Debt Repaid

In Luoyang’s Shuilu Temple, there was a monk named Da Le, who was quite wealthy. His neighbor, surnamed Zhou, worked in the government office and was very poor. The supervisor of his post often extorted money when collecting taxes, taking advantage whenever possible. Whenever it was time to turn in the collected sum, Zhou would frequently borrow money from Monk Da Le to make up the shortfall. Over a span of a few years, he ended up owing the monk a total of seven taels of silver. Knowing Zhou was unable to repay, the monk did not ask for the money.

Zhou was deeply grateful and always said to the monk, ‘I cannot repay your kindness in this life, but I will surely repay it even if I become a donkey in the afterlife.’

Not long after, one night, the monk suddenly heard someone urgently knocking on the temple door, claiming to be Zhou from next door, coming to repay his debt to the monk. The monk opened the door but found nobody there, assuming it was a prank. However, that very night, the donkey that the monk raised gave birth to a foal. The following morning, the monk went to check on neighbor Zhou and discovered that he had passed away. Approaching the newborn donkey, it lifted its head and kicked its legs, seemingly recognizing the monk.

Later on, as the young donkey grew, the monk used it as his mount for a year. One day, a traveler from Shanxi stayed at the Shuilu Temple and greatly admired the young donkey, expressing a desire to purchase it. The monk refused but was hesitant to explain the reason. The Shanxi traveler then proposed, ‘If you won’t sell it, could I borrow this donkey to ride to a certain county for just one night?’ The monk agreed. The traveler, upon mounting the donkey and holding its reins, smilingly said to the monk, ‘I have deceived you. If I like this donkey, once I ride away, I might not return. I have calculated the price and placed the money for the purchase on your table. You can go and retrieve it.’ Having said this, the traveler hastily departed without looking back. The monk was helpless in this situation. Upon returning to his room, he found seven taels of white silver on the table, precisely the amount that Zhou owed him.

Original text in 《大樂上人》 from 《子不語》:

洛陽水陸庵僧,號大樂上人,饒於財。其鄰人周其充縣役,家貧,承催稅租,皆侵蝕之。每逢比期,輒向上人借貸,數年間,積至七兩。上人知其無力償還,不復取索。役頗感恩,相見必曰:「吾不能報上人恩,死當為驢馬以報。」居無何,晚,有人叩門,甚急。問為誰,應聲曰:「周某也,來報恩耳。」上人啟戶,了不見人,以為有相戲者。是夜,所畜驢產一駒。明旦訪役,果死。上人至驢旁,產駒奮首翹足,若相識者。
上人乘之一年。有山西客來宿,愛其駒,求買之。上人弗許,不忍明言其故。客曰:「然則借我騎往某縣一宿,可乎?」上人許之。客上鞍攬轡,笑曰:「吾詐和尚耳。我愛此驢,騎之未必即返。我已措價置汝几上,可歸取之。」不顧而馳。上人無可奈何,入房視之,几上白金七兩,如其所負之數。

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