Good Stories from China: Just and Unjust–The Story of a Good Girl

September 9, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: September 9, 2006 12:00 am

This folk story is about a good girl who lived in the Song Dynasty about a thousand years ago. The girl was not only poor but crippled. On top of that, she lost both parents at a young age, and had to rely on begging and the villagers' help to survive.

A river flowed at the edge of her village, and villagers had to wade through the water when collecting fuelwood or farming the land at the other side of the river. In rainy seasons, the river was often untraversable. The villagers became used to living with the inconvenience, but the little girl had a different idea.

Every day, she picked up rocks from nearby and piled them up on the river bank. She said she wanted to help build a stone bridge so that people could cross the river more easily. Adults laughed at her dream at first.

But over time, they saw the pile of rocks grew, so they started to change their minds. They joined the little girl in collecting rocks.

Before long, the pile of rocks at the river bank grew to be so large that the villagers invited a bridge builder to build a stone bridge. The little girl spent all her time helping with the bridge building.

Just as the bridge was about to be finished, an accident occurred in quarrying rocks and the little girl was seriously injured. She survived but became blind in her two eyes. While she continued to help with what she could, the villagers sighed about heaven's injustice to the good girl.

When the villagers celebrated the building of the bridge, they all felt sad for the good girl–although poor, crippled, and blind–who had inspired it all. The little girl did not feel sad for herself, however. She smiled broadly, showing genuine happiness for the villagers.

An unexpected thunderstorm came suddenly, as if to wash away all the dust on the new bridge. After lightening struck down following a roaring thunder, people were dumfounded to discover that the good little girl had died of electrocution. They could not fathom why heaven was so cruel to the good girl.

The well-respected Magistrate Bao Zheng, the imperial judge, happened to pass by the area. Villagers stopped Bao and told him the story of the good girl. They asked him why heaven was so unjust? Magistrate Bao could not answer. Saddened by the story, he wrote down the following words: Do No Evil, Do No Good.

Upon returning to the royal court, the Emperor asked him for a private meeting. The night before, the Emperor had a newborn son, but he cried often and nobody knew what to do. Bao looked at the newborn, marveled at his healthy skin. Taking the newborn's hand, Bao was surprised to see words on it, Do No Evil, Do No Good, the exact words he wrote at hearing the little girl's story. His face became flustered. He tried hurriedly to wipe out those words from the newborn's hand, and those words disappeared instantly.

Seeing the birth mark on his son's hand had disappeared, the Emperor was upset, fearing that Bao had erased his son's lucky sign. Bao then told the Emperor the story of the little girl, and his writing of those exact words, about which he had felt uneasy. The Emperor was puzzled, and he ordered Bao to seek explanations in the nether world.

Using a tool provided to him by a shaman, Magistrate Bao went to the nether world. The King of the nether world told him the truth. That little village girl came from a soul that had committed great sins, and Gods had arranged for her to pay back the karma in three lifetimes: The first lifetime poor, lonely and crippled; the second lifetime blind; and the third lifetime struck dead by lightening. The girl was born crippled and poor, but she was so kind to others that Gods decided to shorten her payback time into two lifetimes. So she was made blind. The little girl still did not complain but continued to think of others first. Gods then reduced her payback time to one lifetime, and had her struck by lightening. The King of the nether world asked Magistrate Bao, “Don't you think it is a good thing to pay back karma of three lifetimes in one?” Now the soul has accumulated enough virtue to be born into a prince.

Magistrate Bao, whose job was to ensure justice for people, was now shown a new sense of justice that he could not even fathom. Of One thing he was certain: He could give the Emperor a good explanation.

Source: This story is adapted from (in Chinese)