Gong Mengbi: The Story of Hidden Wealth and Family Secrets

Explore the tale of Gong Mengbi, a wealthy man who hid his fortune, and the consequences of his actions on his family.

Liu Fanghua was from Baoding. He was wealthy and very generous, often hosting over a hundred guests at his place. He was always ready to help others in need, even if it cost him a lot of money. Guests and friends frequently borrowed money from him and often didn’t return it, but Liu Fanghua didn’t mind. There was one guest named Gong Mengbi, a man from Shaanxi, who never asked for anything from the Liu family. Whenever he visited, he usually stayed for a year. Gong Mengbi was well-spoken, and Liu Fanghua enjoyed long conversations with him into the night. Liu Fanghua had a son named Liu He, who was still a child at the time. He referred to Gong Mengbi as “Uncle,” and Gong Mengbi liked to play games with Liu He. Whenever Liu He returned from his private school, Gong Mengbi would join him in lifting up the floor tiles and pretend that the stones they found were treasures made of gold and silver. They buried them as part of their game. Liu Fanghua’s house had five buildings, and they buried treasures in the front and back of all of them. People mocked their childish behavior, but Liu He liked Gong Mengbi more than any other guest, and their relationship was closer.

Over a decade later, Liu Fanghua’s wealth began to dwindle, and he couldn’t satisfy the demands of so many guests. As a result, the number of guests decreased. Nonetheless, late-night feasts with a dozen or so people were still common. As Liu Fanghua grew older and his family fortune continued to decline, he resorted to selling off land to make some money for food and drinks. Liu He also spent money recklessly and made friends like his father did. Liu Fanghua never interfered with him.

Before long, Liu Fanghua passed away, and the family was so poor that they couldn’t even afford a coffin. Gong Mengbi used his own money to take care of Liu Fanghua’s funeral arrangements. Because of this, Liu He felt a deep gratitude toward Gong Mengbi, and he entrusted him with all the matters of the household, big or small. Every time Gong Mengbi returned from outside, his sleeves were always filled with pieces of rubble, which he would secretly throw into a corner of the house. No one knew his true intentions behind this.

Liu He often sat with Gong Mengbi, worrying about their impoverished situation. Gong Mengbi said, “You don’t understand the hardships of life. Even if you were given a thousand taels of silver right now, you would spend it all in no time. Men should be self-reliant; there’s no reason to fear poverty.”

One day, Gong Mengbi had to return to his hometown and bid farewell to Liu He. Liu He tearfully urged him to come back soon, and Gong Mengbi promised before leaving the Liu household.

Afterward, Liu He’s family situation worsened to the point where they couldn’t even make ends meet. All the valuable items in their home had already been pawned. Liu He anxiously awaited Gong Mengbi’s return to help with their crumbling family fortunes. However, Gong Mengbi disappeared without a trace, and there was no news of him. It was as if he had vanished like a flying yellow crane, never to return.

When Liu Fanghua was alive, he had arranged a marriage for Liu He with the daughter of a wealthy family named Huang from Wuji County. However, when Huang heard that the Liu family had fallen into poverty, he secretly regretted the engagement. After receiving the news of Liu Fanghua’s passing, Huang did not offer condolences, and Liu He assumed it was because of the long distance and inconvenient travel, so he forgave him.

After Liu He completed his mourning period for his father, his mother asked him to visit Huang’s family personally to set a wedding date. She hoped that the Huang family would show compassion and help the Liu family in their unfortunate circumstances. When Liu He arrived at Huang’s house, he was wearing tattered clothes and worn-out shoes. Upon hearing this, Huang ordered his gatekeeper not to allow him in. Huang sent a message to Liu He, saying, “Go back and bring a hundred taels of silver, then you can return. Otherwise, our engagement will be forever broken.” Upon hearing this, Liu He burst into tears.

There was an elderly woman named Liu living across the street from the Huang family. She sympathized with Liu He’s plight, invited him for a meal, and gave him three hundred wen as a token of comfort and encouragement before he left. When Liu He returned home and told his mother about the cold treatment he received at his future in-law’s house, she was both saddened and angered but couldn’t think of a solution. She remembered that many former guests still owed debts to the Liu family, and she asked Liu He to approach a few wealthy ones for help.

Liu He said, “Those who associated with us in the past were attracted by our family’s wealth. If I were to arrive at their doors in a luxurious carriage drawn by four horses to borrow a thousand taels of silver, it wouldn’t be difficult. However, given our current situation, who would still think about past friendships or remember old friends? Moreover, when my father lent money to others, he never asked for promissory notes or guarantors. We have no evidence even if we want to collect the debts.” Despite his objections, his mother insisted, and Liu He had no choice but to obey. He sought help and attempted to collect debts for more than twenty days but received not a single coin.

Only one person, a performer named Li Si, who had received kindness from the Liu family in the past, heard about the Liu family’s downfall and generously sent one tael of silver. Liu He and his mother cried in despair, realizing they could no longer hold on to any hope.

Furthermore, as the daughter of the Huang family grew to a marriageable age and learned that her father had rejected Liu He, she was deeply displeased. The Huang family considered marrying their daughter to someone else. The Huang girl cried and said, “Liu Lang wasn’t born poor. Even if he’s wealthier now than before, would those who hold grudges against us really take him away from us? Today, just because he’s going through a rough patch, we’re abandoning him. It’s truly unkind and unjust!”

Huang felt quite unhappy hearing this and tried various ways to persuade and reason with his daughter, but she remained steadfast. Both of Huang’s parents were infuriated and spent their days scolding their daughter. Surprisingly, she endured it all in silence.

Not long after, one night, the Huang family was robbed, and Mr. and Mrs. Huang were subjected to torture, almost tortured to death, with all their possessions stolen. Unbeknownst to them, three years had passed, and the Huang family’s fortunes had further declined.

A merchant from the west heard of the beautiful Huang girl and was willing to offer fifty taels of silver as a bride price to marry her. Greedy for a small profit, Huang readily agreed and planned to force his daughter to marry the merchant. However, the Huang girl discovered their plot. She tore her clothes, smeared her face with dirt, and fled under the cover of night. Begging along the way, after two months of arduous journey, she finally arrived in Baoding. After inquiring about Liu He’s address, she rushed straight to his doorstep, paying no heed to the customary formalities for a new bride entering her husband’s home.

At first, Liu He’s mother mistook her for a beggar and tried to shoo her away. Huang girl wept while explaining her ordeal. After hearing her story, Liu’s mother took her hand and cried, “Child, how did you end up in such a miserable state?” Huang girl tearfully recounted how she had been forced to disfigure herself and escape from her family.

Moved to tears, both Liu He and his mother decided to let her clean up and, after doing so, they saw that the Huang girl was indeed beautiful and radiant. However, Liu He’s family was extremely poor, and the three of them could only afford one meal a day. Liu’s mother cried and said to her daughter-in-law, “We can endure poverty, but it’s a pity for you! My good daughter-in-law is suffering!” Huang girl smiled and comforted her, saying, “I’ve lived among beggars, and I’m quite familiar with their hardships. Compared to that, my current situation is like the difference between heaven and hell.” Hearing this, Liu’s mother finally smiled with relief.

One day, the Huang girl went to visit the old abandoned house. She found it overgrown with wild grass, and there was not a single empty space. She slowly entered the inner room, where thick layers of dust covered everything. In the dark corners by the walls, it seemed like something was piled up there. She kicked it with her foot and hurt her toe. She bent down to pick it up and discovered it was all high-quality silver. Astonished by this sight, she hurried back to inform Liu He. Liu He followed her to investigate and found that the rubble that Gong Mengbi had brought from his sleeves and discarded in the darkness had all turned into silver. This reminded Liu He of their childhood days when they used to bury stones under the floor tiles of various rooms. Could those stones have also turned into silver? Since the old house had already been mortgaged to creditors, Liu He quickly redeemed it.

Upon inspection, Liu He found that the floor tiles of the old house were already damaged and broken, and the stones they had buried were exposed, clear as day. It was somewhat disappointing. However, when he lifted other floor tiles, he discovered piles of sparkling silver. In an instant, the Liu family became immensely wealthy again.

From that point on, after going through such hardships, Liu He motivated himself, saying, “If I don’t establish myself now, I’ll be betraying Gong Uncle’s heartfelt kindness.” He dedicated himself to studying, and three years later, he was selected as the exemplary figure of knowledge and ethics in his village.

After regaining his wealth, Liu He didn’t forget his benefactor. He personally went to express his gratitude to the kind-hearted old lady Liu, who lived across from the Huang family. Liu He, dressed in magnificent new clothes, arrived with more than a dozen servants, all riding majestic horses resembling dragons, creating a grand spectacle. Liu arrived and sat on her bed. For a while, the alley was filled with the sounds of people shouting and horses neighing, creating a lively atmosphere.

Since the Huang daughter had run away, the western merchant forced the Huang family to return the bride price. However, they had already spent nearly half of it and couldn’t return the full amount. Huang was forced to sell their house to repay the debt, and from then on, the Huang family became just as poor as Liu He’s family once was.

Now, when Huang learned of his son-in-law’s newfound wealth and prestige, he felt ashamed and regretful. He locked himself inside and was deeply distressed. Old lady Liu treated Liu He to food and drink, praising the virtues of the Huang daughter and expressing her regret over her disappearance. She asked if Liu He had married, and he replied, “I’m already married.”

After the meal, Liu He insisted on taking old lady Liu to see his new wife. They returned to Baoding together. As they entered the house, the Huang girl, dressed in all her finery, came out to greet them, surrounded by a group of maids, resembling a celestial being. When old lady Liu saw the Huang girl, she was greatly surprised. They held hands and reminisced about the past, and the Huang girl inquired earnestly about her parents’ well-being.

Old lady Liu stayed at Liu’s house for a few days, receiving exceptionally generous hospitality. The Liu family even had new clothes made for her, and she was transformed from head to toe. Only then did Liu He escort her back to her own home.

Once old lady Liu returned home, she rushed to the Huang family’s house across the street to report the situation and convey greetings from Huang’s daughter. Mr. and Mrs. Huang were astonished upon hearing the news. Old lady Liu advised them to go and reunite with their daughter, but Mr. Huang hesitated.

Shortly after, due to unbearable hunger and cold, Mr. Huang had no choice but to seek refuge in Baoding with his daughter. When he arrived at Liu He’s doorstep, he saw a grand and magnificent gatehouse with stern-looking guards. He waited outside the gate for an entire day, but the guards didn’t allow him in or deliver any messages. At this moment, a woman came out from inside the gate, and Mr. Huang approached her with a friendly smile, introduced himself, and requested her to secretly pass on a message to his daughter.

After a while, the woman returned and led him inside, taking him to a small room next to the main hall. She said, “My lady really wishes to meet you immediately, but she’s afraid her husband might find out, so we must wait for the right opportunity. When did you arrive? Are you hungry?” Mr. Huang recounted his arduous journey to the woman. She then brought a jug of wine and two plates of food, placing them in front of Mr. Huang. She also handed him five taels of silver, saying, “My husband is currently hosting guests in the main hall, and my lady may not have a chance to come out. Tomorrow morning, please leave early to avoid my husband’s knowledge.” Mr. Huang agreed.

The next morning, Mr. Huang prepared to leave and went to his daughter’s house. He noticed that the gate was still closed, so he waited in the doorway, sitting on his luggage. Suddenly, he heard a commotion and people saying that the master was about to leave. Mr. Huang wanted to pick up his luggage and hide, but Liu He had already seen him. Liu He found this situation strange and asked who this person was, but none of his household members could provide an answer.

Liu He, getting angry, said, “This must be a troublemaker! Tie him up and take him to the yamen!” His household members all agreed and used a short rope to securely bind Mr. Huang to a tree in the courtyard. Mr. Huang felt ashamed and frightened and couldn’t say a word. Meanwhile, the woman from yesterday rushed out, knelt before Liu He, and said, “He is my uncle. He arrived late yesterday and didn’t have a chance to inform the master.” Only then did Liu He instruct his household members to untie him.

The woman escorted Mr. Huang out and said, “It’s all my fault for forgetting to inform the gatekeeper, leading to this unexpected incident. My lady said if you want to see her, you can have the old lady pretend to sell flowers and come with Mrs. Liu from across the street.” Mr. Huang repeatedly agreed and left. When he returned home, he told his wife about everything that had happened.

Mrs. Huang longed for her daughter as if she were starving, so she asked Mrs. Liu for help. Mrs. Liu agreed to accompany her to Liu He’s house. The two elderly ladies entered the courtyard, passing through more than ten doors before reaching the area where Huang’s daughter lived. They saw Huang’s daughter dressed in luxurious attire with an elaborate hairstyle, adorned in silk and satin, radiating a dazzling charm. The room was filled with a fragrant aroma, and her maidservants rushed to her bedside at her slightest command, bringing in gilded chairs and bamboo tables, while clever maidservants served fragrant tea to the elderly ladies. Mother and daughter exchanged greetings in hushed tones, their eyes filled with tears of warmth.

In the evening, the household servants prepared a guest room for the two elderly ladies. Their bedding was light and soft, something Mrs. Huang had never experienced even during their prosperous days. They stayed at Liu’s house for three to five days, and Huang’s daughter treated them with great affection. When there was no one around, Mrs. Huang often cried and regretted her past mistakes. Huang’s daughter said, “There’s nothing that can’t be resolved between us, but Liu He always bears a grudge and can’t let him know.” So whenever Liu He visited, Mrs. Huang would hurriedly hide.

One day, while Huang’s daughter and her mother were having an intimate conversation in bed, Liu He suddenly entered. Seeing the situation, he angrily shouted, “What’s this countrywoman doing here, daring to sit with my lady! I should shave off your hair!” Mrs. Liu He quickly stepped forward and said, “This lady is my acquaintance, Wang Sao. She’s here to sell flowers. Please don’t blame her.” Liu He then calmed down, apologized, and sat down. He asked, “Grandma, you’ve been here for several days. I’ve been too busy and haven’t had time to chat with you. Are those two old folks from the Huang family still alive?” Mrs. Liu He smiled and said, “They are both doing well, just extremely impoverished. Sir, you are now wealthy and prosperous. Why not consider your relationship with your in-laws?” Liu He slammed the table and said, “If it weren’t for you, old lady, pitying me and giving me a bowl of porridge back then, how could I have returned to my hometown! When I think about it, I want to skin them and sit on top of their hides. There’s no need to talk about any relationship!” Liu He became furious and even stomped his feet.

Huang’s daughter became a bit angry as well, and she said, “No matter how unkind and unjust they may be, they are still my parents. I braved a long journey, my hands covered in frostbite, my toes wearing through my shoes, thinking I haven’t wronged you in any way. Why would you insult my parents in front of them and deliberately make them uncomfortable?” Liu He finally suppressed his anger, got up, and left.

Upon hearing Liu He’s words, Mrs. Huang felt ashamed and remorseful, utterly humiliated. She decided to take her leave and return home. Before leaving, her daughter secretly gave her twenty taels of silver. After returning home, there was no news from the Huang couple. Their daughter missed them greatly, and Liu He, feeling for his wife, sent someone to invite them to Baoding. When the Huang couple arrived at Liu’s house, they were too ashamed to lift their heads. Liu He apologized to them, saying, “Last year, you came here tirelessly without revealing your identity, and I truly offended you.” Mr. Huang could only nod in response. Liu He had their clothes, shoes, and socks replaced for them. They stayed for over a month, but Mr. Huang still felt uneasy and wanted to bid farewell and return home several times.

Before their departure, Liu He gave them a hundred taels of silver, saying, “The Western merchant gave fifty taels back then, so today I’m giving you twice as much.” Mr. Huang accepted it with deep shame. Liu He arranged for a carriage to take them back to their hometown, and their later years could be considered comfortable.

The chronicler of strange tales said, “After the decline of the wealthy family, the former guests and acquaintances vanished completely. It was truly infuriating, and one might consider closing the doors tightly, with no intention of ever making friends with anyone again. However, true friends who can provide funds for burials of the deceased and transform stones into gold to assist the living, this must be regarded as a repayment to those generous and hospitable individuals. The women in the mansion enjoyed riches and glory, appearing like imperial concubines in the palace. If not for those as steadfast as Huang’s daughter, who could bask in such great fortune without feeling a sense of shame? The Creator does not bestow blessings lightly, and this incident illustrates this principle.”

In a certain village in the past, there was a wealthy man who hoarded money bit by bit, scraped together every cent, amassing a considerable fortune. He buried hundreds of taels of silver underground, fearing it would be discovered. Therefore, he always deliberately dressed in tattered clothes and pretended to live in extreme poverty, eating coarse grains and wild vegetables to make it seem like he was destitute. When relatives and friends occasionally visited, he never slaughtered chickens or prepared meals for his guests. If anyone dared to suggest that he was not poor, he would glare with furious eyes, as if harboring an unforgivable grudge against them. In his later years, this wealthy man survived on just one sheng of elm bark per day, becoming emaciated, with his skin hanging over an inch long on his arms. However, he still refused to use the silver buried underground.

Eventually, as he grew frail and sensed his impending death, he wanted to tell his sons about the hidden silver. His two sons gathered around him and asked about the whereabouts of the silver, but he was reluctant to tell them immediately. It wasn’t until he realized that his time was running out that he attempted to tell them. All his sons had gathered, but his tongue stiffened, and he couldn’t speak. He could only scratch his chest forcefully and make incoherent sounds. After the wealthy man’s death, his descendants couldn’t afford a coffin, so they had to bury his body wrapped in straw mats.

Alas! This story illustrates that if burying silver at home is considered wealth, then why can’t the national treasury, which holds tens of millions of gold coins, be counted as one’s own fortune? It’s truly foolish!











Leave a Comment