A long time ago, there was a young man who was a student. His name was Ren Chang. He was a man of integrity and intelligence. When he was eligible to sit for his examination, he packed his books and, along with $300, started out for Dongjing Bian Liang.
It was a long distance way to Dongjing Bian Liang and Ren Chang walked day and night to get to his examination on time.
Ren Chang walked and walked until he came to a wide river. The river blocked his path. In order to cross the river, he hired a rowboat. Halfway across the river there was a sudden change in the weather. Ren Chang was rowing into a strong headwind.
Ren Chang and his boat were blown to the lower course of the river. He was saturated by the rain.
Suddenly he saw a large black shape floating beside the boat. When he reached out and grabbed it, he discovered that the black shape was actually millions and millions of ants sticking together. Ren Chang put what he had grabbed in the boat and continued to rescue the rest of the ants and insects.
“Help! Help!” came a cry. A big wave crashed onto Ren Chang's boat. Suddenly a hand gripped the side of Ren Chang's boat.
Ren Chang heard the cry for help again. Ren Chang reached out and hauled the man into his boat. The boat nearly overturned because it was unbalanced.
Ren Chang looked carefully at the person he had hauled from the sea. He was a young man.
In the evening, the storm stopped. Ren Chang's boat reached the shore safely. He put all the insects and ants into a safe place.
The guy who was rescued by Ren Chang asked him what his name was and where he was going. Ren Chang answered, “My name is Ren Chang. I am attending an examination in the capital. Unfortunately I encountered inclement weather.”
That guy said, “Your name is Ren Chang, my name is Ren Duan. Who knows we may be from the same family five hundred years ago. I am also going to the same place as you. Let's keep each other company on the trip. I can help carry your luggage.”
Ren Chang had never been far away from home and he was not aware of the dangers of the outside world. He agreed at once with Ren Duan. Ren Chang said, “Good! We can keep each other company. I have $300 with me. We can spend it carefully together.”
Ren Duan asked Ren Chang how old he was. Ren Chang said, “I was born in the year of the Rabbit. I am 22 years old.”
Ren Duan told Ren Chang that he was born in the year of the Tiger and that he was 23 years old. Ren Duan said, “You can call me Big Brother then.”
Ren Chang said, “Big Brother, I have some dried food here. Later on we can get some water and have a simple meal. Then we continue our trip early morning tomorrow.”
They came to a well under a big tree but no rope was attached. Ren Chang untied the rope from his luggage and tied it around his waist. He took a big bowl to fetch water from the well.
Ren Duan was holding the rope and thought, “If I leave him in the well, I can have his $300.” Ren Duan threw the rope into the well and fled with the money.
“Big Brother Ren Duan! Big Brother Ren Duan!” Ren Chang kept shouting but there was no response. Ren Chang did not know that Ren Duan had run away.
In the middle of the night, a gust of wind blew. Three deities appeared above the well and spoke with deep resonant voice.
The first deity said, “I built this well 30 years ago.”
The second deity said, “Three miles heading west from here is Lee Village. An old elm tree stands in the middle of the village. Under the tree there is a source of water. The villagers should cut the old elm tree down and build a well there. If they did this, they would not have to travel three miles to collect their water.”
The third deity said, “Officer Lee's daughter is suffering a strange illness. There is a carp spirit inside the dried-up well in his backyard. They should pour a huge load of lime into the well.
The three deities left after the conversation. At dawn, people from Lee Village came to get water. They saved Ren Chang from the well. He followed the people to Lee Village. He saw a notice on Officer Lee's door saying, “My daughter, Miss Lee, will marry whoever cures her illness.” Ren Chang took the notice off the door. The guard took Ren Chang to see Officer Lee. Officer Lee entertained Ren Chang with the best food. After the meal, Officer Lee asked Ren Chang how he thought he could cure his daughter.
Ren Chang said, “Please send someone to buy a large truckload of lime and pour it into the dried-up well; then your daughter will recover,” said Ren Chang.
Officer Lee did exactly as he was told. Three days later, Miss Lee was fully recovered. Officer Lee selected the best day for his daughter to marry Ren Chang. Ren Chang and Ms. Lee loved each other, respected each other, and enjoyed doing things together.
A few days after their wedding, Ren Chang continued his journey to attend the examination. Officer Lee prepared a horse and gave $500 to Ren Chang. Ren Chang rode to the capital on the horse. Before Ren Chang left, he told Officer Lee that a well could be built under the old elm tree.”
When Ren Chang arrived in the city, a shabby beggar pulled at the reins of the horse and said to Ren Chang, “Brother Ren Chang, I miss you very much.”
Ren Chang looked at the beggar and saw it was Ren Duan. Ren Chang asked, “How did you become like this?”
Ren Duan said, “The last time I was at the well a tiger suddenly appeared from nowhere. I had no choice but to run for my life. Finally I arrived in the capital and I lived in a motel. I got sick with a rash that appeared all over my body. I spent all my money on medication. After I recovered, I was penniless. I now have to beg on the streets.”
After Ren Chang had listened to Ren Duan's story, he told Ren Duan what had happened at the well and his marriage to Miss Lee. He said to Ren Duan, “I have money. Here, take $100 to buy yourself something to eat.”
Ren Duan took the money and went off to the well. He maneuvered himself into the well. In the middle of the night, a gust of wind brought the three deities.
The first one said, “This well was built by me 30 years ago.”
The second one said, “There is already a well built in the middle of Lee Village. No one will come here to get water anymore.”
The third one said, “Let us fill this well up with the rocks then.”
The three deities threw many rocks into the well. Soon the well was filled. The devious and ungrateful Ren Duan got what he deserved.
Ren Chang reached the capital to take the examination. The examination had to be written in Chinese calligraphy.
Ren Chang had not learned the art of Chinese calligraphy. At that very moment the ants and insects that Ren Chang had saved from the river came and dipped themselves into his ink well and then crawled onto his examination answer sheet. A few minutes later the insects and ants had formed the required calligraphy.
The kindhearted Ren Chang placed first in the examination whereas the devious and ungrateful Ren Duan went to hell. This story illustrates the saying:
Good acts reap good results; evil acts reap bad results.
When the time comes, everything reaps its own reward.