Settling Debts: A Tale of Generosity, Repayment, and Unexpected Surprises

Explore the story of Li Zhuoming's generosity, a debt owed, and a surprising twist in this timeless tale.

Li Zhuoming is generous by nature and willing to give. A fellow villager lived and worked in his house as a hired laborer. This person had been wandering around since childhood, was lazy by nature, refused to engage in farming, and was in poverty. However, he had some skills and often did odd jobs, and Li Zhuoming would often give him extra money. Sometimes in the morning when he had no rice to cook, he would beg Li Zhuoming for some grain, and Li Zhuoming would always give him one and a half sheng of it. One day, this person said to Li Zhuoming, “I receive your generous help every day, and my family of three or four people can barely avoid starving. But how can this continue for the long term? Can you lend me a stone of green beans as capital?” Li Zhuoming readily agreed and immediately ordered someone to give him the green beans. The fellow villager took away the green beans and more than a year later, he still hadn’t repaid anything. When asked about this matter, it was only then that it was realized that the capital of a stone of green beans had completely disappeared. Li Zhuoming felt pity for his poverty and just let it go, without seeking repayment.

Li Zhuoming studied in the temple. After more than three years, he suddenly dreamed that the fellow villager had come and said, “I owe the master green bean money and have come to repay it.” Li Zhuoming comforted him, saying, “If I want you to repay, how can we settle what you owe me normally?” The fellow villager, with a troubled expression, said, “That’s true. But generally, if a person has received thousands of taels of silver from others for something they’ve done, they can’t just walk away without repaying. If they’ve received assistance for no reason, they can’t even leave a single sheng of it unsettled, let alone owe so much!” After saying that, he left directly. Li Zhuoming woke up feeling even more confused. Not long after, his family reported to Li Zhuoming, “Last night, the mother donkey gave birth to a tall and big foal.” Li Zhuoming suddenly understood and said, “Could it be that the foal is that person?” A few days later, Li Zhuoming returned home, saw the little donkey foal, and jokingly called the person’s name. The little donkey foal ran to him as if understanding his words. From then on, Li Zhuoming called the little donkey foal by the name of that fellow villager.

When Li Zhuoming rode his little donkey to Qingzhou, the palace supervisor of Prince Heng’s mansion saw the little donkey and liked it very much, willing to buy it at a high price. Before the price could be negotiated, an urgent matter arose at Li Zhuoming’s home, and he had to return without further delay. A year later, the little donkey was tied together with a stallion in the same trough and had its leg bone bitten off by the stallion, making it incurable. A veterinarian came to Li Zhuoming’s house, saw the little donkey, and said to Li Zhuoming, “Please entrust the little donkey to me. I will treat and care for it day and night. Let’s wait for a while, and if there’s a chance to heal it, I’ll sell it and split the money with you.” Li Zhuoming agreed to his request. Several months later, the veterinarian sold the donkey for 1,800 coins and gave half of the money to Li Zhuoming. Li Zhuoming took the money and suddenly realized that this amount matched the price of the green beans. Ah, earthly debts must be repaid even in the afterlife. This serves as the best advice to all people.

《蹇偿债》

李公著明,慷慨好施。乡人某,佣居公室。其人少游惰,不能操农业,家窭贫。然小有技能,常为役务,每赉之厚。时无晨炊,向公哀乞,公辄给以升斗。一日,告公曰:“小人日受厚恤,三四口幸不殍饿,然曷可以久?乞主人贷我绿豆一石作资本。”公忻然,立命授之。某负去,年馀,一无所偿。及问之,豆赀已荡然矣。公怜其贫,亦置不索。

公读书于萧寺。后三年馀,忽梦某来,曰:“小人负主人豆直,今来投偿。”公慰之,曰:“若索尔偿,则平日所负欠者,何可算数?”某愀然曰:“固然。凡人有所为而受人千金,可不报也;若无端受人资助,升斗且不容昧,况其多哉!”言已,竟去。公愈疑。既而家人白公:“夜牝驴产一驹,且修伟。”公忽悟曰:“得毋驹为某耶?”越数日归,见驹,戏呼某名,驹奔赴如有知识。自此遂以为名。

公乘赴青州,衡府内监见而悦之,愿以重价购之。议直未定,适公以家中急务不及待,遂归。又逾岁,驹与雄马同枥,龁折胫骨,不可疗。有牛医至公家,见之,谓公曰:“乞以驹付小人,朝夕疗养,需以岁月,万一得痊,得直与公剖分之。”公如所请。后数月,牛医售驴,得钱千八百,以半献公。公受钱,顿悟,其数适符豆价也。噫!昭昭之债而冥冥之偿,此足以劝矣。

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