There was a true-life story about the “Hidden Treasure Under the Plum Tree” circulating in Huating County (now known as Songjiang District, Shanghai). This treasure-finding tale took place during the end of the Qing Dynasty. The protagonist of this story was a poor and humble man who people addressed as Han Weng.
Han Weng was good-natured and he was dedicated to working hard, but he didn’t pursue a materialistic lifestyle. He was not afraid of hardship. He owned a small shop to the west of Xiuye Bridge. It was a small business and it was enough to support his family.
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One day, as it was approaching New Year’s eve, it was both raining and snowing heavily. After finishing his work, Han Weng was getting ready to go to bed. Just then, he heard a thud outside as if someone was leaning against the door. He lit a candle and opened the door. He was surprised when he found a man sitting on his doorstep, trembling in the cold and holding a bag.
Han Weng asked: “Who are you?”
The man answered: “I am working for a Shanghai firm and I came here to collect bills. It’s too late now to catch a boat back, so I have to spend the night under the eaves of your doorstep, waiting for dawn.”
My house may be simple, but it can still shield you from the wind and rain
Han Weng was surprised and told the man: “After collecting bills, your bag would not be empty. How can you sleep on the street? Even if the street is safe, how can you stand the cold outside? My house may be simple, but it can still shield you from the wind and rain.”
Without hesitation, Han Weng invited the man to stay the night in his house. Seeing that the man’s clothes and shoes were all wet, he took out his New Year’s clothes for the stranger to change into. To keep his guest warm, Han Weng even prepared wine and food for him.
Han Weng had never met the man before. However, when he saw the man was hungry and cold, he treated the man warmly and even provided him with a bed and quilt.
The treasure of being hospitable
The man was touched by Han Weng’s enthusiasm and kindness, and he felt grateful, thanking Han Weng repeatedly. Dawn arrived, yet the wind and snow were getting heavier and there was no boat sailing. The kind-hearted Han Weng invited his guest to stay until the snowstorm stopped.
In the evening, the man said to Han Weng: “Thank you for your warm hospitality. I have nothing to repay you with. I heard that the price of rice in Huating County is very cheap and if sold to Shanghai it could make a very good profit. I have extra money with me and I will lend you three hundred taels of silver for your business. What do you think?”
Finds hidden treasure under the bed
Han Weng declined the offer so the man just nodded his head.
By the next day, the snowstorm had stopped. Han Weng hired a boat for the man and personally accompanied him on board. Just as the crew unfastened the line, the man said to Mr. Han: “The three hundred taels I mentioned to you yesterday, I placed them under your bed. Go back and collect them. Next year at the Lantern Festival, I will be waiting for you in my firm.”
Han Weng was shocked. He wanted to bring the silver and return it to the man, but the boat had already sailed.
Han Weng had no choice but to use all the money to buy rice and ship it to Shanghai as the stranger had requested.
The treasure of being a trustworthy person
A year later, Han Weng traveled to the man’s firm in Shanghai. When the man saw Han Weng, he clapped his hands and cheerfully said: “Oh, you are a trustworthy person!”
Han Weng told the man that he has shipped the rice to Shanghai.
The man brought Han Weng to meet his boss and told the boss: “This is Mr. Han whom I met in Huating County last year. He has shipped the rice!”
The boss thanked Han Weng and said: “My staff slept in the street with a lot of money. If it wasn’t for your help, what would happen next was unpredictable. You are here now as expected and you still do not want to accept the profit from the rice shipment. It is rare to find a person like you these days!”
The treasure of being modest
The boss hosted a feast to entertain Han Weng and treated him as a very important guest. After dinner, the host asked his staff to bring Han Weng around and tour Shanghai. When Han Weng and the man returned, the boss insisted that Han Weng stay for a few more days.
The next morning, Mr. Han handed the delivery note for the rice shipment to the man and told him to quickly collect the rice and bring it ashore as he had to go back to Huating County.
The man smilingly said: “My business is simple, collection for the rice has already been arranged. You can stay for a few more days and tour Shanghai. There is no hurry to rush back to your hometown.”
The man accompanied Han Weng every day on the tour of Shanghai.
A few days later, the boss once again hosted a feast for Han Weng. He told Han Weng: “We have sold all the rice that you shipped and the profit is very lucrative. Now, I want to lend you more money. I hope you can help me to ship more rice and the profit will be equally divided between both of us.”
As he was talking, he handed to Han Weng a heavy silver ingot and told Han Weng: “This is the profit you should get from selling the rice this time.”
Han Weng refused to accept the silver, but relented after much persuasion from the boss.
Han Weng said to the boss: “I have your trust, but I have a request and do not know if you will agree?”
The boss told Han Weng: “I wish to hear your request.”
Han Weng said:
“It is said that doing good deeds brings prosperity. I want to use part of the money from the profit for the poor. I was born into a poor family and since this money comes from you, I have to ask your permission before I can use it for the poor.”
The boss was deeply moved. He thought to himself: “This ordinary countryman has a very generous heart and is always thinking of others. He immediately agreed and offered 2,000 taels of silver to Han Weng for the charitable cause.
The treasure found in being charitable
After that, Han Weng became more prosperous in the shipping business and more committed to doing good deeds. Amazingly, his business was not affected even though he often contributed to the poor and his shipments were always profitable.
Some years later, the Han family became wealthy. Han Weng bought a house near Xiuye Bridge. One day, while he was cleaning the house and preparing to move in, he saw a lot of waste paper on the table.
As he was picking up the papers to burn, he saw a notebook and written on it was: “If you need money, you can find it under the plum tree.” Han Weng was taken by surprise. He walked around the yard and did not see any plum tree. He then thought it was a joke and did not pay attention to the note.
This was an old house. The wooden staircase had decayed so it had to be torn down and replaced. While Han Weng was cleaning underneath the staircase, he found a plum tree painted on the side of the wall. The painting and color of the plum blossoms were as if they were swaying in the wind.
Treasure under the plum tree
Han Weng suddenly remembered the note that he had found and thought that there must be a cellar underneath. After dark, he and his family pried open the stone slabs under the picture of the plum tree. They lit the cellar with lights and to their great surprise, they found four large urns side by side filled with gold and silver.
After the Han family was blessed with such a huge fortune, Han Weng became more diligent and committed to helping the poor. After Han Weng’s son inherited his father’s wealth, he followed the family motto of “doing good deeds.”
Han Weng’s grandson and descendants followed suit and they made great achievements. From generation to generation, there were endless blessings reaped by Han’s descendants from the virtues accumulated by their ancestors.
This legendary account shows us that abundant treasure is waiting to be found in everyone, in everything, everywhere, and at all times. This story is a metaphor for life. When we look a little deeper and look a little differently at life, we find hidden treasure all around us and in all things. If we are very fortunate, the treasure we find may be spiritual in nature and it may even translate into material blessings.
Translated by Chua BC