Do people bury their money for future generations? A military strategist of the Ming Dynasty named Liu Bowen is said to have done so. But has anyone found it?
There’s a famous story that has been told for generations in the Tianzhang Monastery in Shaoxing, China. The story goes that one day a group of tourists came to the temple claiming to be descendants of a family called Liu, from the Chu State. They told Abbot Xuefan that they admired the scenery of Shaoxing and wished to stay in the temple to enjoy its beauty. With Xuefan’s permission, they were allowed to stay.
Starting as strangers, their relationship with Xuefan turned to friendship. Then the tourists told Xuefan: “We are descendants of Liu Bowen from the Ming Dynasty, and he buried silver here. It’s time for us to retrieve the silver. According to Liu Bowen’s will, 30 percent will go to the temple, and 70 percent will go to us.”
Xuefan asked them where the silver was buried. The tourists replied: “It’s buried under the arch of the mountain gate.” Everyone dug into the night, but even though they dug deep into the ground, they found nothing. The group did not believe the results and continued to dig. Still, they found nothing. Finally, they had to leave empty-handed and disappointed.
Why didn’t they find anything? Tianzhang Monastery was built during the Yuan Dynasty and it’s the place where the Emperor of the Southern Song was buried. However, during the reign of Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty, the former Abbot, Jingxiu, relocated the mountain gate. Jingxiu was an expert at Feng Shui and believed that the original direction of the mountain gate was less than ideal, so he changed the direction from south to east.
It just so happens that Jingxiu was Xuefan’s master, and after the group of tourists left, Xuefan remembered that the location of the mountain gate had been altered by his master. So he thought: “Can the silver be buried where the gate used to be?” He started to dig at the original location, and two feet into the ground, he discovered a stone slab. After lifting the slab, he found a small urn. He opened the urn and saw it was full of gold and silver. In turn, the Tianzhang Monastery became rich. The monks installed a plaque in respect of Liu Bowen in a room on the left side of the temple, where they worshipped morning and night.
Later generations continue to tell this story. They wonder why Liu Bowen buried money in Tianzhang Monastery. It turns out that Liu Bowen was one of the founders of the Ming Dynasty. By virtue of his merit, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang often rewarded him with money, mountains, and farmland. However, Liu Bowen was not like other people who leave property to their descendants. Each time when he received rewards, he used different methods to distribute the wealth. With that in mind, perhaps he buried the riches to teach future generations that they have to work hard in order to achieve what they want, instead of inheriting it. Or perhaps it was to impart the idea that a spiritual life combined with hard work will bring rewards.
Translated by Chua BC, edited by Derek Padula