Fan Zihua was a rich man in Jin. Although he held no office in the imperial court, he was more influential than many ministers. Like many rich men of his day, he retained large numbers of lodger-guests—scholars, artists, warriors, most of them fortune seekers.

One day two of his lodger-guests went on a trip out of town. They spent the night in a small inn run by a man named Shangqiu Kai. Shangqiu Kai overheard his guests talking about Fan Zihua—a man so powerful that he could turn a rich man into a poor man and a poor man into a rich man overnight if it pleased him.

His business being unprofitable, Shangqiu Kai decided to close it down and go to work for Fan Zihua.

The sight of a shabbily dressed man with a wrinkled face applying for a job with Fan Zihua amused some of his lodger-guests. Before Shangqiu Kai had a chance to meet Fan Zihua, he was teased, insulted and pushed around by them. But Shangqiu Kai bore up calmly.

They took him to a high terrace. 

“I’ll give you a hundred ounces of gold if you jump from here,” someone said.

Without any hesitation, Shangqiu Kai leaped and landed himself on the ground like a bird. The crowd thought it was just good luck.

“A precious pearl was lost in the river. Dive in and get it!” another man said to him, pointing to the deep bend of a river nearby.

Shangqiu Kai dived into the water and came up with the precious pearl. When Fan Zihua heard of his feats, he put him on his lodger-guest payroll. Now Shangqiu Kai had meat to eat and silk to wear, living like a nobleman.

Not long after that, a fire broke out in Fan Zihua’s warehouse. He said to Shangqiu Kai, “If you can save my precious brocade from the fire, I’ll reward you handsomely.”

Shangqiu Kai dashed into the burning house and then dashed out with the brocade. He was neither burned nor hurt.

There was a marked change in those who had bullied him earlier.

“Sir, please forgive us,” their leader apologized. “We are fools. We insulted you; we played tricks on you. Now we know you are a superman. No ordinary man can do what you did. Please share your secret with us.”

“But there is no secret,” said Shangqiu Kai. “Tell the truth, even I myself don’t know how I did it. But there is one thing I can tell you. That is, I believed with all my heart what you said. I was obsessed by one thought—I would do all that was in my power to accomplish the task you gave me. At that moment nothing else in the world mattered to me. I forgot what was good for me and what was bad for me. Nothing stood in my way. Now you told me that you lied to me, that you were really making fun of me, I’m afraid I can’t perform my feat any more. I have worries and suspicions now. When I recall how I escaped from being burnt or drowned, I cannot help feeling scared. I think I was just lucky. Will I do those things again? No, because I’ve lost faith in myself.”