The Love of Life

88. Happy Crabs


Liang T’uian was a doctor who really wanted to relieve suffering, not only among human beings, but among all living creatures as well. He was a vegetarian, of course.

One fall, his friend Ch’i Feit’eh sent him two baskets of crabs, “to be washed down with liquor.” Gourmets know that autumn crabs and liquor are an unbeatable combination. But Liang did a strange thing. He didn’t take the crabs to the kitchen, he took them to the shore and let them go in the little stream near his house.

Another guest, who had come from Huchou, said, “You are really a nice man. You remind me of Chang Fengweng, from my humble hometown. For generations, he and his family have been vegetarians, and never killed anything.

“In reward for their kindness, many of the family have won high positions in the government, with power and fame.

“I predict that as a result of your kindness, one day in the future your esteemed son will reach a lofty position in the imperial service, just as the sons of the Chang family have.”

Liang smiled and said, “Good deeds are something we’re supposed to do, they are not something we do hoping for rewards. If I have ever done any good, it has not been with the hopes of gaining some rewards for myself or my family. Don’t you think those crabs look happier there in the stream than they would boiling in a pot? That’s reward enough for me.”

When Liang’s son, Chich’ing, grew up, he passed the imperial examinations with flying colors, and was appointed to govern Kaochou. When he was sent to govern Min county, he was pleased to meet again his best friend, the scholar Chang, who was serving in the county government there. It turns out that this scholar was the son of Chang Fengweng, and was also a vegetarian.

Chang stayed at the Liang’s for a month. He was delighted to see that no animal products were ever served at family meals. At formal dinners, almost all of the dishes were vegetarian. At most there might be some dried duck, but Chang noticed that his friend Liang Chich’ing never ate any of it.

Liang was also impressed with his friend Chang. Chang was honest and hard working. He lived simply and ate simply, too. He ate a light breakfast and got to the office early to begin his day. He never got to the office late, like some important officials did, and he never procrastinated on any official duties.

Think about that. If everybody were a vegetarian; if everybody ate simple foods; if everybody did his duty faithfully, without fuss, pomp, or corruption; if everybody were fair and honest: wouldn’t that be a wonderful world to live in?

If you want to live in such a wonderful world, start building it yourself! You can’t ask others to be kind and honest if you aren’t first.

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