Being Thrifty and Helping Those in Need
(Clearwisdom.net) Liu Yan was born in Caozhou Nanhua, which is present-day Southeast Dongming County in Shandong Province. He was very good at financial management. During the reigns of Emperors Suzong and Daizong in the Tang Dynasty, he was in charge of important responsibilities such as transportation, taxation, salt and steel, fundraising, and other related endeavors. During the reign of Daizong, he held the position of prime minister. As such an important government official, who had power over all matters of finance, he was indeed incorruptible and honest. He honored thriftiness and liked to help others in need.
Once, in the middle of the winter, Liu Yun was on his way to the official morning meeting. He saw some stores selling sesame seed cake on the side of the road and decided to buy some hot cakes to eat. He went inside one bakery but quickly came back out again. When his servant asked him why, it turned out that the bakery was expensive. In the end, Liu Yun found a less expensive bakery and bought his cakes there.
Other officials on their way to the gathering all passed by the less expensive bakery. When they saw Prime Minister Liu Yun gnawing on its sesame seed cakes, they ridiculed him. Liu Yun only smiled and told them that the cakes were delicious.
His servants were all embarrassed, but Liu Yun said, "It is a virtue to live thriftily. Only by losing one's virtue can one lose his or her status, and a virtuous person will always be thrifty."
Another look at Liu Yun's clothes revealed that, underneath the royal robe for officials, he only wore a homespun cotton shirt, while other officials all had leather and rich fabric wrapped around their bodies.
Liu Yun's house in Chang'an was located in a small alley on the southeastern side. It looked just like any other ordinary house, without any beautifully carved ceilings or pillars, towers or gardens. The furniture was old, and meals were also very simple. He did not have many servants or maids, and his wife and children did the household chores.
Liu Yun often said to others, "Human beings need shelter, so there is no need to worry about the beauty of the house. Meals are for fulfillment, so there is no need to worry about the variety of dishes. Horseback riding is for reliable transportation, so there is no need to worry about whether the horse has a beautiful mane."
Liu Yun was very thrifty, but he very much liked to help others. Most of his income was used to help others in need. Many poor students received his financial assistance, as well as his less fortunate relatives and friends.
One day Liu Yun went to a relative's house for a visit. He saw that the door of the house did not have a curtain to block the wind, so he secretly told his servant to write down the measurements of the door. Not long after, the relative received a brand new curtain. For Liu Yun, this was a typical episode.