The 5000-year-old ancient Chinese civilization tells us the story of a famous imperial chef who retired with enormous wealth and went to live in his hometown, where he opened a tavern that all the people loved to eat at.

After some time, a plague broke out throughout the county. The Imperial Court sent a team of the best doctors to decipher a cure for the disease, but they failed to find one. None of the medicines, which at the time were mainly herbal medicines and natural preparations, worked.

The plague spread everywhere, it was deadly, and people just dropped dead while walking the streets. Fear gripped everyone. No matter how rich and powerful a person was, there was nothing they could do once the plague knocked on their door.

Out of fear, people stopped going out into the streets. The town was empty. In the streets, there were only the bodies of the wanderers who had died from the plague.

Even the Emperor with all his wealth did not know what to do. The only thought they all had was how to survive.

The chef had closed the tavern when the plague struck the town. Locked in the palace all day, he wasn’t immune to it.

One day he began to feel weak and in pain, vomiting blood and dizzy.

Thinking he would die, he climbed to the top of the palace and looked out over the town, the bodies of dead people lying in the streets, the sadness all over the place.

The chef burst into tears: “What good is fame? I have been a famous imperial chef and yet I do not have the power to resist this disease. Bad fortune can touch us at any time. No one can escape.”

Realizing how short life was, the chef thought, “Since I am dying, what good is it for me to keep all this wealth? I might as well give it to the poor so they can have something to eat or decent clothes to wear.”

Without realizing it, with this thought, he stopped being afraid and on the contrary, his body and mind were full of positive energy. The old chef felt young again.

He opened his tavern, got brave people to cook for the poor every day. He ordered his servants to dress those in rags in his good quality clothes and also paid other people to bury the dead in the streets.

As positive energy emerges, fear succumbs

Other wealthy people saw what the chef was doing and stepped forward-thinking that they could do something good for others with their last days.

Before they knew it, the whole town lost its fear of the plague, and the streets were full of life again, with people helping each other, in harmony, putting aside all rancor.

So it was that a month later the chef realized he had no more symptoms.

When the emperor heard what had happened, he took a bath, changed his clothes, sat in a room alone, and reflected on his evil deeds. Then, with sincerity and respect, he wrote, in large characters, “Virtue – the golden cure.”

Lessons for contemporary humanity

The chef’s story took place thousands of years ago and is documented as just another legend of this ancient civilization, although it could have been an actual event.

But at that time, there was no science as advanced as contemporary science, and humans relied on the legacy of their ancestors, on what they had learned from their parents and grandparents.

In this case, the emperor concluded that the ‘golden cure’ was virtue. Everyone in the village developed kindness towards others. That kindness led them to lose the fear of death with an altruistic purpose, everyone stopped thinking about themselves and put the lives of others as a priority, and the plague disappeared.

Today, our humanity, with science so advanced that it is capable of producing a vaccine in 6 months, with a technology that can look inside the human body and detect a tumor, or disintegrate it inside the human body, has still not been able to achieve a true cure for the ills that plague it.

The lack of virtue in our society has led people to blindly believe in science as a ‘magic cure’ that can absolve everyone of the bad things they have done without reflecting on their mistakes and how they have treated others as their enemies.

Perhaps only by resorting to kindness, our humanity could emerge from this pandemic.

Written from the Traditional culture section of