Explore the extraordinary journey of Wang Cheng, who defied convention by transforming his life from poverty to prosperity through an unusual path.
Wang Cheng was a descendant of an aristocratic family in Pingyuan County in ancient times. He was naturally lazy, and as his family’s fortune declined day by day, they were left with only a few dilapidated houses. He and his wife lay on straw mats, facing complaints from his wife and struggling to make ends meet. It was the height of summer at that time, with scorching weather. Outside the village, there used to be the Zhou family garden, but now the walls had collapsed, and the houses had crumbled, leaving only a pavilion. Many people from the village had taken shelter there to escape the heat, and Wang Cheng was among them. As dawn broke, the people who had been sleeping began to leave. When the sun had risen to its peak, Wang Cheng finally got up, reluctantly thinking of returning home. Suddenly, he saw a golden hairpin in the grass. He picked it up and saw a few small characters engraved on it: “Yibin Mansion.” Wang Cheng’s grandfather had originally been the son-in-law of the Heng King, and there were many old items in the family with this kind of mark. Wang Cheng hesitated and guessed about the hairpin. At this moment, an old lady came looking for her lost hairpin. Although Wang Cheng was very poor, he had a straightforward character, and he immediately handed the hairpin to her. The old lady was very happy and praised Wang Cheng’s virtue, saying, “This hairpin may be worth a few coins, but it is a memento of my deceased husband.” Wang Cheng asked, “Who was your husband?” The old lady replied, “He was the late Yibin Wang Jianzhi.” Wang Cheng exclaimed, “He was my grandfather! How could you two have met?” The old lady also said in astonishment, “Are you Wang Jianzhi’s grandson? I am a fox spirit. A hundred years ago, I was married to your grandfather. After your grandfather passed away, I went into seclusion. I lost this hairpin while passing through here, and you happened to find it. Isn’t this a sign from heaven?” Wang Cheng had heard about his grandfather’s fox wife before, so he believed her words and invited the old lady to come to his home. The old woman followed him there.
When they arrived home, Wang Cheng called his wife out, only to see her dressed in tattered clothes and looking pale from hunger. The old lady couldn’t help but sigh and said, “Ah! The grandson of Wang Jianzhi, have you really fallen into such poverty?” She saw the dilapidated stove without a trace of smoke or fire and asked, “With the household in such a condition, how do you manage to sustain yourselves?” Wang Cheng’s wife then explained in detail the hardships they had been through, and couldn’t help but sob and cry. The old lady handed the golden hairpin to her and asked her to exchange it for some money to buy rice, saying they would meet again in three days. Wang Cheng tried to persuade her to stay, but the old lady said, “You can’t even support a wife on your own. If I stay here, just staring at the roof, what good will it do?” With that, she walked away on her own. Wang Cheng explained the old lady’s background to his wife, who was greatly frightened. Wang Cheng spoke of her kindness and righteousness and asked his wife to serve her as if she were her mother-in-law. His wife agreed. Three days later, the old lady indeed returned. She brought out some silver and asked Wang Cheng to buy a stone of millet and a stone of barley. At night, the old lady slept on a short bed with Wang Cheng’s wife. At first, Wang Cheng’s wife was a bit wary of her, but later she realized that the old lady’s intentions were sincere, and her suspicions disappeared.
The next day, the old lady said to Wang Cheng, “Grandson, you must not be lazy anymore. You should engage in some small business. Relying solely on free meals won’t lead to a sustainable life.” Wang Cheng told her that he had no capital. The old lady said, “When your grandfather was alive, I had access to gold, silver, and silk, and he never stopped me from taking as much as I wanted. Because I live a reclusive life and have no need for these things, I never took much. I saved up forty taels of silver for buying rouge and face powder, and it’s still here. It serves no purpose sitting with me for such a long time. You can take it all and buy hemp cloth. If you make it to the capital by the specified date, you’ll make a little profit.” Wang Cheng heeded her advice and bought more than fifty rolls of hemp cloth. The old lady urged him to pack his belongings and set out immediately, assuring him that he could reach the capital in six or seven days if he worked diligently. She emphasized, “You must be diligent, not lazy, and you must travel quickly. If you arrive one day late, you will regret it!” Wang Cheng respectfully agreed.
Wang Cheng carried his goods and set off on the road. On the way, he encountered heavy rain, and his clothes and shoes were soaked through. He had never experienced the hardships of wind, frost, rain, and snow in his life and felt exhausted and unbearable. Therefore, he decided to take a break at an inn. Unexpectedly, the heavy rain poured down all night, and the rainwater under the eaves flowed like ropes. After a sleepless night, the road became even muddier. Wang Cheng saw pedestrians passing by on the muddy road, with mud covering their shins, and he felt very distressed. By noon, the ground had just started to dry up a bit, but dark clouds covered the sky, and it started pouring rain again. He ended up staying in the inn for two days before he could resume his journey. As he neared the capital, Wang Cheng heard that the price of hemp cloth in the capital was expensive and continuously rising, which made him secretly happy. Upon arriving in the capital, he unpacked his belongings and checked into an inn. However, the innkeeper deeply regretted that he had arrived late. Before Wang Cheng’s arrival, the road to the south had just been opened, and there was very little hemp cloth transported to the capital. But the Beile Mansion urgently needed to purchase it, so the price of hemp cloth had skyrocketed, about three times the usual price. The day before Wang Cheng’s arrival, the Beile Mansion had just bought enough, leaving those who arrived later very disappointed. After the innkeeper explained this to Wang Cheng, he felt quite unhappy. Another day passed, and more hemp cloth arrived in the capital, causing the price to drop significantly. Wang Cheng refused to sell because there was no profit. He hesitated for more than ten days, realizing that he had already spent a lot on food and accommodation, which made him feel even more depressed. At this point, the innkeeper advised him to sell the hemp cloth at a low price and consider other options. Wang Cheng followed his advice and incurred a loss of over ten taels of silver. The next morning, when he was preparing to return, he opened his bag and realized that all his silver had been lost. He panicked and told the innkeeper, who had no solution. Some suggested reporting to the authorities and demanding compensation from the innkeeper. Wang Cheng sighed and said, “This is because of my bad luck. It’s not the innkeeper’s fault.” Upon hearing this, the innkeeper, appreciating Wang Cheng’s kindness, gave him five taels of silver and comforted him to go back. Wang Cheng was ashamed to face his grandmother and wandered aimlessly, torn between advancing and retreating.
At that moment, he noticed a street-side quail-fighting event where people were betting thousands of cash coins. Buying a quail often cost more than a hundred coins each. Suddenly, an idea crossed his mind. He counted the money in his bag and realized it was just enough to buy quails for resale. He went back to discuss this plan with the innkeeper, who strongly encouraged him to give it a try and even offered him free room and board. Wang Cheng was delighted and set off. He bought a full load of quails and returned to the capital. The innkeeper was also pleased and wished him a quick sale. However, in the middle of the night, heavy rain started pouring down, continuing until dawn. After daybreak, the streets were flooded, and the rain showed no sign of stopping. Wang Cheng had no choice but to stay at the inn, waiting for the weather to clear up. But the rain persisted for several days without a break. He went to check the cages, and the quails had started to die. He was terrified and didn’t know what to do. Another day passed, and even more quails died, leaving only a few alive, which he put together in one cage. The next day, there was only one quail left alive in the cage. Wang Cheng then told the innkeeper about the situation, and tears streamed down his face uncontrollably. The innkeeper sighed deeply for his string of misfortunes. With all his money gone and no way to return home, Wang Cheng felt so distressed that he contemplated suicide. The innkeeper continued to console him and suggested they take a closer look at the surviving quail, which seemed to be an exceptional breed. He speculated that the other quails may have been killed in fights with it. Since Wang Cheng had nothing else to do, the innkeeper advised him to train the quail. If it turned out to be a valuable breed, he could make a living by using it for gambling. Wang Cheng followed the innkeeper’s advice and trained the quail. Once it was trained, the innkeeper told Wang Cheng to take the quail to the streets for gambling. The quail was robust, and it won several fights in a row. The innkeeper was delighted and gave Wang Cheng the winnings. He suggested Wang Cheng challenge the young men who specialized in quail-fighting. The results were three victories in three matches. In this way, over half a year, Wang Cheng managed to save up twenty taels of silver. He felt a sense of relief and regarded the quail as his lifeline.
Initially, the Grand Prince had a passion for quail fighting, and every Lantern Festival, he would bring quails raised by the common people to his palace to have them battle against the ones he raised. The innkeeper said to Wang Cheng, “Now, if you want to make a fortune, it’s within reach. However, I don’t know what fate has in store for you.” He then explained the quail-fighting events at the Grand Prince’s palace and took Wang Cheng with him to attend. The innkeeper also advised, “If you lose, consider it bad luck and accept it. But if by any chance your quail wins, the Grand Prince will surely want to buy it. Don’t agree immediately. If he insists on buying, just watch my reaction and wait for my signal before agreeing.” Wang Cheng replied, “Okay.”
When they arrived at the Grand Prince’s palace, they saw a crowd of people already gathered under the steps, eager to participate in the quail-fighting event. After a while, the Grand Prince appeared and took his seat in the hall. The officials announced, “Anyone willing to participate, step forward.” Immediately, a person with a quail in hand rushed up. The Grand Prince ordered the release of his palace quail, and the challenger also released his quail. As soon as the two quails leaped into combat, the challenger’s quail was defeated. The Grand Prince couldn’t help but burst into laughter. In this way, several challengers were quickly defeated on the stage. The innkeeper said, “It’s your turn now.” So, the two of them climbed onto the stage. The Grand Prince examined Wang Cheng’s quail and said, “There’s a fierceness in its eyes; this is a quail that’s brave and good at fighting. It should not be underestimated.” He then ordered the release of a quail called “Iron Beak” for the match. After several rounds of fierce combat, the palace quail was defeated. The Grand Prince selected better quails for the next rounds, but both were defeated. In a hurry, the Grand Prince ordered the release of his rare, well-cared-for quail, known as the “Jade Quail.” After a while, someone brought it out. This Jade Quail had pure white feathers all over its body, resembling a heron, truly an extraordinary and exceptional bird. Wang Cheng felt apprehensive and knelt on the ground, pleading not to fight, saying, “Your Highness, this Jade Quail is a divine creature from heaven. I’m afraid my quail will get hurt, and it will jeopardize my livelihood.” The Grand Prince chuckled and said, “Release it. If your quail loses, I will compensate you generously.” So, Wang Cheng released his quail. As soon as the Jade Quail saw its opponent, it lunged forward. When the Jade Quail was about to strike, Wang Cheng’s quail suddenly jumped up, attacking from above like a soaring crane. The two quails advanced and retreated, up and down, in a fierce battle for about an hour. Gradually, the Jade Quail weakened, and its strength waned, while Wang Cheng’s quail became even angrier and launched more aggressive attacks. In no time, the once-snow-white feathers of the Jade Quail fell to the ground, and it flew away with drooping wings in defeat. The onlookers, numbering in the thousands, couldn’t help but praise and envy Wang Cheng’s quail.
The Grand Prince then took Wang Cheng’s quail and held it in his hand, personally examining it closely from beak to claw. After a thorough inspection, he asked Wang Cheng, “Can I buy your quail?” Wang Cheng replied, “I have no fixed property, and I rely on it for my livelihood. I’m not willing to sell it.” The Grand Prince then said, “I’ll give you a good price, enough to secure a middle-class fortune instantly. Would you agree?” Wang Cheng contemplated for a long time, then said, “I initially didn’t want to sell, but considering how much you like it, and if you can truly help me secure a life without worries, what else do I have to ask for?” The Grand Prince inquired about the selling price, and Wang Cheng responded with one thousand taels of silver. The Grand Prince chuckled and said, “Foolish man! What kind of treasure is this that it’s worth one thousand taels of silver?” Wang Cheng replied, “While you may not see it as a treasure, I consider it more valuable than priceless jade. I can take it to the market for quail fights, and every day, I can earn several taels of silver, which I can exchange for one and a half sheng of grain. With that, my family of more than ten people no longer has to worry about hunger or cold. What treasure can compare to that?” The Grand Prince then said, “I won’t treat you unfairly. I’ll offer you two hundred taels of silver.” Wang Cheng shook his head. The Grand Prince added one hundred more taels. Wang Cheng glanced at the innkeeper, who remained impassive, and said, “As per your command, I’m willing to reduce the price by one hundred taels.” The Grand Prince said, “Alright, who would be willing to exchange nine hundred taels of silver for a quail?” Wang Cheng started packing up the quail to leave. The Grand Prince called out, “Wait! The quail raiser, come back! I’ll give you six hundred taels, if you agree to sell; otherwise, forget it.” Wang Cheng looked at the innkeeper again, but the innkeeper showed no reaction. Content and not wanting to lose this opportunity, Wang Cheng said, “I’m not completely satisfied with this price, but if haggling goes on for too long and the deal doesn’t happen, I’ll surely offend you, Your Highness. I have no other choice but to accept as you suggested.” The Grand Prince was very pleased and immediately ordered the silver to be counted and handed over to him. Wang Cheng took the silver, expressed his gratitude, and left. The innkeeper scolded him, saying, “What did I tell you? You rushed to make the decision to sell. If you had held out a little longer, you would have had eight hundred taels of silver.” Wang Cheng returned to the inn and placed the silver on the table, inviting the innkeeper to take it, but the innkeeper refused. Wang Cheng insisted, and the innkeeper finally calculated the amount, accepting it as payment for Wang Cheng’s food expenses over the past few months.
Wang Cheng returned home after preparing his belongings and enthusiastically recounted his experiences, taking out the silver for everyone to celebrate with. The elderly lady advised him to purchase three hundred acres of good land, build houses, and acquire equipment, thus restoring the family’s former prosperity. Every day, the elderly lady would rise early, instructing Wang Cheng to supervise the hired laborers in farming and his wife to oversee the household’s cloth production. If they showed any signs of laziness, the elderly lady would reprimand them. Wang Cheng and his wife were obedient and did not dare to complain. This way, three years passed, and their household became even more prosperous. However, the elderly lady bid farewell and expressed her intention to leave. Wang Cheng and his wife were determined to keep her and pleaded with her tearfully, which led the elderly lady to stay. But the next morning, when the couple went to greet her, she had disappeared without a trace.
The chronicler of strange tales said: Wealth usually comes from diligence, but Wang Cheng’s wealth was an exception, as it came from laziness. This is indeed an unheard-of occurrence. However, what people don’t know is that Wang Cheng, despite his extreme poverty, maintained his unwavering sincerity and integrity. Therefore, even though Heaven initially abandoned him, it ultimately took pity on him. Can one truly achieve wealth and prosperity through laziness?