Today we will talk about a story of where a family’s fortune is from. The story is from the book XueTaoXiaoShuo 雪涛小说 from the Ming dynasty around the 16th century.
In the book, it says a tradesman was so poor that he barely scraped a living. One day he picked up an egg and excitedly told his wife, “here is the family’s fortune!”
“Where?” asked the wife.
“Right here,” said the man, showing her the egg, “but it will be ten years before we become rich. I’ll take this egg and have the neighbor’s setting hen hatch it. Out of that brood I will bring a female chick home to lay eggs. In one month we can have 15 chickens. In two years as the chickens give birth to chickens, we can have 300. They should fetch ten pieces of silver in the market and with the money I’ll get five calves. In three years when the calves reproduce, I’ll have 25. When the calves’ offspring give birth in another three years, I’ll have 150. This should bring in 300 pieces of silver. If I use the money to make loans, in three years more I’ll have 500 pieces of silver. Two thirds of this to buy a house, one third to buy servants and another wife- and you and I can enjoy our remaining years to the end. Won’t that be wonderful?”
All the wife heard was that her husband was thinking of buying another wife. Angrily she flung the egg away, smashing it and crying, “let’s not harbor the seed of disaster!” Enraged, the husband took her before the magistrate. “This wretched women has ruined the family’s fortune at a single stroke. She should be executed.” The magistrate asked the location of the fortune and the circumstances of the loss. The husband began with the egg and described all that had happened.
The magistrate said, “an evil woman has destroyed a great family fortune in one blow. She deserves to be executed.”
The wife protested loudly, “everything my husband has told you concerns things yet to come. Why should I suffer for that?”
“The concubine that your husband spoke of buying was also something yet to come. Why should you have became so jealous?” said the magistrate.
“True enough”, said the wife, “but one cannot move too soon in taking precautions against disaster.” The magistrate smiled and released her.
Alas! The man schemed from greed, and his wife smashed the egg from jealousy. Both were minds under delusion. The wise man, free of desire, recognized that even what exists is delusion; how much more so is that which has yet to come!