Zheng Xuan, an influential scholar during the Eastern Han Dynasty, was held in high regard in Chinese history.
He studied, wrote copious notes on Confucianism Classics and is considered to be one of the most authoritative writers on Confucianism of the period.
Zheng was in the process of writing notes on the book “Zuo Zhuan,” a commentary on the ancient Chinese chronicle “Spring and Autumn Annals,” but he had not completed the work.
One day while staying at an inn, he met someone named Fu Zishen, who was staying at the same inn. The two did not know each other at first. Fu was outside the inn, talking to another person about his plan to make notes on “Zuo Zhuan.” Zheng listened for a long time, and he realised that most of Fu’s views were similar to his.
Zheng approached Fu and said, “I have always wanted to make notes on ‘Zuo Zhuan,’ but they have not been completed. After listening to you talk, I realised that most of your ideas are similar to mine. Now I should pass all my notes to you.”
As a result, Zheng helped Fu succeed in making the notes on the book.
From the perspective of today’s scholars, it is out of the question to give one’s work away to others; one would at least ask to be mentioned as a co-author. The ancient Chinese, however, paid attention to accumulating virtue. They believed that when God blesses a person, it is because he meets certain moral standards, not because he is clever.
Translated by Benjamin Ng. Edited by Sally Appert.