Traditional Chinese Culture: Be Kindhearted and Display Forbearance; Enjoy What is Natural and Shun Acclaim

Qing Yan

PureInsight | February 13, 2006

[] Yu Shen, also
called Yanbao, was from Xinye County during the Northern Qi Dynasty
(550 – 577 A.D.). He was very smart and diligent, and had read every
book from the Confucian classics and various other schools of thinkers
while he was still a child. After he grew up, he became an expert at
divination and fortune telling. He was kindhearted and showed a lot of

One day, Yu Shen chartered a boat heading home. He took with him 150
Shi (Chinese unit of dry measure, 1 Shi equals 132 lbs) of rice on the
boat. On the way, a man asked for a ride on the boat. He had 30 Shi of
rice with him. Yu Shen agreed to help him out. Upon arrival, however,
the man said, "The 30 Shi of rice are yours, and the 150 Shi are mine."
Yu Shen didn’t say a word, and remained silent while the other man took
as much rice as he wanted.

One day, Yu Shen’s neighbor was framed for theft and was arrested by
the local authorities. Yu Shen felt sorry for him and pawned his books
for 20,000 Wen (smallest currency unit, like today’s penny). He told
one of his family servants to pretend to be the neighbor’s relative and
bought the neighbor’s way out. After he was released, the neighbor came
to thank Yu Shen, but Yu Shen said, "I simply feel sorry for all the
innocent people in the world. I never expected you to feel grateful
toward me."

By nature, Yu Shen liked to lead a peaceful, simple and unadorned
lifestyle. He loved nature, usually wore coarse clothes and ate simple
food. He didn’t purchase any real estate. He enjoyed what was natural
and obeyed what was destined, and didn’t seek fame or wealth.

He was a close friend of Xiao Yan when they were children. When Xiao
Yan revolted against the Qin Dynasty, he appointed Yu Shen to be a
high-ranking military officer, but Yu Shen refused to accept it. Later
on, Xiao Yan’s son appointed Yu Sen as a military officer with an even
higher rank, and Yu Shen still did not accept the appointment. After
Xiao Yan overthrew the Qin Dynasty and became Emperor Liang Wu,
impressed with Yu Shen’s knowledge and indifference toward fame and
fortune, he once again appointed Yu Shen as Assistant Minister to the
Emperor, but Yu Shen claimed that he was ill and still didn’t take the

According to The Book of Liang,
Yu Shen cultivated toward Buddhahood wholeheartedly in his autumn years
and looked very peaceful and comfortable when he died. People who were
present heard a voice in the air saying that he had gone to the
paradise of Buddha. When Emperor Liang Wu heard about it, he sent out
an imperial decree to honor Yu Shen’s moral integrity and conduct and
bestowed the posthumous title of "Commendable Person of Chastity" on

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