Tao Shu, also called Zilin, was from Anhua County in Hunan Province and lived in the time of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD). His family was known for their pure and honest principles, and for carrying out good deeds.
Tao Shu's great-great-great grandfather, the revered Bohan, loved to do good deeds and accumulated much virtue. In those days, a convicted thief would be drowned in a river. One day when the revered Bohan passed by a river, a drowning burglar saw him and called for help, "Please help me! I swear that I will not steal any more." Bohan showed mercy for him and asked people to set him free. The revered Bohan worried that this man would go back to doing unrighteous deeds again, therefore he gave him a small boat and told him to row travellers over to the ferry and thereby earn a living. Similar to this story, the revered Bohan had given another seven boats to those kinds of men, and they all gave up their evil deeds.
To avoid travellers being hurt by rocks or broken pieces of porcelain, whenever Bohan went out, he would take a basket with him and he carried all the rocks and debris home. Before he passed away, the rocks and debris had filled an empty room in his home up to the ceiling.
Tao Shu's great-great grandfather, the revered Wenheng was extraordinarily merciful. One day, when great flakes of snow were falling at night, Mr. Wenheng's rice bin was burglarised. He followed the tracks of the burglar in the snow and noticed that the burglar was one of his acquaintances. Wenheng didn't make it public; instead he went back home quietly and never touched upon this topic again. It was not until thirty years later, that by chance Wenheng's wife mentioned this story to their offspring. Then everybody knew about this fact, but still nobody knew the burglar's real name. This event gives an idea of Wenheng's clemency.
In September of the 47th year of Emperor Kanghsi's reign (1708 AD), Wenheng's neighbour's house caught fire and everything was destroyed. But Wenheng's household, which abutted this neighbour's house, was safe and sound. Even more incredible was the fact that Wenheng's barn, which just abutted the neighbour's, was also kept intact. According to statements of those who came to help extinguish the fire, they saw a person in a red gown with long sleeves standing at the wall, with a fan in his hand. This person fanned toward the intense fire and the fire miraculously stopped before the wall of Wenheng's house. Everybody said that it happened because Tao's family had done good deeds and accumulated virtue, so the divine beings blessed and protected them. His neighbour's house was burnt to the ground and nothing was left. Therefore Wenheng's wife gave all the grain they had in their barn to this neighbour.
Tao Shu's grandfather Yinliang was born good natured and he did not seek fame and wealth; therefore his family was not rich at all. One day when the revered Yinliang found some money on the bank of a river, he stood there waiting for the owner of the money to return. It was not until the end of the day that he noticed a pale-looking person coming toward him in a flurry. This person started searching in the rubble. Mr. Yinliang asked him what he was looking for, and the man answered, "I have been working away from my hometown for years and I haven't been home since that time. I have an aged mother at home and today I was finally able to take all the money I had saved all those years and go back home to support my old mother. But unfortunately I have lost all my savings on my way." Mr. Yinliang asked him how much money he had lost, and the person's answer matched the amount he had found. So Mr. Yinliang returned all the money to the owner. The man was so thankful that he wanted to give half of his money to Yinliang, but Yinliang said with a smile, "If I had the desire to keep your money, I would not have waited here for you." With these words, Yinliang smiled and urged the man to hurry home. The man kowtowed and expressed his heartfelt thanks and then left.
There are also many stories which talk about Tao Shu's father, Xiangxian and his generosity in aiding needy people.
It is nature's principle that good is rewarded with good. Tao Shu's family regarded virtue as very important and they were very generous for generations. Why should they worry about family property and not being prosperous or their descendants not being rich and honourable? Not until the generation of Tao Shu did the family become prosperous. Born into a poor family, Tao Shu became both illustrious and influential. He passed the imperial exam at the provincial level (obtaining Juren) held in the fall of the fifth year of Emperor Jia Qing's reign. Two years later, he became a Jinshi (a successful candidate) in the highest imperial examination, and was selected Shujishi (fellow in the Imperial Academy) in the Hanlin Academy (the Imperial Academy). Later, he was a high ranking Liangjiang Governor-General, and was honoured as a grand tutor to the crowned prince.
Throughout his entire life, Tao Shu was a clear-headed and upright official, because he had inherited his family principles of being willing to do good and be generous. When he was at his post, he distributed his salary to help the people who suffered from natural disasters. On hearing of his stories, Emperor Dao Guang was moved and commented, "If every official could be as clear and upright as Tao Shu, I would not have to worry that all is not at peace!" And then the emperor awarded Tao Shu three-thousand Liang of silver (unit of currency at that time). But Tao Shu still led a simple life and did not use a single penny, instead he distributed it again to the poor and set up 48 non-profit schools altogether.
Why do people nurtured by the richness of traditional Chinese culture highly praise doing good and accumulating virtue? Because the willingness to do good and to give to those in need is a kind of virtue, which conforms to the principles of the universe -- Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance, and the people who carry out good deeds will be blessed and protected by Heaven. If people do things righteously, they will accumulate virtue. People's fortune, good pay and long life are all evolved from virtue; therefore one should not refuse to do good deeds.
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