A Gallop on the Embankment with Spring Breeze Chapter 32: Merchants
Proofread by Fu Tianying
After the lion dance competition, Ma Tian'en's prestige in Ma Family began to rise. Ma Chaosheng was also slowly recovering from the injury, but he was willing to cultivate Ma Tian'en through this opportunity, so he was not eager to withdraw the authority; instead, he let Ma Tian'en do whatever she wanted. And some business realted to the wharf and shops had gradually turned to Ma Tian'en. Watching Ma Tian'en matured day by day, Ma Chaosheng felt very pleased. He often told Mrs. Ma that it was a blessing in disguise.
Though she was busy, Ma Tian'en did not fall behind in learning, thanks to her good teacher, Wu Zhong. And Wu Zhong would tell her some skills of running business, like Shih Chi·Biographies of Merchants which Ma Tian'en was interested in.
"The world is bustling, all for profit. People will not know rites until all warehouses are full, and they will not know glory and shame until they have enough food and clothing. Therefore, it is not a shameful thing to do business; instead, it benefits the country and the people. Pursuing profits is not a matter of low moral character, but of human instinct. The point is where we can use it after we make profits. If it is used to build bridges and pave roads for the benefit of the countryside, it is naturally the best. If it is for self-indulgence, as long as it is obtained by normal means and is not harmful to others, there is no shame. But it is really an inferior act to pursue profits only for the sake of pursuing them and to be willing to do anything in the process of pursuing them even if it will definitely do harm to others." Beijing was not prosperous in the past. After the imperial government moved the capital here, merchants transported many goods from the south, and built restaurants, shops and private banks, which made the city prosperous. If there were no merchants or water transport, people in the capital would have problems even in eating. So although Wu Zhong was a scholar, he did not despise businessmen at all, but respected them from his heart.
Ma Tian'en nodded. She didn't like to listen to the boring truth. But today, she thought Wu Zhong's words were right. Among scholars, farmers, artisans and merchants, merchants are always the last one to be respected. All are inferior, and only scholars rank the highest. But must scholars and merchants be opposite? Like Fan Li, he is regarded as the "sage of running business". Isn't he also an excellent scholar? Since scholars can also be merchants, merchants can also be scholars, why do people in the world only despise merchants? She wanted to be a great scholar and an excellent merchant as well.
"Sir, if a businessman can insist on his own moral character and does not do things that are harmful to others because of pursuing profits, can he be respected by the world?"
"It's true, but the world often misunderstands some people. When you do something good, others may not appreciate you, but you still have to do something good."
"Why? If there is no return for good and no punishment for evil, why should we be good? "Ma Tian'en's world is very simple. She thinks that if she does well, she should be praised while if she does badly, she should be punished. If you return good for evil, what should you do for good? If there is no distinction between good and evil in the world, why should we do well?
"Because you are a good man, and this is the best reward for doing well. The man of honor is broad and tolerant, while the flunky are worrying and misgiving. Do what you think is right from the heart and do not be sorry for anyone and the heaven, then you will have no trouble in eating and sleeping and also you will be peaceful. Though you have the most delicious food, what's the point of having no taste for it because you have done something bad, worrying about someone's revenge and about losing wealth every day? "
"What about someone who has done something bad, but still eats and sleeps without any guilt?"
"Well...," Wu Zhong paused and continued, "there are eight kinds of virtue of human beings: filial piety, love for elder siblings, loyalty, faith, propriety, righteousness, integrity and shame. Can such a person disregarding those eight kinds of virtue be called a human being? Since such a person is not a human being, you need not to compare with him. "
"Forget the eight kinds of virtue (the pronunciation is similar to that of "son of a bitch" in Chinese), uh...you swear, sir."
Wu Zhong knocked Ma Tian'en on the head with a fan, "Different people have different opinions. And if you are honest, you will never regard something evil. So what the hell are you thinking about? "
"Oh, well, I don't like to debate with you, and I can never win over you. By the way, sir, look at me. "Ma Tian'en said, standing on tiptoe and opening her eyes wide to get close to Wu Zhong and nearly touched his face, which scared him back.
"What are you looking at...?" Just now they were so close that he seemed to have smelt Ma Tianen's breath. Wu Zhong's face was hot again and wondered what was wrong with himself.
"Look at me..." Speaking in half, Ma Tian'en looked around for a while to find no one else in the closed room. Then she lowered her voice and said, "Do you think I look like my mother or Concubine Zhao?"
Wu Zhong didn't react for a moment. Seeing Ma Tian'en's serious looking, he realized that she wasn't joking, but how could she have such a strange idea? She was clearly Ma's daughter, and how could she grow up like Concubine Zhao? Does it?
Seeing Wu Zhong's expression, Ma Tian'en was a little embarrassed. She retreated back and whispered, "I know it's impossible, but I always think my mother is very strange to Concubine Zhao, and Concubine Zhao is also very strange to me. From childhood, my mother often scolded me, but Concubine Zhao was very good to me. She often gave me food. Even if she was scolded and beaten by my mother, she would still do so. You saw it that day when my mother saw Concubine Zhao give me something. My mother acted as if she saw poison. She was just a concubine, so how dare she poison me in public? It was clear that my mother was too nervous to see me and Concubine Zhao close to each other. But she is just a concubine of my father. What can she do if she pleases me? So I think it's strange. Am I the child of Concubine Zhao? My mother is afraid that I know the truth, so she doesn't want me to be close to Concubine Zhao? "Ma Tian'en thought it was reasonable as she said, but if it is true, what can she do? Thinking of it, she began to worry again, and then sat in the chair, dejectedly holding her cheeks.
Wu Zhong couldn't help laughing at the fact that she was sure at one time and lost her mind at another.
"Sir, you are still smiling. Do you think what I said is reasonable?" Seeing Wu Zhong laughing, Ma Tian'en felt more embarrassed and asked him.
"It's very simple. As you know, Concubine Zhao had a child before, but that child died when born. That child is four or five years older than you. Even if that child still lives, it can't be you. If she got pregnant again, there must be some rumors in the house. Your father was so eager for a son. If she did get pregnant again, she would be looked after well. And then if the child was born, it would be adopted by your mother because your mother is the only legal wife of your father, and Concubine Zhao has no threat to her. Moreover, if you were the child of Concubine Zhao, she would not have been giving you food all the time. "
"Well, I don't understand. If I were her child, it is not strange for her to treat me well. Why won't she give me food?"
"It's very simple. Think what happened last time. If she was for your consideration, she shouldn't appear in front of you that day. You could accept the congratulations from all the people. If she was reluctant to give up, she could also secretly send you some food instead of doing so in front of all the people where Mrs. Ma would appear. It seems that she suffered a loss that day. In fact, she was only punished to kneel down and eat some snacks on the ground. But Mrs. Ma was so angry that she fainted and lay in bed for three days. And you didn't have a good celebration banquet, and was even regarded as the unfilial son who made your mother angry. For a lot of things, do not only look with your eyes, but also with your mind and emphasize on the results. "In fact, Wu Zhong wanted to tell Ma Tian'en about these words earlier, but he didn't say all the time because he was not that sure and was afraid of wronging Concubine Zhao. Today, seeing that Ma Tian'en misunderstood the matter so much so that he felt compelled to tell her.
"Sir, do you mean that Concubine Zhao deliberately angered my mother? I don't believe it. Why did she do this? My mother was angry and she would also be punished. "Ma Tian'en still felt that she could not understand how such a delicate Concubine Zhao could be such a scheming villain.
"You can disbelieve me right now, but you should not believe what you see with your eyes, either. In the end, there must be a result. You should learn to observe, so that you won't be hurt easily."
"Sir, do you care about me?" Ma Tian'en laughed again.
"Of course, I'm your teacher, and naturally I care about you. If you do something wrong, someone will say that I am a useless teacher." Wu Zhong said in a forthright voice.