Ancient Chinese Stories of Gentlemen:Jealousy Harms Others and Hurts Oneself  

Shen Gongbao,
035 Shen Gongbao, Investiture of the Gods at Ping Sien Si, Pasir Panjang, Perak, Malaysia
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By Qing Yan

Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty, one of the most respected emperors in Chinese history, once said, “For anyone who is a part of society, it is essential to be generous. That is, to feel happy when others’ lives go well and to feel sympathetic when others’ lives go downhill. Doing so will be good for oneself… Heaven will bless this person.”

Jiang Ziya, you want to protect the Zhou people? What abilities do you have? You have studied for merely 40 years. How can you match me?

Shen Gongbao, responding out of jealousy to Jiang Ziya

Some people do not share these feelings. Instead, they may feel unsettled when someone is better than they are. Out of jealousy, they may falsely accuse or harm the other person.

But this behaviour will ultimately bring harm to themselves. In traditional Chinese culture, it is believed that our fortunes are predestined according to what we have done in our previous lives. When we harm others, we will eventually have to pay for our deeds, as the following stories show.

Jealousy is a negative emotion caused by not accepting the fact that others can exceed us in the quality of their character, skills, achievements, or situations.

Shen Gongbao Is Punished for His Jealousy

Shen Gongbao is a character in the Chinese novel Investiture of the Gods. He and Jiang Ziya were fellow disciples of the Primitive God of Heaven.

When Shen learned that their master planned to dispatch Jiang Ziya to help establish the Zhou Dynasty and assign titles to different deities, he became very jealous. He pressed Jiang for an answer, “Which king are you to protect?”

Jiang replied, “I am to protect King Wu of the Zhou people, whose merits are of the calibre of the ancient emperors Yao and Shun, whose kindness is in tune with the universal characteristics. His rise matches perfectly with the change in the heavenly climate.

“The current ruler, King Zhou of the Shang Dynasty lacks any merits; he is on the way out and will be the last ruler of the Shang Dynasty.” Shen retorted, “I am going to protect your opponent and thwart your plans.” Jiang sternly told Shen, “How dare you! No one can violate our master’s orders. Nor can people reverse heavenly changes.” Shen was angry and retorted, “Jiang Ziya, you want to protect the Zhou people? What abilities do you have? You have studied for merely 40 years. How can

Emperor Kangxi from the Qing Dynasty

For anyone who is a part of society, it is essential to be generous. That is, to feel happy when others’ lives go well and to feel sympathetic when others’ lives go downhill. Doing so will be good for oneself… heaven will bless this person.

Shang Dynasty, lacks any merits; he is on the way out and will be the last ruler of the Shang Dynasty.”

Shen retorted, “I am going to protect your opponent and thwart your plans.”

Jiang sternly told Shen, “How dare you! No one can violate our master’s orders, nor can we reverse heavenly changes.”

Shen was angry and retorted, “Jiang Ziya, you want to protect the Zhou people? What abilities do you have? You have studied for merely 40 years. How can you match me? I can chop off my head, throw it into the air, and it falls right back on my neck as before. How dare you oppose me?” But Jiang ignored Shen, and Shen left in anger.

Shen started to disrupt Jiang’s efforts. He called on different deities to kill Jiang. Eventually, he was caught by the Primitive God of Heaven, who wanted to throw him under a huge mountain.

But Shen begged his master to forgive him by swearing, “If I continue to call out deities to thwart Jiang Ziya, I am willing to plug the hole of the North Sea with my own body.” As such, the Primitive God of Heaven let him go.

Pang Juanís jealousy of Sun Bin endured until his death. His last words were, “Too bad this war will make the brat [Sun Bin] famous.”Had Lu Yuqin been jealous of Li Chuyun, he could have taken the opportunity to speak ill of him. Instead, he reasoned with Emperor Taizu and defended Li based on the facts.

However, Shen did not repent. He continued to stir up disharmony. He asked the head of a cult to deploy 10,000 deities, which caused great trouble for Jiang’s King Wu.

The Primitive God of Heaven thus knocked Shen down. He told Shen, “You promised that if you continued to sabotage Jiang’s work, you would plug the North Sea. It is time you fulfill your promise.” That was where Shen ended up, at the bottom of the sea, where he could never see the sun rise again.

How Can a Man Outsmart Heaven?

The following story comes from the book Examples of Supernormal Phenomena. Su Dazhang, who lived during the Song Dynasty, was known in the townships for his superb understanding of the I Ching, or the Book of Changes.

Su had just passed the first level of the imperial examinations, and was about to take the second level of the imperial examinations. One night, he dreamed that he was ranked 11th place in the upcoming exam.

Su told his dream to a fellow student. This student, who was also to take the same examination, was quite jealous that he did not have such an auspicious dream himself. He thus reported to the official overseeing the exam that Su must have bribed one of the officials reviewing the exam papers. Otherwise, how could Su be so certain he would be ranked 11th place?

After all the students’ papers were graded, the official-in-charge pulled out the paper that ranked 11th place. As was the convention at the time, the students’ names were covered up on the papers they turned in.

The official-in-charge read the paper and became angry. The paper discussed the I Ching, which was Su’s specialty.

He interrogated the officials who had graded the paper, “How do you explain this? Did any of you take bribes from Su, the I Ching expert, who was so confident that he would end up in 11th place?”

All the officials were quite upset. They had to come up with another paper to replace this I Ching paper.

Finally, on the day the results were announced, when all the candidates’ names were uncovered, the official-in-charge was astonished to find that the newly selected paper that now ranked 11th place was Su’s.

On the other hand, the jealous student who had made up lies to frame Su for bribery had been swapped out from his original 11th position.

As a result, Su passed this second level of imperial examinations. The following year, Su passed the third and final level of the imperial examinations, while his fellow student who had made up false charges against him failed the exam.

Jealousy is a negative emotion caused by not accepting the fact that others can exceed us in the quality of their character, skills, achievements, or situations. When one badmouths others or does things to hurt others out of jealousy, this demonstrates a lack of kindness in one’s heart. This also creates karma for oneself, which will result in retribution.

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