Reborn to Collect a Debt as a Son

Ge Zuliang(葛祖亮), an official in the Ministry of Rites, told me: A neighbor named Cheng, who was wealthy but childless for many years, unexpectedly had a son in his old age. This son was intelligent and clever, with bright features that Cheng cherished dearly. However, by the age of twelve, the child fell seriously ill, incurring countless medical expenses. As he grew older, instead of engaging in productive activities, he took pleasure in cockfighting and dog racing, squandering away the family fortune.

Cheng, disappointed with his son’s lack of success, became extremely angry. One day, he hung up the ancestral shrine and prepared to give his son a good beating. Suddenly, the son spoke in a Shandong accent, saying, ‘I am Wu, in a past life, you owed me twelve thousand taels of silver. I have already collected almost all of it now. Do you think I am your son? That is a big mistake. I checked the accounts yesterday, and you still owe me over eighty taels of silver. I cannot let it go now.’ With these words, he rolled up his sleeves, approached, plucked the pearls from his mother’s hairpin, crushed them underfoot, and then died. In the end, Cheng fell into poverty and ruin, leaving no descendants.

Translated from《為兒索價》in 《子不語》:


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