Once a fishermen in Tant’u, Chiangsu caught a huge turtle. He wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. He pondered. “It’s huge. It must be worth a lot of money. If anybody around here can afford to buy such a big turtle, it has to be Chao Ch’un, because he’s the richest man in the county.”
He put the turtle in a cart and took it to Chao. Chao took one look and said, “Turtle soup!” He gave the fisherman a good price for the turtle, and from then on, any fisherman who caught a turtle sold it to Chao. As a matter of fact, catching turtles to sell to Chao Ch’un became a local specialty.
After about a year of this, Chao dreamed that he was in the Temple of the Eastern Peak, arguing a case in front of a judge. The plaintiff was fat, with a triangular head. He called himself River Turtle. River Turtle told the divine Emperor of the Eastern Peak, “Chao Ch’un has killed too many of us. He should be called to accounts.”
“Chao Ch’un!” The Emperor’s voice rumble like thunder. “What do you have to say in your defense?”
“Nothing. I just love to eat turtle meat, that’s all. What harm can that do? I mean, it’s not me that catches them.”
The Emperor said, “The fishermen are uneducated, so they cannot be expected to understand the way in which killing innocent animals upsets the balance of the universe. You, however, are an educated man. You should know better. If you do not know, you will learn in Hell.” The Emperor glared at Chao. River Turtle nodded.
“Will you mend your ways? We will give you a chance. If from this day hence, you do not kill or cause to be killed any cattle, pig, poultry, dog, turtle, or other animal, but do your utmost to teach others not to kill, you may atone for your crimes.
“Does the plaintiff have any comment?”
“Your Majesty,” River Turtle begged, “Aren’t you letting him off a bit too easy? Don’t forget how many of my relatives are buried in his stomach.”
“Yes, it is meet and right that we discipline this man to express the indignation of all living creatures for his barbarous behavior. Bailiffs! Give this man ten strokes with the bamboo poles.”
Six demons dragged Chao to the floor and held him there while two others beat him with bamboo poles.
When he got up, the Emperor said, “If a person has so much as one good thought, the gods and demons can bring him good fortune. Bad thoughts bring bad luck. If you change your ways, you can earn good luck. If you keep up your old habits, though, you will not be forgiven.” Several demons led him out of the temple.
Chao woke up in his own bed. His bottom was bruised and swollen. He had to spend a week in bed before he could get up.
He told his whole family what happened to him. From that day, they all became vegetarians. They never ate another animal’s carcass. They bought captured animals to set free. Before long, everybody agreed that the Chaos had changed. Now they were not only the richest people around, but they were also the nicest.