In ancient China, there was a successful scholar who was also adept at martial arts. He took pride in his martial arts prowess as well as his high-ranking government position. He was arrogant and often bullied his neighbors.
One of his neighbors was a white-bearded old man, who lived with his three sons. One day the old man said to his sons, “I have always taken care of the family. I was often bullied during my lifetime and all of you also suffered from those insults. I am getting old, and it is time for one of you to take charge of the family. Today, I will give each of you ten taels of silver (ancient monetary unit in China). You are to go out and do one virtuous deed. Whoever does the best job will be in charge of the family.”
After some time passed, all of them returned home. The old man asked them what they had done.
话说很久以前，在中国古代，有一个武状元，自以为功高官大，目中无人，常常欺侮邻居。 邻居是个白胡子老汉，和三个儿子生活在一起有一天，老汉将三个儿子叫到面前，说：「我当了一辈子家，常常受人欺负，你们也跟着呕了许多闲气，受了许多委屈。现在我老了，轮到你们当家了，今天，我给你们每人十两银子，出门做一件积功德的事，回来，谁有美德，谁做的最好，谁就当家。 」 过了一段时间，三个儿子都回来了，父亲要他们讲出各自做的善事。
The oldest son said, “One day, I saw a pregnant woman jump into a river to commit suicide. I immediately jumped into the river and pulled her back to the bank. I saved two lives because she was pregnant.” The old father nodded without saying a word.
The second son said, “When I passed a village, I saw a house on fire. It was a very windy day. The fire could have spread to the whole village. I alone put out the fire. I saved the lives and properties of many families.” The old father smiled, but did not say anything.
The youngest son said, “I’m so sorry, Dad. I did a very stupid thing. I saved an enemy. One day, while passing by a mountain, I found our neighbor the martial scholar asleep on the edge of a cliff. He had drunken himself into a stupor because he had been celebrating a victorious battle. He could have fallen over the cliff and been smashed to pieces if he turned over. When I first noticed him, I did not care what happened to him because I thought he deserved punishment. However, I changed my mind after I realized that our country still needed him to defend the border and fight our enemies on the battlefields. I woke him up. He was very embarrassed. He bowed to me and then rode away on his horse.”
The old man laughed and made the youngest son the head of the family. When the other two sons did not agree with the choice their father had made, the father explained, “Pulling a woman out of the river only saved one life. Putting out the house fire only saved one family. People can only live in peace and be content when the country is at peace and prosperous. Your youngest brother placed the interests of the country over his personal grudge. That is the highest virtue.”
三儿子说：「爹，对不起您老人家，我做来了一件愚蠢的事，救了一个仇人。那天，我路过大山，看见邻居武状元出征胜利归来，高兴地喝醉了酒，倒在悬崖边睡着了，一翻身就会摔到崖下，粉身碎骨，我本不想去管他，摔下去是他自己倒霉;可是又一想，边疆正需要他去防守，沙场需要他去征战，最后我还是把他喊醒了，他羞愧满面，深深给我做了一个揖，上马走了。」 老父听罢，哈哈大笑，便让小儿子当家，大儿子和二儿子都不服气。 老父说：「救命保住一人;救火保住一家，只有国家太平富强，百姓才能安居乐业，你们的弟弟能丢开个人恩怨，先为国，后为家，这是最高的美德。」
The youngest son then became the head of the family. The martial scholar acknowledged the wrongful deeds he had done to the old man’s family. He appreciated the youngest son for his forgiveness. The two families got along well and became good neighbors.
Although the story is short, it is very inspiring. The old man and his sons were righteous, particularly the youngest son. His great compassion and forbearance changed the belligerent neighbor.