There lived a rich man named Guo in the State of Qi and a poor man named Xiang in the State of Song.

 

The poor man came to the State of Qi to visit the rich man, and asked him about the way to get rich.

 

The rich man in the State of Qi told him: "I was also very poor before, but now I am quite well-off. The only reason is that I can steal and rob. But it is very painstaking1. By stealing and robbing, I could make a living in the first year, and in the second year I had more than enough to eat and wear. In the third year, my family's storehouse was truly filled with grain and millet2."

 

The man of Song only heard him talk profusely3 about stealing and robbing, but did not find out clearly how to steal and rob. The minute he returned home, he got dizzy with imagined success and started to steal and rob.

 

As soon as it was dark, he climbed over the wall of the family on the east, and dug a hole in the wall of the family on the west. He stole whatever he saw. After some time, his family actually began getting rich. But just when he was immensely proud of himself, the bailiffs from the yamen (government office) came and arrested him. He was declared guilty and put in prison. All the things he had stolen and robbed, together with his own old and worn-out stuff, were confiscated4.

 

As soon as the thief was released upon completion of his prison term, he went to Guo's home in the State of Qi to blame him. The rich man asked him in haste: "How are you doing?"

 

The thief told him what had happened and sighed: "I am now even poorer than before."

 

The rich man was astonished at first, then said regretfully: "How can you be in reduced circumstances? Alas5, you completely misunderstood what I meant by stealing and robbing."

 

He continued: "By stealing and robbing, I meant seeking for the resources of the earth, and racing6 against the seasons of the heavens. Dense7 forests, broad land, sunshine, rain and dew8, wind and cloud, all these are my targets for robbing. I approach them, make friends with them, and rely on them to plant crops and build houses. Birds in the sky, beasts on land, fish and shrimp9 in the river…all these don't belong to me by nature. But I, fearing neither hardship nor toil10, use my brains and think up ways to steal them and rob them. This is stealing and robbing in an open and aboveboard way. It is by no means committing a crime. As to the clothing, food and articles of individuals, they are obtained through people's own labour, and can only belong to these people. I have never encouraged you to steal and rob other people's private property. But you have actually done so, which does break the law. Who is to blame for your being found guilty and put in prison?"

 

齐国有个姓“国”的富人,宋国有个姓“向”的穷人。

 

穷人到齐国去拜访那位富人,向他请教致富的方法。

 

齐国富人告诉他:“我原来也很贫穷,可是现在日子过得很好。原因只是我会偷、会抢罢了。不过太辛苦了。我偷呀抢呀,第一年生活就够维持了,第二年就已经吃不完穿不完了,第三年我家里真是粮满囤、谷满仓。”

 

宋国人只听见他满口的偷呀抢呀,却没有问清楚究竟怎么个偷法、怎么个抢法。他一回到家就得意忘形地动手去偷、去抢。

 

天一黑,他就翻东家的墙,挖西家的洞。看到什么偷什么。时间一长,家里居然也富起来了。可是,正当他洋洋自得的时候,衙门差人到他家里,将他捉拿归案,判了罪,坐了牢。他偷来抢来的一切,连同他原有的破旧东西,全部被没收了。

 

这个小偷刑满之后从监牢里一出来就跑到齐国姓“国”的家里责怪他。富人连忙问他:“你干得怎么样了?”

 

小偷将经过诉说了一遍,唉声叹气地说:“我比以前更穷了。”

 

富人先是大吃一惊,接着惋惜地说:“你怎么会弄到这个地步呢?哎呀!你把我说的偷、抢的意思完全误会了。”

 

又说:“我说的偷、抢是向土地要资源,与老天抢时间。茂密的山林、广阔的土地、阳光、雨露、风云等都是我抢夺的对象。我接近它们,同它们交朋友,依靠它们,种庄稼、建房屋。空中的飞禽,陆上的走兽,河里的鱼虾……这些东西原来都不属于我,但是我动脑筋,想办法,不怕苦,不怕累,把它们偷了过来,抢了过来,这是光明正大的偷、抢,并不是犯罪呀!至于那些属于私人的衣物、食品都是人们用自己的劳动取得的,只能属于他们自己。我从来没有叫你去偷、去抢人家的东西呀!可是你竟然去偷、去抢别人家的东西,这是犯法的行为。你被判罪坐牢,这到底应该怪谁呢?”

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