During the Ming Dynasty, there was a fortune teller famous for face reading who could assess a person’s character and personality from their outer appearance. His name was Yuan Gong and he wrote a book on the subject that became a must-read for anyone interested in learning the art. His son, Yuan Zhongche, also inherited his father’s face reading genius.
At that time, there was an official surnamed Wang. People in his family were often sick and their home environment was shrouded in sadness. One day, Yuan Zhongche came to visit and as they were talking about it, a servant named Zheng Xing’er came in to serve tea. Yuan Zhongche took a look at the servant and exclaimed: “So that’s how it is.” After the servant left, he told Official Wang that from his face reading, this servant was ill-fated and was the cause of the family’s constant illness and sadness.
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Yuan Zhongche’s face reading skill
Although Wang was reluctant to part with Zheng Xing’er due to his loyalty, honesty, and diligent service, he had to let him go for the sake of his family’s well-being. Indeed, after that, everyone in the family was healthy and happy and all of them thought highly of Yuan Zhongche’s face reading skill. Since Zheng Xing’er was truly a loyal person, he did not complain about being sent away for such a reason. With nowhere else to go, he ended up living in a dilapidated temple.
One day, when Zheng Xing’er went to use the toilet, he saw a cloth bag hanging from a peg on the wall. He opened the bag and found more than 20 taels of silver. At that moment, he was very happy and thought to himself: “With this money, I will get out of poverty.”
However, upon further reflection, he thought: “Yuan the face reader said that I am destined to be poor, so how can I enjoy this money? What if someone loses such a large sum of money and people end up getting hurt because of it? It’s better to wait for the owner to come and return the money to them.”
After making up his mind, Zheng Xing’er stayed in the same spot and waited. When it got dark, he found a straw mat and slept in the toilet, waiting for the owner to come.
The next morning, just as it was getting light, a disheveled man with red eyes rushed in and saw that the peg on the wall was empty. He was shocked and said: “My things are gone, how can I go back? I should kill myself so I don’t have to face my master without it!”
Upon hearing this, Zheng Xing’er hurriedly stepped forward to stop him from doing anything rash. He soon learned the man’s story. He was headed to the capital to secure a position for his master, Commander Zheng. Now that he had lost his master’s silver, he wanted to die.
Zheng Xing’er hurriedly took out the cloth bag and returned it to the man. He was overjoyed and wanted to give half of the money to Zheng Xing’er. He refused, saying: “If I wanted to be greedy, I would have taken all the silver away the day before instead of waiting through the night in the toilet.”
Using the silver, the servant was able to secure a higher position for Commander Zheng. He also brought Zheng Xing’er back home to report the good news and told his master about Zheng Xing’er’s honesty in finding and returning the silver.
Commander Zheng was nearly 60 years old and had no heirs. He took a closer look at Zheng Xing’er and said: “This is no lowly person. He has a generous and magnanimous heart, and he will have a great future ahead of him.” He then accepted Zheng Xing’er as his adopted son and changed his name to Zheng Xingbang. Soon after, Commander Zheng was promoted again and transferred to the capital while Zheng Xingbang became a military attaché.
Zheng Xingbang thought that less than three years after having to leave the capital city to where he was today, it felt like a dream. His previous master, Official Wang, was still in the capital. Wanting to repay the kindness he had experienced in the past, he asked his adopted father’s permission to go visit. His adopted father praised him and said: “Remembering the old while embracing the new is truly beneficial in life. Go ahead!”
Zheng Xingbang dressed in ordinary clothes and headed for Official Wang’s residence. Official Wang failed to recognize him at first, so Zheng Xingbang said to him: “Master, have you forgotten me so soon?” Official Wang took a closer look and realized that he was the servant whom he had sent away years before.
In bewilderment, Wang asked: “What is going on?” Zheng Xingbang told him about his relationship with Commander Zheng, his adopted father. While they were chatting, a servant came in to report that Yuan Zhongche had come to visit. Wang laughed and said: “Today, we will have some sporting fun with him!”
He told Zheng Xingbang to change into the servant’s clothes and serve tea. When Yuan Zhongche took the tea and saw Zheng Xingbang, he said in surprise: “This is a high-ranking military officer! Why is he a servant in your home?”
Wang responded: “This is the servant Xing’er whom I had sent away. He came back because he had nowhere else to go.”
Yuan Zhongche looked at Zheng Xingbang carefully and said to him: “No, I was right before and I’m right again today. Looking at your appearance, I can see your good karma. You have either saved someone’s life or returned things that belonged to others. The wealth and honor that you enjoy today all came about because of this good deed.” Upon hearing this, Zheng Xingbang was shocked and exclaimed: “You really are incredible.”
As for Official Wang, he was full of admiration and told both of them: “Zheng Xingbang’s virtue and Yuan Zhongche’s skills will never be forgotten. Let’s have a feast to celebrate!” The three enjoyed themselves to the fullest before parting ways, happy and full of gratitude.
Translated by Chua BC