Doctor Huang Hsioyuan of Hangchou was a noted authority on skin diseases and infections of all sorts.
One day he was sitting in his office when a man came in groaning. “What an ugly brute,” the doctor couldn’t help thinking, even though he knew that a doctor must do his best to help any person suffering, without regard to his looks.
The man took off his shirt and sat down so the doctor could see his back. On his back and shoulders, he had dozens of sores. The big ones were the size of a cup, and they were surrounded by lots of littler ones. The whole thing smelled dreadful.
Doctor Huang was so surprised that he said “Your whole back is rotting away” before he could catch himself.
“What?” the patient said, turning around in the chair.
“This is a rare disease called Birds Pay Homage to the King. It’s incurable.” Doctor Huang pushed his glasses up his nose. “What kind of business are you in? I think we’d better find this out first.”
“You know those new weapons they call ‘guns’? I have one, and I use it to shoot birds. I turn over their nests so they don’t have anywhere to go, and then I shoot them when they’re flying around. I’ve been in this line for oh, a dozen years now,” the patient answered.
“No wonder!” the doctor replied. “Think how many homes you have destroyed, and how many animals you have killed! You have brought this disease down upon yourself by breaking the laws of nature.”
The hunter looked worried. “Then what can I do?”
“If you’re brave enough to admit that you shouldn’t have killed all those helpless birds, and you promise that you will never kill anything again, we may have a chance. Otherwise…”
The hunter thought carefully. He realized that he had been cruel to shoot defenseless birds. He threw his gun in the river and went into the fresh produce business.
Within two weeks, his back was obviously better. He felt healthy, both physically and mentally. Before too much longer, he was well again.
By facing the truth and listening to his conscience, this man saved himself from a terrible end.