守义还重金 子孙享余庆Returning Riches to its Owner Brought Fortune for Generations
Traditional Chinese culture is about cultivating kindness and promoting morality. Ancient Chinese people believed that it is a treasure to be free of greed. It was an ancient Chinese motto shared among not only the elite stratum of the learned men, but also among common merchants. In fact, there is a common saying in China, "A man of virtue obtains wealth by honest and moral means."
There was a famous Chinese royal court official in the Ming Dynasty named Yang Bo, who was also known as Yang Weiyue, from Puzhou (today's Yongji), Shanxi Province. His father, Yang Zhan, used to be a merchant in the Huiyang region before he became an imperial censor, whose duty was to censor and impeach government officials. When Yang Zhan was still a merchant, a salt dealer from Guanzhong region left one thousand gold coins with Yang Zhan for safekeeping. However, he never returned to pick up the gold. For security, Yang Zhan hid the gold coins in the soil of a flowerpot. Meanwhile, he sent a messenger to the Guanzhong region to look for the salt dealer. When the messenger finally found the salt dealer's home, he was informed that he had already passed away, leaving his only son behind. After Yang Zhan heard the news, he invited the salt dealer's son to his home in Puzhou. Yang Zhan pointed at the flowerpot where the gold was hidden and told him, "Your father left one thousand gold coins at my home for safekeeping. It is time you bring them back home." The salt dealer's son was astonished and hesitated to take the gold. Yang Zhan told him, "The gold belongs to your family. Why do you hesitate to claim it?" He told the salt dealer's son how the gold coins were left in his care. The young man was very touched. He kowtowed to Yang Zhan before he left with his father's gold coins.
Later Yang Zhan had a son named Yang Bo, who was very bright and studied diligently since he was little. He won first place in the provincial civil service examination during the Jiajing Era (1521 - 1566 A.D.) of Emperor Shizong's reign. He was Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Finance before he was appointed as Governor of Jiliao Prefecture. Because he was highly accomplished and defeated a Japanese bandit invasion, he was summoned back to the royal court and made Minister of the Ministry of Finance. Admiring Yang Bo for his composure, vision, and generosity, Emperor Shizong valued him as one of his top aides. Yang Bo had a son named Yang Junmin, who also won first place in the provincial civil service examination and later also became Minister of the Ministry of Finance. Yang's family, starting with Yang Zhan, remained a family of wealth, prominence, and power for many generations.
Yang Zhan fulfilled his duty of safekeeping the gold coins. Although the owner of the gold coins failed to come back and claim the gold before he died, Yang Zhan did not steal the gold. He sent people to travel thousands of miles to look for the owner of the gold and passed the coins to the owner's orphaned son. As a businessman, in a profession stereotyped as greedy, Yang Zhan had a lofty character. He proved himself as a man that could be trusted with money and could be trusted to look after an orphan.
In return, he was blessed with good fortune. In addition, his good fortune was extended to his offspring. For generations, his family enjoyed wealth and prominence. This is a good example of how Heaven rewards those with lofty characters and morality.