Gambling Talisman: The Destructive Influence of Gambling and Greedy of Human

Explore the destructive impact of gambling and how it leads to moral decay, financial ruin, and the loss of reputation, as depicted in the story of the 'Gambling Talisman.'

The Taoist Han lived in the Tianqi Temple in our local county. Because he was skilled in magic, people referred to him as a “sorcerer.” My late father was particularly friendly with him, and every time he went to the city, he would visit him. One day, my father and my late uncle went to the city, intending to visit Taoist Han. Coincidentally, they met him on the way. Taoist Han handed the key to my father and said, “You go ahead and open the door, sit inside, and wait for me. I’ll be there shortly.” My father did as he said, entered the temple, used the key to open the door, and to his surprise, Taoist Han was already sitting inside. There were many strange things like this regarding Taoist Han.

Before this, there was a fellow clansman who had a gambling addiction and got to know Taoist Han through my father. At that time, a monk came to the Great Buddha Temple who was skilled in using dice to decide the outcome of gambling, with exceptionally high stakes. The clansman was delighted to see him gambling so recklessly, and he wagered all the money he had at home in a high-stakes gamble, only to lose it all. The more he lost, the more desperate he became. He pawned his land and went gambling again, losing everything overnight, leaving him destitute. From then on, he was in a state of constant depression and misery, so he went to find Taoist Han, completely disoriented and incoherent.

Taoist Han asked him what had happened, and the clansman recounted the whole gambling affair to him. Taoist Han smiled and said, “There is no way to consistently win in gambling. If you can quit gambling, I will help you recover your lost wealth.” The clansman replied, “As long as I can regain my gambling capital as easily as finding a pearl in Hepu, I would smash the dice to pieces with an iron rod!” So, Taoist Han wrote a talisman on paper and gave it to the clansman to wear on his belt. Taoist Han also instructed him, “Once you recover your original possessions, you must stop. Don’t be greedy and keep seeking more.” After saying this, Taoist Han gave him a thousand copper coins, with an agreement that he would repay him after winning the money back.

The clansman went to gamble again with great joy. When the monk saw his one thousand copper coins, he looked down upon them and refused to gamble with him. The clansman insisted on gambling and requested a single throw to determine the outcome, and the monk reluctantly agreed with a smile. So, the clansman used the one thousand copper coins as the sole wager for the outcome. The monk threw the dice first, and the result was inconclusive. The clansman took the dice, rolled them, and won decisively. The monk then put down another two thousand coins as a bet and lost again. Later, the monk’s bets gradually increased to over ten thousand coins. Clearly, the dice showed the highest rank, but with a shout from the clansman, it turned into a lower rank or even a lower one. In this way, the money the clansman had lost earlier was all won back in the blink of an eye. The clansman thought it would be even better to win a few more thousand coins, so he continued gambling. However, each throw resulted in lower-ranking outcomes, and his luck took a turn for the worse. The clansman was puzzled and, upon looking at the talisman in his belt, realized it had disappeared long ago. He was shocked and quickly stopped gambling.

The clansman returned to the temple with the money and, besides repaying Taoist Han the one thousand copper coins, he carefully calculated the money he had won and lost before, which happened to be equal to the amount he had originally lost. Then, the clansman shamefully asked for forgiveness from Taoist Han for losing the talisman. Taoist Han smiled and said, “The talisman had already returned to me. I repeatedly told you not to be greedy, but you didn’t listen, so I took it back myself.”

The chronicler of strange tales said: Among all the factors that lead people to squander their fortunes, there is nothing quicker than gambling. When it comes to moral decay, nothing can corrupt a person faster and more thoroughly than gambling. Those who are addicted to gambling are like sinking into a boundless sea, never knowing where the bottom is. Merchants and farmers each have their own legitimate pursuits, and scholars who study poetry and literature, in particular, should cherish their time. Carrying a hoe and studying diligently is the right path to build a family and a career. Even if you gather with friends for a chat and have a few cups of wine, it’s a way to find solace in life. But gamblers conspire with their dubious associates and gather for gambling all night long.

They rummage through their belongings, hanging their money on perilous heights or shouting to the heavens, beseeching the dice to be in their favor. They spin the dice, making them whirl like beads, or hold the cards as if they were raising a fan. They glance at others one moment, then at themselves the next, their eyes darting as if trying to see through everything. They pretend to be weak on the surface but secretly resort to cunning, using all kinds of tricks and deceptive maneuvers. Even if there are guests waiting to be entertained at the door, they cannot help but think about the gambling table. Sometimes, their houses are on fire, but they still stare fixedly at the dice in their gambling pots.

As a result, they neglect sleep and food, and over time, they become addicted, unable to extricate themselves. They appear with parched tongues and chapped lips, resembling living ghosts. When they have lost all their capital, they can only watch others gamble. They watch the excitement and uproar in the gambling scene, itching to participate, but it’s just a heroic fantasy because when they check their purses, they find not a single coin left, leaving the once-proud gamblers disheartened. So, they stretch their necks and wander around the gambling house, feeling utterly empty-handed and helpless. Eventually, they return home in the wee hours of the night, dejected and filled with sorrow. Fortunately, their wives who scolded and blamed them are already asleep, and they dare not disturb them or awaken the barking dogs.

At this point, they realize their hunger after a long time of emptiness in their stomachs. They pick up their rice bowls, fearing to complain about leftovers. Then, they consider selling their sons, pawning their land, hoping to recover their losses. Little do they know that their gamble is like chasing after the moon’s reflection in the river, a futile endeavor. It’s only after suffering such heavy losses that they begin to reflect, but by then, they have already fallen into ruin. If you ask who among the gamblers is the most skilled, people will point to the destitute man who has lost even his pants. Some of them, due to unbearable hunger, resort to a life of crime, while others scratch their heads in despair, unable to find a way out, relying on selling their women’s jewelry for survival. Alas! Moral decay, loss of character, the squandering of fortunes, and the downfall of reputation—every one of these is caused by the evil habit of gambling!

《赌符》

韩道士,居邑中之天齐庙,多幻术,共名之“仙”。先子与最善,每适城,辄造之。一日,与先叔赴邑,拟访韩,适遇诸途。韩付钥曰:“请先往启门坐,少旋我即至。”乃如其言,诣庙发扃,则韩已坐室中。诸如此类。

先是,有敝族人嗜博赌,因先子亦识韩。值大佛寺来一僧,专事樗蒲,赌甚豪。族人见而悦之,罄赀往赌,大亏。心益热,典质田产,复往,终夜尽丧。邑邑不得志,便道诣韩,精神惨淡,言语失次。韩问之,具以实告。韩笑云:“常赌无不输之理。倘能戒赌,我为汝覆之。”族人曰:“倘得珠还合浦,花骨头当铁杵碎之!”韩乃以纸书符,授佩衣带间。嘱曰:“但得故物即已,勿得陇复望蜀也。”又付千钱,约赢而偿之。

族人大喜而往,僧验其赀,易之,不屑与赌。族人强之,请以一掷为期,僧笑而从之。乃以千钱为孤注。僧掷之无所胜负,族人接色,一掷成采。僧复以两千为注,又败。渐增至十馀千,明明枭色,呵之,皆成卢雉。计前所输,顷刻尽覆,阴念再赢数千亦更佳,乃复博,则色渐劣。心怪之,起视带上,则符已亡矣,大惊而罢。载钱归庙,除偿韩外,追而计之,并末后所失,适符原数也。已乃愧谢失符之罪,韩笑曰:“已在此矣。固嘱勿贪,而君不听,故取之。”

异史氏曰:天下之倾家者,莫速于博;天下之败德者,亦莫甚于博。入其中者,如沉迷海,将不知所底矣。夫商农之人,具有本业;诗书之士,尤惜分阴。负耒横经,固成家之正路;清谈薄饮,犹寄兴之生涯。尔乃狎比淫朋,缠绵永夜。倾囊倒箧,悬金于崄巇之天;呵雉呼卢,乞灵于淫昏之骨。盘旋五木,似走圆珠;手握多张,如擎团扇。左觑人而右顾己,望穿鬼子之睛;阳示弱而阴用强,费尽罔两之技。门前宾客待,犹恋恋于场头;舍上火烟生,尚眈眈于盆里。忘餐废寝,则久入成迷;舌敝唇焦,则相看似鬼。迨夫全军尽没,热眼空窥。视局中则叫号浓焉,技痒英雄之臆;顾橐底而贯索空矣,灰寒壮士之心。引颈徘徊,觉白手之无济;垂头萧索,始玄夜以方归。幸交谪之人眠,恐惊犬吠;苦久虚之腹饿,敢怨羹残?既而鬻子质田,冀还珠于合浦;不意火灼毛尽,终捞月于沧江。及遭败后我方思,已作下流之物;试问赌中谁最善,群指无袴之公。甚而枵腹难堪,遂栖身于暴客;搔头莫度,至仰给于香奁。呜呼!败德丧行,倾产亡身,孰非博之一途致之哉!

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