Category Archives: TRADITIONAL CULTURE

Life Exists Because of One’s Soul

Chinese flower painting by Sun Mingguo/Epoch Times
Chinese flower painting by Sun Mingguo/Epoch Times

Most people believe that we have souls, but know little about when and how a soul begins to dominate a human body. We may find some clues in a story in the book “Zibuyu Volume II” written by Yuan Mei, a scholar and writer who lived in the Qing Dynasty (A.D. 1636-1912).

According to the story, an old peasant lived in the Jinshan area of Shanghai during the Qing Dynasty. One night, on the first day of the month, he dreamed that a magistrate dressed in green visited him, bringing along an official document.

The magistrate told him: “Your life should end by the 17th day of this month. As you have been hardworking and scrupulous all your life without major faults, after death, you will be reincarnated and born into a well-off family as their son. You will be in relative comfort with no worries for life until you reach an old age.”

The magistrate also told the old peasant that he came especially to announce this to him so that he could settle the matters at home.

In the end, the magistrate said, “When the time comes, I shall come to bring you for reincarnation.”

The old peasant woke up, told his family about the dream, and gave detailed instructions to his sons. All was settled in a few days, and he waited for the magistrate to collect him.

On the 12th night, he dreamt again of that magistrate in green, who came to urge him to leave. The old peasant refused, as the time had not yet come.

The magistrate replied: “Of course I know. But the pregnant woman slipped and fell down three days ago, and the baby could not wait until the 17th and was born prematurely. A spirit must enter it to enable normal functioning like eating, drinking, and so on. It has been three days since this happened, and if you don’t go, the baby cannot survive.”

The old peasant understood that a body is only a piece of flesh without the soul. If his soul did not enter the baby’s body, the baby would probably be stillborn.

After telling his family, he lay down on the bed and died.

Edited by Sally Appert.

Politician Fan Zhongyan Put Others’ Needs First

Fan-Zhongyan picture by Epoch Times.
Fan-Zhongyan picture by Epoch Times.

Fan Zhongyan was a prominent politician and a famed poet and writer during the Northern Song Dynasty (A.D. 970-1127). A saying of his, “Be the first to feel concern for others and the last to enjoy yourself,” has become immortal in history and serves as a true reflection of his life.

During the second year of Emperor Renzong’s rule in 1033, there was widespread famine. Fan Zhongyan petitioned the court for assistance, but the court turned a deaf ear.

Fan asked Emperor Renzong face to face: “What would you do if there was no food in the court? A lot of people are starving right now.”

The emperor then sent him out to pacify the victims. Fan opened up the government food warehouse for the victims and partially exempted those areas from taxes.

Fan also brought back the weeds that victims of the famine had been feeding on, to present to the emperor so he could bring them to the privileged class in the courts for them to understand the hard times of the general public.

In 1035, when Fan was a governor in his hometown of Suzhou City, he bought a piece of land for home construction.

After a feng shui master checked the land, he congratulated Fan and said: “This is a blessed land, and if you build a house here, you will give rise to generations of high-ranking officers among your descendants.”

Instead of occupying the blessed land alone, Fan Zhongyan established a school there and hired outstanding lecturers to run courses. It generated a lot of talent and became a phenomenon for others to follow. Thus, in the generations to come, people called Suzhou the leading place for schooling.

Fan petitioned for people all his life. Because of his bold approaches, he was demoted many times and was sent to other places when he offended the ruler. Wherever he governed, people were grateful for his benevolent deeds, and they posted his portrait in temples to pay tribute to him even while he was alive.

One of his friends urged him to keep silent in order to hold on to his own position. In reply, he wrote that it is “better to remonstrate and die, than keep silent and live.”

This illustrates how ancient scholars kept their noble spirit, speaking out for the people as part of their moral responsibility and mission.

The usual saying is that “richness will not be passed down to more than three generations.” However, the family of Fan prospered for over eight hundred years. The four sons of Fan Zhongyan were all talented and virtuous, and Fan’s descendants always remember their ancestor’s teaching to “accumulate virtue through kind deeds.”

Edited by Sally Appert