Episode 106: Debt Collector

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When we talk about debt collectors, we would think of somebody whom we owe money to. In Chinese culture, in a lot of ancient literature, you can see sometimes the parents call their children debt collectors since children are a huge investment that you probably can hardly get paid back financially especially. It is believed that children were the debt collectors from the last life that parents need to pay back in this life. Today we will tell two stories about how parents are paying back to their “debt collectors” and both of the stories are from the book Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio 聊斋 志异from the Qing dynasty 清朝.

The first story says there was an accountant working for a prestigious family. Over the years, the accountant had a good fortune himself. One day he had a weird dream that a person came to him and said, “you own me 40000 bucks. Pay me back as soon as possible.” The accountant didn’t have a chance to talk in the dream that the person walked into his home.

When he woke up, his wife gave birth to a son. The accountant was thinking perhaps his son was that person in the dream that asked him for money. He accepted the fate that he would pay back the money by using it for his son. So he put away the money 40000 bucks just for his son’s expenses.

When his son was around 3 or 4 years old, the accountant found that there was only 700 bucks left. The nanny came with his son and the accountant joked with his son saying, “your 40000 bucks is almost used up. What are you going to do?” After the words, his 3 year old son’s face changed and suddenly died. The accountant buried his son and used up all the rest of the money.

The author commented that in the old time, there were old people who have no kids asked help from the monk, the monk answered, “you don’t own other people’s money and nobody owes you money. How can you have kids?”

The second story will be another example of the monk’s words. It is even weirder and scarier. It says there was a man called Liu XiChuan 柳西川 from the place JiaoZhou 胶州. He had a son in his 40s. Mr. Liu spoiled his son so much that he would do anything for him. Of course, the son became an bad behavior person when he grew up. He lived a luxurious life with his dad’s money and spent all the savings.


Later, the son got sick. He told his father if he ate the donkeys he raised, he would get better. Mr. Liu didn’t want to kill the donkeys. The son curved his father and became more ill. Mr. Liu didn’t have choice but killed the fattest donkey to feed his son. The son only took one bite and didn’t want to eat at all. Plus, his became more ill and died not too long after that.


Three or four years later, a group of people from Mr. Liu’s village visited Mountain Tai 泰山. When they were climbing the mountain, they saw a man riding a donkey who looked exactly like Mr. Liu’s died son. The man saw them and bowed and asked how they were doing. The villagers were all shocked however nobody dared to asked him about his death. They just asked him, “what are you doing here?” Mr. Liu’s son replied, “nothing much just wondering around.” He asked which hotel the villagers lived and promised to meet them the next day to catch up and then he left with the donkey.


The villagers were confused but waited for him the next day. Mr. Liu’s son visited as expected with his donkey. He laughed and talked with the villagers. Some people said, “your father missed you every day. Why don’t you go back and visit him?” Mr’ Liu’s son asked surprisingly, “who’s my father?” The villagers said, “Liu XiChuan, your father.” Mr. Liu’ son stopped laughing and after a while, he said, “if he missed me, please let him know that I will be here in this hotel waiting for him on April 7th.” After the words, he left.


The villagers were more confused and told Mr. Liu the whole story when they went back to the village. Mr. Liu couldn’t believe his son was still alive and cried.


On April 7th, he arrived at the hotel. He told the owner of the hotel the reason he was there. The owner suggested, “I saw the man the other day when he talked about you. He looked pretty cruel and could be up to no good. I think you should be careful.” Mr. Liu cried and didn’t want to believe his son would hurt him. The owner said, “if you want, you can hide in the closet first just in case. You can still come out to meet him if everything is fine.” So Mr. Liu listened to the owner and hid in the closet.

After a while, the son came and asked the owner of the hotel, “did Mr. Liu come?” The owner said, “no.” The son started cursing.


The owner asked, “why are you saying those words to your father?” The son answered, “how can he be my father?! I used to trust him and had a business together with him. But he betrayed me and had all of my money and never paid me back. This time I have to kill him. He is not my father!” Following the words, he left the hotel.


Mr. Liu heard every single word in the closet and sweated so much. He was afraid to come out of the closet until the owner of the hotel told him to. After that, he ran back to his village and never wanted to mention his died son.



聊斋志异 Strange Stories from A Chinese Studio

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