If someone marries three sisters in succession, and all of them die in the same order, a fortune teller may interpret this as a sign that their fate is to be repeatedly married and suffer the consequences of the death of their wives. But could there be a deeper karmic reason behind it?
In the early years of Emperor Kangxi’s reign (1662-1722), there was a vegetable seller in Hangzhou. The man had a plain appearance but seemed honest and dependable. Every day he would pass by the house of a wealthy man and sell him vegetables. The rich man had three daughters, but no son. Whenever the vegetable seller came to his home and the rich man was present, he would pay him in cash. When the rich man was away, his wife would say: “Just wait a minute.” The vegetable seller would sit quietly outside the door, waiting for payment without entering the house, and this had been the routine for more than two years.
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One day, the woman asked the vegetable seller casually: “Is there anyone else in your family?” The vegetable seller replied: “I am an orphan and I have few brothers, but I live in my uncle’s house.” The woman then asked him again: “Are you willing to marry into this family and take the family’s surname?” Feeling too intimidated to agree, the vegetable seller went back to his uncle’s house and told him about it.
The uncle said: “The girl’s family is wealthy and has numerous businesses and properties. Why would she settle for a poor bachelor like you? It must be a joke!” Upon hearing his uncle’s words, the vegetable seller abandoned any thoughts of marriage into the rich family.
A few days later, the woman questioned the vegetable seller again: “Why didn’t you give me an answer? I want you to be the son-in-law of this family.” The vegetable seller repeated what his uncle had said.
The woman replied: “Marriage is not a game! You can discuss this further with your uncle.”
The next day, the vegetable seller brought his uncle to meet with the woman, and his uncle asked: “Does your family truly wish for my nephew to be your son-in-law?” The woman answered: “Yes, this family has no son. Your nephew is honest and dependable. If he joins this family as a son-in-law, it would be like having half a son.”
The uncle said: “Our family is poor and cannot afford a dowry. What can we do?”
The woman replied: “I’m looking for a good son-in-law, not a dowry.” The uncle and nephew were overjoyed and they chose an auspicious date for the marriage with the rich man’s eldest daughter. After the marriage, the vegetable seller got along well with his in-laws and his wife, and he no longer needed to sell vegetables.
The eldest daughter dies
Three years later, the rich man’s eldest daughter died. In private, the wealthy man discussed with his wife: “Our son-in-law is very kindhearted and he’s suffering immensely from this tragedy. How can he cope? Our second daughter is of age now, and if she chooses another person, we may get a son-in-law whose virtue may not be as good as our current one. If our present son-in-law decides to marry another woman and leave us, we will have nobody to rely on in our old age, so let him marry our second daughter!”
Another three years passed and the second daughter also died. The entire family was in mourning. The rich man said to his wife once more: “The death of two daughters within six years is truly heartbreaking. Now that our youngest daughter has also come of age, wouldn’t it be a fitting time to marry her off to our current son-in-law?”
But three years later, the youngest daughter also died. The elderly couple and the son-in-law hugged each other and cried. Suddenly, an old monk came to the door and asked for alms. The rich man’s wife said harshly: “We are mourning and in no mood to give alms to monks!”
The rich man quickly explained: “Our three daughters are all gone, we are old and lonely — this must be due to karma from previous lives. Please, stay and sit down. I’ll get some vegetarian food for you.” As soon as the rich man had gone out, his wife suddenly felt drowsy and fell asleep.
While sleeping, she had a dream in which the old monk said to her: “Your husband was a boatman in his past life, and your son-in-law was a wealthy merchant who traveled to Huai’an and Yangzhou with a lot of money and goods for business. Your husband killed him and took all his possessions. At the same time, your three daughters were also passengers on the boat. Your husband was afraid that the murder would be exposed, so he bribed the girls, who were the three sisters who died, with thirty taels of gold. The businesses and properties your husband has now are actually your son-in-law’s, so there is no reason to be resentful!”
The woman woke up abruptly and found that the old monk had vanished. When her husband returned, she told him about the dream and he was silent. The next day, the rich man gave his entire family business to his son-in-law. He and his wife left and were never heard from again.
Translated by: Chua BC