Shang Shih-Ying of the Ming dynasty was a good caligrapher. Though poor, he was diligent in doing good. Once he saw a man asking for aid to print and distribute the Kan-Ying P'ien. He wanted to help the man, and having no means, pawned his clothing. With the cash thus realized he gratified his pious desire, but on this account had to go without warm clothing in winter. Even when he was thirty years of age, he was as poor as ever. He went to the capital to try his fortune, but nobody seemed to recognize his abilities. To gain a living he was obliged to compose and copy for other people, poems which were to be dedicated to Kwang Ti.
New Year's Eve was approaching and the chief mandarin had some official business to attend to at the shrine of Kwang Ti. He sent
one of his clerks who was a man of good judgment, and he greatly admired the work of Shang, hung up in the shrine, and asked the poor scholar to accompany him home as a guest of honor.
On the night of the fifteenth of January, the festival of lanterns, the chief mandarin, according to custom, decorated his garden and tested the poetical and calligraphic skill of his invited friends in competitive games, the best compositions to be attached to the lanterns. Since the result was not very satisfactory, the clerk recommended the poor scholar who stayed at his house. Shang was at once summoned and his unusual talents were admired by the whole company.
It happened that evening that the Emperor came to inspect the illumination, and he was greatly impressed by the beautiful handwriting of the inscriptions. He had their author presented to him, and recognizing his worth, conferred a high literary degree upon him. From that time, Shang's promotion was rapid till he was honored with the highest literary title and occupied the very important position of secretary to the Emperor.
One day after his regular work at the Court, he went to the shrine of Kwang Ti to give thanks for his prosperity. The priest received
him very cordially, and when the ceremony was over, let him take a rest in the temple when lo, Kwang Ti appeared to him in his ethereal form and said: "The prosperity you are enjoying to-day is the result of your meritorious work in helping others print and distribute the Kan-Ying P'ien. Keep on cultivating piety in your heart as before, be loyal and faithful to your superiors as well as to the State, and never think of abusing the power which is yours at present."
Coming to know the reason of his unparalleled success in life, he advised others to follow his example and made many converts.
[The reader of this story should know that Kwang Ti, the war god, is not merely the Chinese Mars, but presides generally over the affairs of mortals. He may be compared to St. Peter or the Archangel Michael.
In the illustration, the inscription over the entrance of the temple reads literally: "All the heavens together are filled with glory," reminding us of the beginning of the nineteenth Psalm: "The heavens declare the glory of God." The inscription reading downwards on the column is a loose quotation from the Kan-Ying P'ien: "Lucky stars follow the good man."]