10. Eels in the Urn
The Wanli period of the Ming Dynasty in China lasted from 1573 to 1620, the same year the Pilgrims reached Massachusetts in America. At that time, in the beautiful Chinese city of Hangchou, the city Marco Polo called Kinsai and praised as the grandest, most beautiful city on earth, as splendid as paradise, lived a very rich man named Yu.
Mr. Yu enjoyed doing good deeds. He never killed anything.
At the time of our story, a family in his neighborhood had been robbed of almost everything they had. Mr. Yu generously donated money to help his neighbors get back on their feet. His neighbor’s wife was deeply touched by his kindness.
One day, she happened to get ten eels, so she sent them over to Mr. Yu’s house so he could cook them for his aged mother. Even though eels are a great delicacy for most Chinese, the Yus never killed anything, so their servants put the eels into a big pottery urn and prepared to let them go someday. What with one thing and another, everybody forgot all about the eels in the urn.
Some time later, Mr. Yu’s aged mother dreamed that a group of ten people came into her room and knelt down before her bed. How strangely they were dressed! Every one had on tan clothes and a pointed cap. They said, “We beg your mercy! Please save our lives!” Then they left.
Old Mrs. Yu woke up. She was confused by this weird dream. She didn’t know how she was supposed to save anybody’s life. She just didn’t know what to do, so, being a sensible old lady, she went to ask her fortune teller to advise her.
Her fortune teller cast his sticks and examined the date and looked at her palm and said, “Do not worry your august head. This is a lucky dream, not an unlucky dream. These are living creatures which want you to save their lives. You need not look too far. They are right in your own honorable house.”
She hurried home and turned everything topsy-turvy to find the lives to save. Finally, one of the servants remembered the eels in the urn. They realized there were ten eels, just as there were ten people in the dream.
When Mrs. Yu heard about this, she said, “We almost took ten lives by accident!” Right away, she had the eels taken to the lake and released.
The eels lived happily ever after, and the Yus got richer and richer.