Zheng Jian, Contributor, Dora Li, Contributing Translator
Li Yu was born in Jiangyang County of Guangling during the Tang Dynasty. He was a just man and was strict with himself. For generations, his family had been in the business of selling grain. When he was 15, his father left on business and, ever since, Li Yu took care of the grain store.
When people came to buy grain, he would hand them a dou (a container that could hold about three gallons) and a sheng (a measuring scoop that could hold about a quarter gallon) and let them take grain themselves. No matter how expensive the price was at the market, he made only 20 cents per quarter gallon of grain. Nonetheless, he still had enough money each day to support his family. His father felt he was so strange and said to him, “Usually, grain stores use a larger dou for buying and a smaller dou for selling. That is the way to make a big profit. I used the same size dou for buying and selling and thought I was conducting myself quite well. But you just give the dou and sheng to the buyers and let them take the grain themselves. What you do is more generous than what I did. The strange thing is that we still have enough money to support the family. This is really being watched over by Heaven. There must be a God protecting us.”
At age 80, Li Yu was still doing the same business. Later, there was a prime minister also called Li Yu who acted concurrently as a military official in Huainan. To avoid using the same name as the official, Li Yu changed his name to Li Kuan. One day, Prime Minister Li had a dream. In the dream, he went to a placed called “Huayang Paradise,” where there were fresh flowers surrounding brilliant- colored pavilions. He walked in and saw a large piece of marble on which a name list of immortals was carved. Each name glowed with golden light. When he saw that the name Li Yu was there, he became so excited and thought that it was his reward from the good deeds he did while he was an official. He must be destined to become an immortal in the future, he thought. At this moment, two celestial children walked out from the side of the marble and told him, “This Li Yu is not you; it is a commoner living in Jiangyang under your jurisdiction.”
The characters read “Li Yu”
Prime Minister Li visited many places in Jiangyang County to look for Li Yu, and eventually he found out that Li Kuan was originally called Li Yu. Prime Minister Li showed great respect to Li Yu and pleaded with him to teach him the cultivation secrets of Taoism. Li Kuan told him that the only thing he did in life was sell grain to people.
Upon hearing the whole story, Prime Minister Li sighed and said, “You asked the buyers to take the grain themselves each day. It looks like a small thing, but it is not something that most people can do. It’s not what an average person could do, and the virtue you’ve accumulated is much greater. I realize one thing from your noble behavior: that everything we are doing in human society is recorded. If we do good things, even if we are poor, we will be protected by the Gods and also can be added to the name list of immortals, and this is also to give a warning to people in the future.”
After Prime Minister Li pleaded with him many times, Li Yu taught him some cultivation secrets that he had enlightened to.
Li Kuan lived until he was 100 years old, and he still looked healthy. Three days after he died, people heard the creaking sound of his coffin opening. When they opened the coffin, Li Kuan’s body was gone and only his clothes were left. Li Kuan had become an immortal, and it is believed that he went to the Huayang Paradise that Prime Minister Li had dreamed about.