“Are you feeling any better today?” Fan knew that his wife had tuberculosis, which was not easy to cure, but he took care of her very tenderly.
“Thank… you… for… your concern,” his wife gasped out painfully.
Fan asked the best doctor in Chingk’ou, Ch’en Shihying, to treat his wife. Doctor Ch’en examined her carefully, and took Fan aside.
“There is a way to cure her, even though she is quite sick,” the doctor said. “Take the heads of one hundred sparrows, and make them into medicine according to this prescription. Then on the third and seventh days eat sparrow brains. That should do the trick. This is a secret passed down from my ancestors, and it never fails. But remember, you have to have one hundred sparrows. You can’t be even one short.”
Fan was eager to help his wife, so he rushed out and bought one hundred sparrows. They were all crowded into one big cage. They chirped and hopped around mournfully, because there wasn’t enough space for them to enjoy themselves. Maybe they even knew they were going to be killed.
“What are you doing with all those sparrows?” Mrs. Fan asked.
“This is Doctor Ch’en’s special prescription! We’re going to make them into medicine, and you’ll be up and around in no time,” her husband cheerfully responded.
“No, you can’t do that!” Mrs. Fan sat up in bed. “You can’t take one hundred lives to save my one life! I would rather die than let you kill those sparrows for me.”
Fan didn’t know what to do.
“If you really love me,” she continued, “Do as I say. Open the cage and let all of those sparrows go. Then even if I die, I will die at ease.” What could he do? Fan took the cage out to the woods and let all one hundred sparrows go free. They flew into the bushes and trees and sang and chirped. They looked and sounded very happy to be free.
In a few days, Mrs. Fan got out of bed again, even though she hadn’t had any medicine. Her friends and relatives came to congratulate her on her speedy recovery from such a terrible disease. Everybody was very happy.
The next year, the Fans had a baby boy. He was lively and cute, but the funny thing was, on each arm he had a birthmark, and the birthmarks looked just like sparrows!