One written word is worth a thousand pieces of gold

In A Thousand Pieces of Gold the author retells a little her grandfather’s story. “…when he was a boy growing up in Shanghai he saw… large red boxes placed at major street corners. Each had… four gilded characters written on it…’jing xi zi zhi,’ or ‘respect and cherish words.’”4 Men with bamboo poles would collect all of the trash on the ground with written words on it at a great expenditure of energy for the Confucian paper burning ritual at the temple. Candidates who had passed the imperial examinations could attend this ritual to give worship to Heaven until all the paper had turned to ashes. There were boxes on the way out for donations; each was labeled with the famous proverb, “yi zi qian jing,” or “one written word is worth a thousand pieces of gold.”

cf. Adeline Yen Mah, Watching the Tree, p.58

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