-ranking positions during the Han Dynasty.
Here is another story about Fan Li, who was mentioned in Story 1.
He once ran into difficulties in his business dealings, so he borrowed 10,000 coins from a wealthy man to tide him over. A year later, the wealthy man went to settle his debts with Fan, but the man accidentally dropped his bag into a river, and all his money for the trip as well as the receipts for his loans went with it.
In desperation, he went to see Fan Li, who immediately repaid his debt plus interest, even though the man could not present a receipt for the loan. Fan Li also offered him money to cover his trip.
Fan Li’s benevolence and trustworthiness became widely known, and such integrity in turn helped him overcome financial difficulties and ensured his success in business.
People in ancient times believed that one could not gain a foothold in society without credibility. One must be honest and trustworthy, consistent with one’s words and deeds, and never deceive oneself or others.
Story 7 – Wisdom: Do Not Let Money Compromise Morality
There is a story about this topic in an ancient book from the Western Han Dynasty, titled Huinanzi·Renjianxun.
Duke Mu of Qin (659-621 BC) assigned Meng Meng to lead his soldiers in launching a secret attack on the vassal state of Zheng. On their way, Meng Meng came across Xian Gao, a businessman from Zheng, who said to his partner Jian, “Qin soldiers have marched thousands of miles through the territories of several vassal states. They must be here to attack the state of Zheng, and they are confident that Zheng is not prepared for the attack. If we tell them that Zheng is well-prepared, they will not dare proceed.”
So Xian Gao and a few others pretended they’d been given orders from Zheng to reward the Qin soldiers with 12 oxen. Meng Meng and two other generals believed them and thought that Zheng must already have its defenses set up, so they led their troops back to Qin.
Duke Mu of Zheng was very pleased with what Xian Gao did and offered him an extravagant reward. But Xian Gao declined the offer, saying, “The Qin troops retreated because I tricked them with a lie. If I accept a reward for that deception, it would ruin Zheng’s credibility. To govern a state without credibility would corrupt social norms. It won’t do to reward one person at the expense of ruining the morality of the state. Anyone who respects righteousness and morality would not accept a reward for deception, either.”
Soon afterwards, Xian Gao moved to settle in the Dongyi region with his subordinates and never returned to Zheng.
Even though Xian Gao did a good thing for the vassal state of Zheng, he understood that deception should not be encouraged, otherwise such conduct would corrupt public morals. He would never let a desire for money compromise morality.