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A rich man in Nánjīng married his son to an extremely enchanting woman (yāoráo wànfēn 妖娆万分), but not long afterward the son became very ill. Although they went to the best doctors, they were told that the case was hopeless, and the lad would never again look upon his beautiful wife.
"Whatever shall we do?" wailed the sick man's mother.
"Heaven help us!" cried his wife.
But then the sick man's younger spoke up: "Is Older Brother going to get better?" he asked.
"Oh Second Son, your Older Brother's illness is incurable," said his mother. And his Older Sister-in-law began to sob.
"Don't cry, Older Sister-in-Law," said Second Brother. And he thought to himself how sad it would be for her to become a widow at such a young age. And she was beautiful too. Older Brother was really unfortunate to be leaving such a fine wife.
Meanwhile the wife of the sick man was thinking to herself, "Women need men like Second Brother. It is a really a misfortune that I have to be married to the older, sick brother instead of the fine younger one."
As the days passed, Second Brother and Older Sister-in-Law became fonder and fonder of each other.
At length, Older Brother died, and the family went into mourning. Second Brother and Older Sister-in-Law fell more and more deeply in love. But they knew they could not marry even after the end of mourning because of their kinship. So they carried on only in secret and only after dark.
One day Second Brother's mother heard a voice coming from her daughter-in-law's room and immediately realized what was going on. "Good Heavens!" she exclaimed, and rushed to tell with her husband.
"Old Man," she said, "how are you going to deal with this affair?"
"We certainly cannot let others hear of such shameful behavior," he replied. "The only thing we can do is to find a wife for Second Son so that he has to break off the relationship with Older Daughter-in-Law.
A few days later Second Brother found Older Sister-in-Law in tears. "I just heard that Mother has found a match for you," she told him.
"But I don't want to get married," he exclaimed. "I want to be with you forever."
But he knew there would be no way to dissuade his parents. They called him in.
"Second Son," said his mother. "I hope you will consider carefully what I are about to say so that you do not ruin the family's reputation. I have already decided that next month you will marry the daughter of the Wáng 王 family."
"I don't want to. I absolutely do not want to."
"You unfilial son! (nìzǐ 逆子)! How dare you corrupt the moral order of family relations!" shouted his mother. "I will die of anger!" And saying that, she collapsed and died.
"No, Mother! No!" cried Second Son.
"Poor old thing," sobbed Father.
But the affair between Second Brother and Older Sister-in-Law continued for three years. Nobody knew about it, and the two of them continued much as before.
One day, Older Sister-in-Law's eyes became swollen, and she could not see. But the doctors couldn't help her.
"I have no way of curing this," said one.
"I can't tell what the illness is," said another.
The condition continued for over two months, and there was no improvement at all. Older Sister-in-Law cried and cried. Finally one of the family servants had an idea.
"Young Mistress, don't cry. I have heard that the Living Buddha of Golden Mountain can cure strange illnesses. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to give him a try.
"But where do we find this 'Living Buddha of Golden Mountain'?" she asked.
"I heard he was living in the house of our next door neighbor, Mr. Hú. You could go early tomorrow."
And indeed, there was a distant sound of chanting on the evening air.
The next morning his own violent sneeze jarred Miàoshàn from his meditation and he became aware that something was happening in the house.
"Disciple Hú," he asked, "do I have any visitors today?"
"I am here to report that the young mistress who lives next door asks to see the Living Buddha."
"Show her in."
When Older Sister-in-Law came into the room, the Living Buddha was chanting.
"Living Buddha?" she ventured timidly.
He scowled and continued to chant.
"Living Buddha, please help me."
"Please, Living Buddha."
The chanting stopped.
"This kind of woman should suffer more so she can learn to behave properly," he said. "You have asked for this suffering. Do you know you have done something wrong?"
"No," she said. It seemed like all she could say.
Miàoshàn turned to face her. "You are still trying to argue. You have ruined people's lives, obstructed someone on his way to establishing a family and taken an innocent life. This is your immediate retribution!"
"All right. I admit my faults. Please help me."
"It's lucky for you that you met me. But you must obey my instructions for me to cure you."
"First, beginning today you must repent and break off your affair with your husband's younger brother. Second, you must abide by the Three Treasures [sānbǎo 三宝, the Buddha, the Scriptures, and the Clergy]. Third, you must follow a vegetarian diet, study scriptures, and worship buddhas."
"I will do all this, if only you will cure my disease," said Older Sister-in-Law.
"Very well," said Miàoshàn. "Sit down and don't move."
Suddenly he lurched forward upon her and began sucking at her eyes.
"Ouch!" she shouted. "Ouch! Ouch!"
Mr. Hú and the servant from Older Sister-in-Law's house looked at each other.
"The ways the Living Buddha cures diseases are full of surprises," said Mr. Hú.
"He is even sucking out pus with his mouth," said the servant.
Miàoshàn took a glass and spat a stream of liquid into it.
"Look at this," he said.
"It looks like black water. It isn't either pus or blood." said Mr. Hú.
Miàoshàn turned to Older Sister-in-Law. "This is your wrong-doing," he said. "Drink half of it. In compassion for you, I'll help you drink the other half."
Then he spat in his hand and blew nasal mucus in as well, and said, "Come over here now."
Older Sister-in-Law walked toward the sound of his voice. Suddenly he smeared her eyes with the mixture in his hands.
"Does it still hurt?" he asked.
"No, not any more," she said.
"Then open your eyes and look around."
"Oh! I can see the light! Living Buddha, I am ready to abide by the Three Treasures."
"He is magnificent!" muttered Mr. Hú.
"Truly he is an incarnation of the Buddha (Rúlái 如来)," said the servant.
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