Not Being Greedy Is a Merit
If you want to advise to your friends and relatives to be clean and not corrupt, in this edition, you can find the right idiom for you to use.
Today, we introduce a very useful Chinese phrase: bu tan wei bao. In this phrase,“bu tan” means not greedy, or not corrupt, wei bao means to be a treasure. So the literal meaning of the phrase is to regard the complete lack of greed as a treasure. Now it is sometimes used to praise a person who is honest in performing his official duties. Here is the story behind it.
The story took place during the Spring and Autumn period, over two thousand years ago. One day, a person in the State of Song went to the mountains to quarry some stone to build a new house. While mining, to his surprise, he found a piece of jade. He was very delighted, and called in a jade carver to evaluate its quality. After careful examination, the jade carver said: “What a treasure! It is absolutely flawless!”. And he also warned the owner to keep it in a safe place, otherwise, it could be stolen.
In fact, the visit of the jade carver had already caught the attention of his neighbors, for the family seldom had visitors. So while the jade carver was still there, people were already peeping. The jade owner was worried, and carefully hid away his treasure. In spite of that, he was still not at ease. He thought of selling it, but was not sure of its real value. Finally, he decided to present it to a person of high status as a gift. He then took the jade to the capital city, and asked to see Minister Zihan, who was in charge of construction projects. When he presented the jade to Zihan, Zihan was puzzled: "Why do you bring me such a treasure? What do you want from me? I have to tell you that I never accept gifts.” The jade owner shook his head and said: “I ask for nothing. This piece of jade is said to be a rare treasure. I would like to give it to you as a present." Again, Zihan refused. He said: "I shall never accept this jade. Otherwise, both of us will lose our treasures.” The jade owner was confused. Zihan continued: "I regard a pure character, completely without greed, as a treasure, and you see jade as a treasure. If you give up the jade, you'll lose your treasure. If I accept your jade, I'll lose my treasure."
Hearing this explanation, the jade owner had to tell Zihan that he wanted to give him the jade because it was such a headache keeping it at home, and he had no other choice. Zihan thought about this, then asked the man to leave his jade in his care for a little while. The man agreed, and Zihan found a jade carver to carve it, and then sent it to be sold in the market. It fetched a very high price. Then he gave the proceeds to the lucky man, and even sent his men to accompany him home.
This story inspired the idiom: bu tan wei bao, used to describe unselfish, incorruptible officials.