Celestial Gifts for a Book-Lover
Good things can and do happen to good people.
A Chinese wonder tale relates the story of Yo Yunhao, a good, kind man, but childless and born without advantages. When his best friend dies, Yo pays the funeral cost and supports the dead man’s family. When doing so depletes his finances, Yo gives up the “book-learning” life he loves and goes into trade. He makes the change without regret, rancor, or bitterness.
When traveling on business, Yo remains compassionate and alert to the needs of others.
“One day when he was resting at an inn in Nanjing, he saw a great big fellow walk in and seat himself at no great distance in a very melancholy mood. Yo asked him if he was hungry, and on receiving no answer, pushed some food over towards him. The stranger immediately set to feeding himself by handfuls, and in no time the whole had disappeared. Yo ordered another supply, but that was quickly disposed of in like manner; and then he told the landlord to bring a shoulder of pork and a quantity of boiled dumplings. Thus, after eating enough for half a dozen, his appetite was appeased and he turned to thank his benefactor, saying, ‘For three years I haven’t had such a meal.’”
The stranger attaches himself to Yo and proves to be a magical being by saving Yo and his wares during a storm at sea.
“One day … as it was just then about to rain and thunder, [Yo] asked [the stranger] to tell him what the clouds were like, and what thunder was, also how he could get up to the sky and have a look …. 'Would you like to have a ramble among the clouds?' asked the stranger, as Yo was lying down to take a nap; on awaking from which he felt himself spinning along through the air, and not at all as if he was lying on a bed. Opening his eyes he saw he was among the clouds, and around him was a fleecy atmosphere. Jumping up in great alarm, he felt giddy as if he had been at sea, and underneath his feet he found a soft, yielding substance unlike the earth. Above him were the stars, and this made him think he was dreaming; but looking up he saw that they were set in the sky like seeds in the cup of a lily, varying from the size of the biggest bowl to that of a small basin. On raising his hand he discovered that the large stars were all tightly fixed; but he managed to pick a small one, which he concealed in his sleeve ….”
Yo is let back down to earth by a rope made from the reins of a heavenly dragon team.
“On reaching home he took the star out of his sleeve, and put it on the table. It was dull-looking like an ordinary stone; but at night it became very brilliant and lighted up the whole house. This made him value it highly, and he stored it carefully away, bringing it out only when he had guests, to light them at their wine. It was always thus dazzling bright, until one evening when his wife was sitting with him doing her hair, the star began to diminish in brilliancy, and to flit about like a fire-fly. Mrs. Yo sat gaping with astonishment, when all of a sudden it flitted into her mouth and ran down her throat. She tried to cough it up, but couldn’t, to the very great amazement of her husband.”
That night, Yo’s dead friend appears in a dream and says:
“'I am the Shaowei star. Your friendship is still cherished by me, and now you have brought me back from the sky. Truly our destinies are knitted together, and I will repay your kindness by becoming your son.' …. [A]fter this dream his wife bore him a male child, and they called his name Star. He was extraordinarily clever, and at sixteen years of age took his master’s degree.” …Which means that Star was able to obtain a prestigious and well-paying position with the local government, and his father, Yo, was able to return to his beloved books.