Boss Qian was taking his ease at the teahouse one day, when he spied Mr. Li and his comely daughter passing by, and instantly hatched an evil plan.
He rushed to his accomplice Bao the matchmaker, and hatched a plot to kidnap young Ms Li, keep her in lieu of her father's debt to Boss Qian (everyone was in debt to Boss Qian), sell her to a brothel, and pocket a cool fifty taels each. Good thing the magic monk Ji Gong was listening in!
Such was the weak rule of law that Boss Qian made bold enough to spirit Ms Li away by force. Fortunately, a crowd gathered to witness the commotion, prompting him to play the tough guy and threaten, "If you don't pay what you owe right now, I'll cut off your tumor!"
"Ah mi toh foh," Ji Gong interrupted, with the standard monk's greeting. "Have the kindness to release Old Li and his daughter, and the Buddha will bless you tenfold." Qian only pushed the monk away, a truly vulgar act for a time when monks still enjoyed respect.
But Ji Gong only laughed pleasantly at the insult. "If you really want the tumor, I can give it to you easily." To play to the crowd, and because he was born to be the fall guy, Qian pledged fifty taels to witness such a miracle, confident the monk was just another charlatan.
Li and his daughter took advantage of the distraction to rush off home. Qian and Bao soon arrived on the doorstep. "You can't hide from me!" Qian bellowed. Ji Gong appeared in the doorway. "No one's hiding. Here is the tumor!"
With so many witnesses about, Qian had no choice but to pay up. Yet when presented with the goods, he quailed and ran away.
Just as he was dashing over the bridge, who should appear on the other side but Ji Gong. Shocked out of his wits, Qian spun around and saw the tumor, spun around again, lost his balance, and fell into the river.
As Qian flailed about in his robes, the furious young Li threw the tumor in after him.
By the time he dragged himself out, the tumor had attached to his neck. "Please take it off," Qian begged Ji Gong, "I'll pay any price you name."The monk swore he hadn't the power, but advised Qian, "Every good deed you do will shrink the tumor, while a bad deed will make it grow tenfold."
In the West, the story would end here. However, Mr. Li had an ailing wife, and prevailed on Ji Gong to cure her with his magic powers. None were needed, for the monk needed but one look at the emaciated woman to prescribe plenty of nourishing food. Such were the times that a good diet was often overlooked, especially for an old woman.
Meanwhile, Boss Qian was frantically engaged in his first good deed, building a stone path across the river further upstream. Bao prodded his tumor and exclaimed, "It's working! Your tumor is shrinking!"
Encouraged, Qian scurried into town, where he met another of his debtors, a poor vendor. Before the startled vendor could make excuses, Qian plucked the bond paper from his robes and set it aflame. "Your debt is forgiven," he declared with something approaching warmth, as his tumor shrank to orange-size.
Alas, who should he meet shortly afterward but Ms Li, returning home with a fresh basket of baozi for her mother, reminding him of his recent humiliation.
New leaf or no, Qian had never before that day been defied, and flew into a rage on seeing the object of his loss of face. He windmilled towards young Li, ready to hand out a cruel beating.
Not three steps did Qian take before the tumor grew to the size of a rice sack, dragging his frail body to the ground. "Ah ah," Ji Gong admonished him, "You must only do good, for your own sake as much as for others." The onlookers clapped and cheered, convinced that they now had that rarest of creatures, a town boss incapable of evil.