A Lame Old Buddhist Priest

A lame old priest was so renowned for self-denying liberality that the great Emperor Ch’ien Lung (乾隆) actually paid him a visit. After some conversation Ch’ien Lung presented him with a valuable pearl, which the old man immediately bestowed upon a beggar he espied among the crowd. His Majesty was somewhat taken aback at this act of rudeness, and asked him if he always gave away everything in the same manner. On receiving an affirmative reply, the Emperor added, “Even down to the crutch on which you lean?” “Ah,” said the priest, “it is written that the superior man does not covet what his friend cannot spare.” “But supposing,” said the Emperor, “he was not a superior man.” “In that case,” answered the priest, “you could not expect me to be his friend.”

(H. A. Giles, Chinese Sketches, 1875)

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