The Love of Life

44. Sweeping Snails


In 1567, Han Shihneng of Ch’angchou, Chiangsu dreamed that a god in shining golden armor told him, “Congratulations! I bear good news. You will be promoted to the highest rank in the government.”

Even though he was dreaming, Han couldn’t believe it. “Why is that?” he asked the god.

“It’s like this,” the god said. “Your honored grandfather, Han Yungch’un, was poor. Yet even though he did not have enough money for his family, he delighted in releasing animals. Every morning when the sun comes up, he goes to the stream near your house with a broom. You know those snails they call ‘spiral lions,’ and how they wander away from the stream at night. Your grandfather sweeps up the spiral lions and puts them back into the stream where they’re safe, and nobody will step on them by accident. Sometimes when he was too poor to buy anything to eat, he would sweep the stream for miles to keep his mind off his hunger. In this way, he saved thousands and thousands of spiral lions.

“People used to laugh at him. ‘Can’t you find anything better to do with your time?’ some people said. Others asked, ‘If you’re so hungry, why don’t you eat the snails? Everybody knows they’re tasty!’ Most people just sneer and call him a fool, but he doesn’t mind a bit. He just does what he feels is right. He doesn’t think it’s necessary to pay attention to what people say about him. And anyway, every time he puts the spiral lions safely back into the water, he has a wonderful feeling of satisfaction. He feels happy, and that kind of happiness can’t be bought with any amount of money.

“Your grandfather has done this for over forty years now. He has saved so many lives that not only has he earned great fortune for himself, but also his luck will carry over to his children and grandchildren for many generations. You will benefit from your grandfather’s kindness.”

There the dream stopped. Han Shihneng threw himself into his work, and sure enough, he gradually rose to higher and higher posts, until he finally reached the highest position in the whole Chinese empire. He was even sent to Korea on a special mission. He was important and powerful, and his family prospered for many generations. This was because his grandfather had been such a kind man.

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