(Clearwisdom.net) Wang Zhongcheng was a native of Yangzhou. His father died when he was a child, and his family was poor. Wang took on writing litigation papers in order to support his mother and himself. At age 20, he passed a preliminary test in order to qualify for the imperial examination. But in the fall of the same year, he failed several examinations in a row.

On New Year's Eve, he had a dream in which two men in black called him into a magnificent, official hall. In the center of the hall, an emperor sat on a chair and two officials dressed in red stood at his sides, holding a long paper with many names on it. The emperor was writing on the list with a brush pen. After he was done writing, one of the red-robed officials called Wang by name to come in.

Wang entered the hall and knelt on the floor. He noticed that the emperor had a grave facial expression. The emperor threw a book at him and told him to read it. Wang saw his name in the book and, following his name, it said that he was supposed to have passed the imperial examination, as well as several more examinations. He was supposed to become a member of the Hanlin Academy (an imperial institute for top scholars) and eventually a governor. But because he wrote fraudulent litigations on behalf of other people, against his own conscience, all of his future achievements had been erased.

After he finished reading his verdict, the emperor banged on the table and asked, "Have you read it?" Wang kowtowed repeatedly, asking for forgiveness. The emperor said, "Considering that you are a good son to your mother, if you correct your behavior immediately, I will return your fortune to you. If you continue doing bad deeds, I will take away your life!" The emperor then told the two people in black to show Wang Zhongcheng to the door.

One of the men in black said to Wang, "The emperor's verdict is about next year's imperial examination in the fall. If you correct your mistake and focus on doing good deeds, you will pass the exam with high grades. Do not forget the emperor's advice." He then gave Wang a push, and Wang suddenly woke up.

Everything in the dream was so vivid that he could not forget it. He thought, "I am a poor man with little resources to help others. If I give up my practice of writing litigations, what else can I do to correct my sins?" After a sleepless night, he suddenly enlightened, "Yes, fraudulent writing can kill, but why not use my writing skills to save lives? If I apply my knowledge in the opposite way, then the divine beings will take care of me."

From that day on, whenever he saw a client with a case, he would try to resolve the conflict out of court. For those without a good reason, he would offer his opinion and ask them to withdraw their cases. For those with good reasons but who were unable to state their arguments strongly, he would skillfully write good arguments on their behalf and help them to receive justice.

After nearly one year of putting forth this kind of effort, he indeed made first place in the imperial examination the following fall and earned a monthly government stipend. This greatly encouraged him and he worked even harder for others.

A young widow who lived in Mr. Wang's neighborhood was pregnant with her late husband's child. Relatives of her late husband's family wrongfully accused her, saying that her pregnancy was the result of an extramarital affair and they did not want the family lineage to be spoiled. The relatives wanted the court to send her back to her parents' home and refused to give her any of her husband's property. These threats scared her family, and they would not argue on her behalf. In these shameful circumstances, the woman found no one sympathetic. She cried day and night and vowed to commit suicide.

A neighbor told Wang about the woman's plight. After a thorough investigation, Wang was convinced that the woman was a loyal wife. He visited her parents and helped them to write an appeal. He then encouraged the woman's mother to go to court. The woman's brothers were very reluctant to do this, but he encouraged them to do the right thing for their sister. Finally, they were all moved by Wang's pure heart and they gathered enough strength to deliver the appeal to the judge.

Wang Zhongcheng then called for a meeting, inviting his classmates and other influential people in town. He told them that the county governor would openly read the Emperor's statement on the first day of the month at Wenmiao Temple, and he suggested the group should bring the woman's case to the county governor's attention at that time. One man said that this case had nothing to do with him and he was unwilling to handle it. Mr. Wang said: "This case involves protecting a women's reputation and a child's interests. It deals with principles of virtue and justice. Everyone who reads a book and understands the principles should take this as his own business. We are not taking the case forward because of self interest. This is not defiance of the authorities. If the governor blames us, I will take full responsibility." Everyone was touched by his righteousness and agreed to support him.

When the county governor came to Wenmiao Temple, the group turned in their letter and asked him to review it. The governor was a good official with a clear mind. After he read it, he said: "This is a matter of people's honor and dignity. I invite everyone here to carefully investigate the facts. If her husband's family intentionally framed her, then we must punish them according to the law. But I suggest that your investigation must be based on facts, so that you do not bring more trouble to yourselves." Mr. Wang stood up and explained his investigation to the governor. He presented the case with clear logic and facts. The governor was impressed by his presentation and praised him.

Several days later, the court had a hearing on the case. Under intense questioning, the husband's family members were speechless and finally admitted that they had falsely framed the woman. The case was closed and the woman's reputation was restored. The woman asked her parents to offer 100 gold coins to Mr. Wang, but he refused to take the money. When the family insisted. Mr. Wang finally got angry: "Do you think I did this for money?" He was very adamant about not accepting the money. Finally the woman's family packed up the money and left.

On New Year's Eve, Mr. Wang saw the same two men in black again in his dream. They took him to the same place as the year before. The emperor said to him in a happy voice: "I appreciate your quick action correcting your sins. I have returned your scholarly achievements to you already. Originally, you were supposed to score very high in next years' imperial examination. But your efforts to save the woman and child moved the gods in heaven, so you will pass the examination a year ahead of time. You should continue doing good deeds and not slack off. You will have a very bright future." Wang kowtowed again to thank the emperor.

In this world, in addition to writing, there are many more activities that can be used to save people. If one saves more people, one will bring more good fortune to oneself. That is completely justified. In reality, everyone, regardless of social status, job, or environment, can choose to be a good person. Helping others in need, using resources wisely, and upholding justice are the right things for everyone to do.

April 27, 2007