PureInsight | January 16, 2006
[PureInsight.org] During the reign period of Emperor Qianlong, Ping Chengxiu, a scholar from Nanhai, Guangdong Province, was on his way to the nation's capital to attend the imperial civil service examination.
One evening, it was cloudy with rumbling of thunder. As a heavy rain was imminent, he and his page ran to a village in a hurry. When they reached at a house near the edge of the village, they knocked on the door. A young lady answered the door. Ping Chungxiu bowed quickly and said, "Sorry to have bothered you. Sorry to have bothered you." He told his page, "Let's go. Let's find another place for the night."
There was more thunder and it started to rain. When they arrived at a house in the middle of the village, they knocked on the door. When a young married woman answered the door, Ping Chengxiu bowed and said again, "Sorry to have bothered you." He turned around and told his page, "Let's hurry and find another house for the night."
As the rain became heavier, they both were soaking wet. When they ran to a house near the end of the village, they knocked on the door. A kind looking elderly lady answered the door. Ping Chengxiu bowed and said: "We are going to the nation's capital to attend the imperial civil service examination, could you let us stay in your house for tonight."
The elderly lady said: "Come in quickly and change your wet clothing. I'll make some hot ginger tea for you."
After they had finished the ginger tea, the elderly lady said, "You are going to attend the imperial civil service exam. Are you ready for it? Emperor Qianlong has great erudition and the palace examination is very hard. How about I recite a poetry antithetical couplet for you to pair?"
Ping Chengxiu said: "Please go ahead."
The elderly lady said: "Husk yellow, rice grain white, rice powder like frost."
Ping Chengxiu thought about it and thought it was the second line of a couplet. Husk, rice grain and rice powder all come from the same thing; but they have different shapes and colors. How am I to pair it? He kept scratching his head, but couldn't find the answer. On the following day when he was about to leave, he still couldn't came up with an answer.
The elderly lady said: "It is fine if you couldn't come up with a pairing. Wait until you finish the exam to come up with an answer."
After successfully passing the [preliminary] exam, Ping Chengxiu was called to participate in the palace examination. Emperor Qianlong gave an upper half of an antithetical couplet: "The smoke locks the pond willow tree."
While other candidates were thinking hard and didn't know how to answer, Ping Chengxiu put his writing brush in the cap and watched the emperor with self-assurance.
Emperor Qianlong said: "The one who put his writing brush in the cap is the first place finisher this year!"
In fact, the five characters: smoke, locks, pond, willow tree, contains gold, wood, water, fire, and earth (the five elements). Ping Chengxia recognized that it had no match so he put his writing brush in the cap.
Emperor Qianlong then gave Ping Chengxiu an upper line of an antithetical couplet, "The jade emperor leading troops, drum like thundering, flags like cloud, raindrops like arrows, wind likes knives, and heaven arranges stratagem."
Ping Chengxiu thought about it and answered: "Dragon king entertaining with evening banquet, tasty food from mountains, seasoned liquor from the sea, candle like moon, light like stars, and earth as foundation."
Emperor Qianlong clapped his hands and laughed loudly: "Good match! Good match! Let me try another one for you to match: Coal black, flame red, ashes like snow."
Ping Chengxiu recalled the elder lady's couplet instantly and was gratified with great rejoicing. Without thinking further, he replied: "Husk yellow, rice white, rice powder like frost."
Emperor Qianlong praised him: "You really have exceeding erudition."
Before reporting to office, Ping Chengxiu went home to visit his relatives. On his way home, he went everywhere in the village where he stayed during that raining night. He could find neither the house nor the elderly lady who had given him half of the couplet. In fact, the elderly lady was transformed from Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the Goddess of Mercy. Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara saw Ping Chengxiu's noble character the fact that he did not indulge in lust and thus helped him to place first at the imperial civil service examination.
When Ping Chengxiu passed by Zhaoqing City, he wielded the brush and wrote on the decorated archway on the entrance alley three words "Wu Jing Li".
Ping Chengxiu had behaved as a perfect gentleman. There is an old saying: "It is improper for men and women to touch each other's hands in passing objects." "The Book of Rites" considers this as the "way" to prevent people from committing immoral acts. It expresses that men and women should avoid suspicion between them and people need to observe social order and law.
Some people may say what Ping Chengxiu had encountered was just a little thing. But they hardly realize that even the "trifling matter" manifests a person's moral and personal integrity. If one can't handle a thing, how could he do well when it comes to a big thing? One should be strict with oneself and lead an upright life all the time. Otherwise, how could one handle oneself well at a critical juncture?
Only a man with grand moral character can become an outstanding person with great responsibilities. After Ping Chengxiu became an official, his talent and virtue were well known. Everyone praised him. He was appointed as the Secretary of the Ministry of Civil Appointment and took up the posts of Zuizhou Province Educational Inspector and the scholar in charge of the Yuexiu and Yuehua Academies, among others.
Translated from: http://www.minghui.org/mh/articles/2005/11/2/112792p.html