Attach Importance to Justice Rather than Personal Interest and Have a Clear Conscience
(Clearwisdom.net) During the Xifeng period of the North Song Dynasty, there was a teahouse located next to the Fan Pavilion in the Capital City. The teahouse business was quite prosperous.
One day, a customer whose last name was Li, talked with his old friend about their past over tea. It was hot that day, so Li took off his sweater and put it on top of his pouch full of dozens gold pieces lying on the table. After he and his friend had finished talking and drunk their tea, he forgot about his gold. He later discovered that he had forgotten his pouch, but he thought that it would be impossible to find it since so many other customers were there.
About four years later, customer Li came to the teahouse again. With no expectation of finding his gold, he mentioned what he had lost years before. The teahouse owner heard him and asked, "Were you wearing a sweater that day?" Li said, "Yes!" The owner continued, "Was your friend wearing a leather coat?" Li replied, "Yes!" The owner said, "I saw what you had left on the table, and I went after you, but you walked so fast that I couldn't find you among so many people. I put it away, because I thought you might come back for it the next day. I never even opened it. It is very heavy, so I guess maybe there are gold pieces inside. If it is consistent with what you describe, you can have it back!" Li said, "If you can find it, I will split it with you." The owner said nothing but smiled.
Li followed the owner upstairs and saw many items such as shoes, umbrellas, clothes, vessels, etc., which customers had left. On each item was a tag, marking the date as well as a description of the person who had left it. If unknown, it was just marked "unknown." In a corner of the attic, they found a cloth pouch, dated, and marked.
After he went downstairs, the teahouse owner asked Li again about the amount of gold inside. Li replied, and his host opened the cloth pouch. The amount matched what Li had mentioned, and the shop owner gave it to him.
Li wanted to express his appreciation by leaving half of the gold for the owner. The owner said, "If I only attached importance to how I could benefit and didn't care about being honest, then I would have hidden your gold. In that case, what could you have done? Couldn't you have taken me to the court? Why did I do it this way? It is because I have to face my own conscience!"
Li realized that the owner would not accept his offer. He was embarrassed but thanked the owner again and again. The owner responded cordially to his thanks again and again. Later he tried to invite the owner to the Fan Pavilion for a drink, but the owner declined.
There were more than 50 people in the teahouse. They all appreciated what the owner had done, saying that such things were rarely seen in the world. Someone said, "This is a perfect example of 'Heaven knows, Earth knows, you know, and I know' that Yang Zhen, a well known official from the Han Dynasty, talked about,
The old people often say, "Never do anything that goes against your conscience." The ancients also said, "Human beings are born with good natures." Actually, we can still distinguish good from evil in many situations. It is only when one is interfered with by acquired notions or is tempted by personal interests that one cannot hold to one's purity, generosity, and moral principles. A real gentleman should revere gods and Heaven, follow the moral standards of human beings, restrict himself with "prudence" and "self-discipline," and have a clear conscience about every deed he does.