Reward or Retribution Based on Heavenly Principles Comes Exactly as Planned

January 15, 2012 at 9:00 am | Posted in Asia, Children's Stories, Culture, Life Lessons, Moments from History, Reflections, Relevance to Today, Stories from China | 1 Comment

By Zhi Zhen

( Zhou Rongzu was a scholar in Caozhou under the jurisdiction of Tingliang in the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279). His ancestors had accumulated considerable wealth. Zhou Rongzu’s grandfather Zhou Feng had great respect for Buddha and Gods and had built a Buddha institute. Zhou Feng read Buddhist scriptures and chanted verses daily. He generously donated to help the poor. His family business prospered. Zhou Rongzu’s father only attended to the family’s business. He did not believe in Buddha. He undertook a home improvement project. To avoid the expense of paying for wood, stone, bricks and tiles, he tore down the Buddha institute for its construction materials. However, after the home improvement was finished, he became sick. All treatments failed. He was bedridden and passed away. People figured this was caused by his refusal to believe in Buddha.

After his father passed away, Zhou Rongzu took over the family business. He was a learned man. He decided to take the imperial exam in the capital city. He decided to take his wife and their infant son, Changshou, with him. He buried a large quantity of gold and silver that he had inherited in a cellar underneath a section of the wall in his backyard. He asked one of his attendants on duty to take care of the house. He just took with him a smaller amount of gold and silver coins and left for the exam.

At the time, Jia Ren, who was very poor, also lived in Caozhou. He barely made a living by hauling dirt and building walls. He lived in a deserted kiln. He often wondered why others lived an extravagant life while he was in such poverty. Whenever he had time, he would go to a temple to pray, “I hereby pray that being an ordinary man, how come I have to endure such poverty. In case I were to have a little wealth, I would show kindness to the widowed, the orphaned, the elderly and the poor. I beg mercy from Your Majesty!” One day, after praying, he dozed off under the eaves of the roof. Suddenly he saw a spirit asking the deity in charge of incrementing people’s blessings to review his stored wealth. The deity in charge of blessings replied, “Jia Ren, in his past lives, did not show respect to heaven and earth, nor to his parents. He slandered Buddha and badmouthed monks. He also killed people, wasted clean water, and wasted food. In this life time, he is destined to die in hunger and cold.” Jia immediately begged upon hearing this, “Your Highness, please grant me a little clothing and food. I have also tried to be a good man. When my parents were alive, I showed respect for them and supported them the best I could.” The spirit said, “We deities have inspected what Jia Ren did. Although not many good deeds have been recorded, we do know that he was obedient to his parents. Given that he’s suffering from hunger and cold, we will take into consideration his filial obedience. We understand His Majesty’s virtue in promoting growth and prosperity, let’s take a look to see if there are some blessings that belong to other families, that are suitable for lending him to make up for his bit of filial obedience.” The deity in charge of blessings said, “I have examined the book on the Zhou family in Caonan Village in the area, which in the past had accumulated many blessings. Because of the disrespect to Buddha shown Zhou Rongzu’s father, the family deserves some penalty. I am now going to transfer the Zhou family’s blessings to Jia for 20 years. At the end of the 20-year period, Jia is to hand the fortune back to the original owner, the Zhou family. Wouldn’t this work out well in both regards?” The spirit agreed, “You may do that.” Jia Ren kowtowed to thank the deity for the blessings. When Jia woke up, he recalled the promise from His Highness that he was to be loaned blessings for 20 years. He was not sure whether he should believe his dream. The day before a wealthy family had given him a work order to build a wall. He decided to look for the bricks to get the wall built first.

One night when the attendant at the Zhou family home was on duty, he fell into a deep sleep. Thieves came in and took everything from the residence. The place was so cleaned out, that the attendant was not able to feed himself. He figured the section of the old wall in the backyard was the only thing that could be sold in exchange for some money. He ran into Jia Ren in the street. The two immediately made a deal. When Jia Ren was digging out the dirt bricks, he spotted a stone slate, under which there was a large opening carved in a stone filled with countless gold and silver bricks. Jia said to himself in surprise, “Such miraculous deities! Yesterday’s dream has been already fulfilled.” He delivered the dirt bricks to the family who gave him the work order. Then he removed the gold and silver bricks by himself. With so much wealth, he bought a large residence and started businesses. He purchased land and boats. People started calling him a councilor. Despite his accumulation of wealth, he was very parsimonious and lived in thrift. Others called him Jia the Frugal. He got married. But the couple did not have children. He also hired someone named Chen Defu to take care of his books. He often said to Chen, “With such a big family business, I don’t have a child to succeed me. If you find any parents who are willing to let me adopt their child, whether it be a boy or a girl, bring the child to me.”

Meanwhile, Zhou Rongzu, his wife and their son had gone to the capital. He did not pass the exam to become an official. When they returned, everything was gone except for the vacant house. He went to the backyard to look for the gold and silver that he had inherited. Only an empty opening in the stone was left there. He was forced to sell his house in exchange for some money. The family of three headed out to Luoyang to find their relative. However, the relative had been out of town for a long time. Soon his money was used up. He begged along the way so they could return to Caonan Village in Caozhou. It was winter and the snow was heavy. The three of them did not have enough food or clothes. When they knocked on people’s doors, no one would even open their door to give them food or shelter. They went by a restaurant that served liquor, where they ran into Chen, the bookkeeper at Jia’s residence. Chen said to Zhou, “Since you are in such financial difficulty, how about allowing others to adopt your son? A rich family here does not have any children. If you let them adopt your son, his entire family business will be passed to this child of yours. I was given the task by the family to look for a suitable child for adoption.” Zhou discussed this with his wife. They decided that it was better for the boy to be adopted rather than starve and freeze to death. Chen reported back to Councilor Jia. Jia was quite pleased. Both families signed the paperwork. At the time, Zhou’s son, Changshou, was six years old. Zhou reminded Changshou, “Your parents had no choice but to let you be adopted so that you don’t have to starve. Take care not to offend others. When we get a chance, we will come visit you.” The three burst into tears and parted.

After adopting the young boy, Councilor Jia gave him the name Jia Changshou. Jia’s family kept this adoption a secret. When Changshou grew up, he started to forget about what had happened when he was a child. He thought of Councilor Jia as his natural father. Councilor Jia remained frugal and spent each penny with care. However, Changshou was quite generous, especially so when helping the poor and those in need. He did not seem to treat money with any more importance than a dirt brick. People figured he was quite rich, and called him “the Donator.” A dozen or so years later, Councilor Jia and his wife passed away. Thus, Changshou became the young councilor and was in charge of the family business.

Zhou Rongzu and his wife went to various cities to find relatives to live with. They found none. Begging along the way, the couple returned to Caonan Village to see how their son was doing. Upon entering the village, they saw a medicine shop with a sign, “Donated Medicine Available.” They went inside the shop and found that Chen, who took care of Councilor Jia’s books, was the owner. Chen told the couple, “Councilor Jia passed away. Your child, Jia Changshou, is now the young councilor. Unlike Councilor Jia, he is quite generous. The medicines that I give out were because of his seed money.” Chen went to Jia Changshou and told him the whole story. Although no one had ever talked about his adoption for years, Changshou was able to recall what happened when he was 6 years old. He immediately took out a box of gold and silver and followed Chen to the shop to meet his parents. His parents were glad to meet him. When he handed over the box of gold and silver, Zhou Rongzu was about to tell Changshou that he was not to take other’s money when he saw the carving on a silver brick “marked by Zhou Feng.” He was surprised, “Wasn’t this from my family?” Chen asked how could that be. Zhou explained that his grandfather’s name was Zhou Feng. The mark was left by him. Chen then wondered, “Why did it come to Jia’s family?” Zhou Rongzu said, “Twenty years ago I went to take the imperial exam with my wife and son. Before leaving, I buried gold and silver under a section of wall, which had disappeared when I returned home.” Chen realized immediately and said, “Councilor Jia was broke. He made bricks out of dirt and built walls for a living. He turned rich overnight. It turned out that he dug up your gold and silver. No wonder he did not spend a dime of it. Instead he adopted your son. He was merely looking after the wealth for your Zhou family.” The Zhou couple sighed, “This is truly the result of reward and retribution.” He then told Chen and Changshou how his ancestors had believed in Buddha, and about his father who did not believe in Buddha. Changshou was also amazed. He took his parents home. Zhou Rongzu gave his son the box of gold and silver and asked him to hand it out to villagers who needed help. He also asked his son to build a temple as their ancestors had done. The couple started cultivating. Changshou restored his family name of Zhou. The entire family respected Buddha. Their family business became even more prosperous than it had been before.

Zhou Rongzu’s family accumulated blessings for generations. His grandfather respected Buddha and was wealthy. His father destroyed the temple for home improvement. His family business took a downturn. He and his family were punished for this wrong deed. Jia Ren, who did not respect heaven and earth in his past lives, should have died in hunger and cold. The deities understood His Majesty’s virtue of promoting growth and prosperity, and lent Jia twenty years of wealth. Zhou Rongzu was punished for the same number of years. Twenty years later, everything was returned to the original owner.

Things have been planned well ahead of time, despite whatever tricks people may attempt to pull. In fact everything has its cause and effect. Retribution based on the heavenly principles comes exactly as planned. How can people not be careful in what they do? Believing in reward and retribution and carrying out good deeds conscientiously not only increases one’s own blessings, it also lays a good foundation for one’s children. It is most important, in terms of a person’s fate and future, to respect heaven and gods, and to carry out good deeds by following heavenly principles.

August 16, 2009

Posting date: 1/24/2010
Category: Traditional Culture
Chinese version available at


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