Mr. Li, the aide to the prefect of Jiangling,once went from Luoyang to Chang′an to take the upcoming top-grade imperial examination.Stopping midway at an inn in Huayin County,he came upon a traveller dressed completely in white.Mr. went up to talk to him and thus an acquaintance was struck up between them.Sitting around the fire ,they talked , drank and ate merrily.They really enjoyed each other′s company.The next day saw them leave the inn and travel together.When they arrived at Zhaoying , the traveller in white said to Mr. Li,”I am a hermit .We had a wonderful time drinking together in Huayin.I am very grateful to you for the great kindness you′ve shown me.As some business claims my attention,I have to go to the town the first thing tomorrow morning.So I′m afraid we have to part now.But before we part ,wouldn′t you like me to tell you what your future will be like?Mr. Li made two deep bows before imploring him to tell him what the future had in store for him.Mr. Li took out from his bag a Chinese writing brush,ink and sheets of paper, as the hermit told him.In the moonlight, the hermit wrote down something on the paper.Now he folded and tucked the sheets individually into a sequence of three envelopes.Having sealed them,he put down on each a numeral to indicate the order in which they were to be opened one after another.Before he went ,the hermit told him to open the letters only in case of need.
Then Mr. Li travelled along, heading for the capital.There he took several examinations ,but he failed in the end.Without a penny to his name he could neither go back home nor stay in the inn.He said to himself,”I′m really desperate.It′s time to open the letter the hermit left me.”After going through the ritual of taking a bath and burning a bundle of joss sticks, he opened the first envelope.It contained a sheet of paper on which were inscribed the following words:”On a certain date in a certain year, Mr. Li opens the first envelope because he is in an awful plight and in urgent need of money. The way out is to go to Qinglong Buddhist Monastery and sit on the porch.”Then Mr. Li made for the monastery immediately.Twilight set in when he got there.He waited in anxiety in front of the monastery until it was too dark to see. Still he dared not leave.He began to mock at himself,”Can I get money sitting here and doing nothing?”A moment later two monks appeared one close behind another.Apparently one of them was the abbot of the monastery and the other just a servant.They were ready to shut the gate when they spotted Mr. Li sqatting there.The abbot asked,”Who′s there?”
“Just a traveller,your Excellency,”replied Mr. Li “My donkey is too tired to move and my home is far away .I can′t move on and I′m going to stay right here for the night.”
“It′s windy and freezing outside,”said the abbot.”You can′t shelter from yourself from the cold.Please come indoors.”Thus he invited him to come into the monastery.Mr. Li came in leading his donkey.The abbot prepared a meal and made tea for him.
It was already late in the night.The abbot looked Mr. Li up and down intently for a while.Then he lowered his head and sank into long deep thought before he politely asked,”May I know your surname, sir?”
“It′s Li,your Excellency,” He answered.
“Do you know a Mr. Li who was once magistrate of Songzi County?”
Mr. Li sprang upfrom his seat , frowning, and said in sadness,”Yes, he is my late father.”
The abbot began to sob and said,”He was my old friend of many years.Just now I noticed the striking likeness between you and him.As a matter of fact,I′ve been looking for you for many years but never expected to meet you like this.”
Mr. Li′s face was bathed in tears.And the abbot said again,”You are not well off as I can see.Your father left home to seek an official career taking with him lots of money and valuables.But he was not successful in his pursuit and finally got bogged down in a deplorable state right here in the monastery.He put 2000 strings of coins in my custody.The cash has been for me like a stone weighing on my mind ever since, because I have been completely at a loss how to pass on to you.Now that you are here,I consign it to you in person and relieve my mind of the weight.Tomorrow you can get the money after you write me a statement ,to the effect that you have taken the money away from me.”
Filled with mixed feelings of sadness and joy,Mr. Li had a restless night.At daybreak, he got the money and left.He bought a new a house and settled down in the capital.Before long he became a rich man with his fortune multiplying under his frugal management.
Years passed. He remained as before a failure from the imperial examination though he had in the interim taken the examination a couple of times.Left stranded in a foreign land, he was very disheartened and wanted to give up and go back home. But he thought better of it,”After all the imperial examination is the most important thing for a scholar.Perhaps it′s time for me to open the second envelope my hermit friend gave me.”After taking a bath early in the next morning, he opened the envelope.He found in it a sheet of paper reading,”On a certain date in a certain year,Mr. Li opens the second envelope when he is on the point of giving up the imperial examination. He can go and sit in the bridlery in the West Market.”He went to the West Market immediately after reading the letter.After he got there, he went into an uptairs bar in a restaurant to drink.Suddenly he heard someone downstairs saying,”I told the young gentlemn to come here at dawn, but he used up his money.” Then he said again,”He would have passed the imperial examination without giving a cent.”Mr. Li was very puzzled and he inquired about the matter .The man said, “The asssistant minister′s relative is in urgent need of money.If someone pays him 1000 strings of coins he will pledge to make him pass the imperial examination.The man with whom I made the appointment hasn′t shown up.Now I am leaving.”Mr. Li asked,”Is this true?”The man said,”The young gentleman is now sitting in the room upstairs.”Mr. Li said ,”I am a candidate for the imperial examination myself.I also have money. Can I see the young gentleman?”The man answered,”If that′s the case ,why can′t you see him?”Then he led Mr. Li upstairs.Sure enough Mr. Li saw a man talking and drinking in the room.The man said to him,”This is the assistant minister′s relative.”The young gentleman said,”The chief examiner is my own uncle.”Thereupon Mr. Li made a contract with him on the spot.The next year he passed the imperial examination as expected.
Later on Mr. Li was promoted to the rank of state prosecutor and concurrently aide to the prefect of Jiangling.He was suddenly taken ill with heart disease.He went in and out of consciousness several times in a moment.Death was expected at any moment. He said to his wife,”Now it′s time we open the third envelope my hermit friend left me.”Immediately his wife washed her hands and combed her hair and then opened the envelope.The letter read,”On a certain date in a certain year,the aide to the prefect of Jiangling falls ill with heart disease.The funeral affairs should be arranged.”Two days later Mr. Li died.[/外文]