There is a Chinese idiom “open the net”, which comes from Cheng Tang, the founder of the Shang Dynasty.
One day, Cheng Tang saw a man opening a net to catch the birds in the forest. The man hung a net on the east, south, west and north sides and then knelt down and prayed, saying, “I hope that all the birds flying from all directions will fall into my net and become my prey!” Cheng Tang, a benevolent ruler, saw this sight and became very anxious and said, “Alas! If this happens, all the birds and animals in the world will be extinct.”
So Cheng Tang went over and untied the net on three sides, leaving only one side open, and then he also knelt down and prayed, but what he said was, “O birds and beasts, if you want to run to the left, run to the left; if you want to run to the right, run to the right; if you don’t want to live, enter the net.”
Cheng Tang opened the net on three sides, but left only one side of the net, and this story later evolved into “opening one side of the net. (Lu Shi Chun Qiu and Shi Ji)
Embezzlement of charity funds, greed for beauty, and evil deeds
Wang Daodin, the master of Sitting Flower in the Qing Dynasty, also told a story of “opening one side of the net”. The story is about a certain A, a sword and pencil official in the governor’s office (in the old days, when people told stories and it was inconvenient to specify the name of the other party, they used “certain A” instead).
A A rely on a sword and pencil kung fu, dancing, framing others, really no evil. He often went to great lengths to catch officials in order to blackmail them, and if they did not comply with his wishes, he would write a petition with his sword and pen, framing them for felonies. Most of those who were framed by him lost their lives as a result of the false accusation. The officials and the people were afraid of Mao A, and they saw him as if they saw a tiger.
In the provincial capital, there was a hall for widows who had no one to depend on. A certain A played a trick and became the director of the hall. After a few years, most of the funds for charity went into the pockets of a certain A. The widows in the hall could hardly survive. The widows in the church could hardly survive. A certain A lusted after a rich young nun, seduced her and married her as his stepmother.
When he failed to heed the advice of God, he was warned by God that disaster would come from heaven.
A certain A did nothing but his two sons were wise and generous, and when they saw their father behaving badly, they often tried to persuade him. In anger, he threw his sons out of the house.
There was an old mother in the Family of a certain A, who was already in her seventies and usually liked to do good deeds and recite Buddhism. One night in the spring of 1813, she saw a man with a red face and red robe, like the world’s god of fire, appear in the hall. The old mother was shocked and hastened to hide.
The next day, she told a certain A, advising him, “Beware of fire!” A certain A grumpily and angrily scolded the old maid, saying that she was confusing people with her words, so he drove her away and hired a new maid. On the third day of the new maid’s arrival, A’s house caught fire. After the fire, the family begged A to open the lock of the door to escape, but A was worried that someone would take advantage of the fire and was determined not to open the lock.
When the officers arrived, they broke the door open and rushed in to save the family. A’s wife, daughter and several servants had been burned to death, but only A was still breathing, and the officers carried A out of the fire.
A certain A was buried in the fire, and the people were saddened
After he sobered up a bit, he suddenly thought that the important case files were placed on the upper floor of the inner house, and if the case files were lost, he would be punished by the law and sent to the army. Seeing that the upper floor of the inner room was not yet on fire, a certain A rushed in to get the case files. As soon as he went upstairs, a gust of wind blew, and the fire changed direction and went straight to the inner room, and instantly the stairs burned.
A A stood upstairs screaming, the crowd saw the fire is too big, do not know how to save him. In full view of everyone, a certain A was buried in the fire. The next day, the crowd checked the scene of the fire, found that the head, face and limbs have been burned, leaving only a section of the torso, as charred wood.
The fire only destroyed the family of a certain A. The neighbors were unharmed. The two sons and the mother of a certain A because they were driven out of the house, all escaped a disaster.
The heavens are open to see which side people choose to take
A man who had harmed others with his sword and pen was punished so tragically. Wang Daodin, the owner of Sitting Flower, commented, “Hey! A certain person was like a fox under the city or a rat in the society; his crime was as serious as Mount Qiu; his retribution was as terrible as burning the forest, and his body was burnt like charred wood.”
Wang Daodin said that this is the heaven’s favor to people: a certain A’s two sons and the old mother all escaped the disaster because they were driven out of the house; the fire only destroyed a certain A’s family, the neighbors on the left and right were all safe; the old mother, who was doing good deeds and chanting Buddhism, heaven let her see the disaster in advance, so she escaped the disaster.
Disasters often come suddenly, some people can escape, some people can not escape. Whether one is spared or not may depend on which side of good or evil one usually chooses.
(According to the next volume 8 of “Sitting Flower Chih-Go‧Nephrite Officials”)