Stories from History: Great Disaster Caused Inadvertently

Yi Dou

PureInsight | May 31, 2007

[] During the
reign period of Emperor Daoguang in the Qing dynasty, there was a
learned scholar by the name of Yeh Xiucai. Once, while he was reading
examination papers, he overturned an ink slab accidentally and spilled
ink on a well-written paper. When the chief examiner saw the ink stain
on the paper, he flunked the paper. Afraid of being criticized by the
chief examiner for his carelessness, Yeh Xiucai didn't offer an


After the names of the successful candidates were published, the failed
scholar was found to have hung himself. Yeh Xiucai went to investigate
in secret and found out that the scholar was poor and was depending on
teaching to support himself. When the scholar failed the examination,
all his students quit. He couldn't make a living and killed himself in
bitterness. Yeh Xiucai felt very guilty. Later, when he attended the
provincial civil-service examinations, he failed twice even though his
essays were outstanding. He dared not to attend further examination. He
told others: "Although I committed a horrible travesty inadvertently,
the retribution is so horrible. Why didn't I explain the incident

One cannot save others if one thinks only of his own interests. When
young Sima Guang, a prominent statesman and historian in the Northern
Song dynasty, was playing with his friends, a little boy fell into a
large water vat. Sima Guang picked up a stone right away and broke the
vat to let out the water to save his friend. If he had thought of the
reprimand he might receive for breaking the vat, would he have saved
his friend?

From Beidong Yuanbilu, a classical writing from the Qing dynasty

Translated from:

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