The Love of Life

24. Long Life, Happiness, and Honor


Chang was a minor official in the county government. He was upright and righteous. He had a kind heart and did merciful deeds. Even though his post didn’t pay much, he often went to the butcher’s shops and bought animals bound for the slaughter. He took them home and raised them.

He had lots of children and grandchildren, which for Chinese people is the best luck possible. He never wasted any money, so as the years went by, he saved quite a bit of money. Whenever he could, he bought doomed animals from the butcher’s and took them home to raise. When these animals died of old age, he always buried them carefully.

Chang grew old, too, and retired. He spent his old age taking care of his children, his grandchildren, and his animals. The neighbors thought he was nuts, but he didn’t mind. He taught his children to respect all life. He never let them kill any animal. The whole family was vegetarian.

Because he was a vegetarian and had saved many lives, when he was very old, Chang was still as healthy and lively as a person much younger.

When he was over one hundred years old, he was still radiantly healthy. His eyes were clear. His skin was bright. His hair was black and shiny. One day he called the whole family together. When his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren had all gathered before him, he told them, “During my lifetime, I have saved many animals, so I have accumulated much merit for you. Today the Palace of Heaven has sent for me. In the future, the Chang family will prosper. You will all live long lives. After I leave you, always remember my teaching: never kill any living creature.”

When he finished, the whole family heard music that seemed to be coming down from heaven. They had never heard such beautiful music. It sounded so glorious that it must not have come from this earth, but it seemed to be coming closer.

All of Chang’s children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren looked up to see where the music was coming from, but they didn’t see anything. When they looked down again, Chang was sitting in his favorite chair, looking happy, but he was not breathing anymore. He had died peacefully, without any illness.

Local officials heard this amazing story. When they had authenticated it, they reported to the Emperor, who honored Chang’s spirit by promoting him to a higher rank.

Chang’s descendants never forgot his teaching. They lived long, happy lives, and never killed a living creature or ate a bite of meat.

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