The word wealth always reminds people of money and the sayings or concepts related to money. For example, “money talks”; “money makes the ghosts turn the mill”; “as birds die for food, so men die for wealth”; “the poor have no friends even though they live in the noisy downtown, while the rich have remote kinsfolk even if they live in the deep mountains”; “poverty chills ambition” “one cent short may put a hero in an awkward situation” etc, etc..
In the 1980′ s, all shops were state-owned with marked prices. You couldn’t buy what you wanted with even one cent short, so one cent could indeed embarrass a hero. A popular song at that time started “I picked up one cent at the roadside, and I handed it over to the policeman…” But now no one cares to pick it up even if it were ten cents.
People’s reverence for money is expressed in varied ways. The names of companies or stores are often “Beer of Wealth and Honor”, “Restaurant of Wealth and Rank” “Store of the Aristocrats” “Hotel of Fame and Prestige” etc. (even some people’s names have the meanings of “full of gold” or “great fortune”). At New Year’s time, the god of wealth is worshiped and the picture of the god is covered with signs of money. When a millionaire is walking in the street, people will show their profound respect even though they know very well that they can not get a cent from him. The English film “the Million-Pound Note” makes a most vivid revelation of this situation. With the million pound note in hand, the hero has the privilege to buy on credit, or on loan and is even presented money from others. It’s an idealized end of the story that the hero is still loved by his girl friend even after he lost his million-pound note. However, without the million-pound note, they couldn’t have known each other. It’s very difficult for people to make friends directly with beggars.
The song of “All Good Things Must End” in A Dream of the Red Mansions attacks the money worshipers by saying:
“All men long to be immortals
yet silver and gold they prize
And grub for money all their lives
Till death seals up their eyes”
But when Chen Shih-yin tries to expound this song by analyzing the inconstancy of human relationships and the incomprehensible human heart, he has to say:
“While men with gold and silver by the chest
Turn beggars, scorned by all and dispossessed”
The conclusion is that it doesn’t work without money.
In spite of the human civilizations over thousands of years, people can not deny the function of money. This shows how important money is. Money plays a decisive role to individuals, to families and even to countries or nationalities. Otherwise, why is everyone, from doorkeepers to presidents, trying to earn as much as possible? Why does every country need Chancellors of the Exchequer, who keep formulating and revising financial laws and regulations? How different it is to be a creditor nation and a debtor nation! The United States is playing the tyrant just because it is wealthy enough. A poor man may cherish lofty aspirations, but will probably be beaten because of his poverty. The Afghanistan may have won a lot of sympathy, but how difficult it would be to live solely on charity.
Of all ages and in every country, all kinds of corruption stem from money. No matter how rough the man is, and in what despicable way he earned the money, he can grease the palms of or buy over some very decent officials or even intellectuals. Can you see how crucial a role money is playing? (A case in point is the bankrupt of the company)
Some people or organizations like some religious groups claim that they have seen through the human vanity and can take money lightly, but to people’s puzzlement, they are also accumulating money, either to renovate the temples, or to regild Buddha’s statues, in whatever pretexts. They are not engaged in production, so they can only depend on the donations from the devout believers. Sometimes your sincerity relies on whether you donate and how much you donate. Do the monks care about money? The answer is affirmative. What’s more, many monks are already provided with a salary.
We are living in a material world, and it’s really difficult to deny the function of money or wealth. We need money for food, clothes, education, hospital, housing and transportation, etc. There’s rarely anything that doesn’t need money. What we can discuss now is not the importance of money, but whether money is almighty and whether more wealth can bring us more happiness.
We must say that money is not almighty, and there are many things which money can’t do. For example, many emperors like Qin Shihuang longed for elixirs. As wealthy as they were, and as mighty as they were to take every measure to search for long life medicine, they still could not avoid the sad denouement that “their graves are a covered with weeds”.
Many great men suffered from fatal illness. Even though they were treated with the best medical means, they had to suffer as much as the ordinary people, and met with the same inescapable fate. Rich or poor, great or ordinary, we come and go with nothing belonging to us.
Huang Shiren, the cruel hearted landlord, was rich but Xi’er would rather hid in the deep mountains and turn into a white-hired girl than marrying him;
Wang Baochuan wouldn’t give up her marriage with Xue Pinggui even though she had to live in the cold cave for over ten years;
Emperor Shunzhi of the Qing Dynasty owned the whole country, but just because of the death his beloved concubine, he eventually became disillusioned with this world and spent the rest of life in the temple as a monk (it’s all right even if it is a legend).
Many love stories can never be bought with money. The ever-lasting folktale of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai shows people’s identification with this point of view.
Wealthy men also have a lot of worries: afraid of being stolen or kidnapped, they may have to hire a bodyguard; they’re concerned about their spoiling the children, or worry about the family discord because of the legacy disputes after their death; Fearing devaluation if they don’t invest, while fearing of bankrupt if they invest; Where is their happiness?