Chen Wu was not a very spiritual man and was very poor. So, whenever his wife requested to visit the shrine his response was always the same. “Why go to the shrine to make offerings to the dead? They are gone and we are still living, what use do they have for offerings of rice, tea, or flowers?”
His wife would always respond the same. “It is the way we remember them and remind ourselves how much we love them and they love us. Rice is a sacred gift and each grain reminds us of the good times we had with them while we shared a hard earned meal. The offering of tea reminds us of the harmony shared with them and each leaf is a fond memory. And the flowers are to remind us that life is a gift only for a short time and we should enjoy it while we can before we die, each petal being a day shared those who loved us. The offerings bring peace to the living and the dead. And if you neglect your duty, it will come back to you.”
Happy was the day he found out that she was with child. And he was devastated on the day that she died with the child in her belly. Overcome with sadness and being very poor, he gave his wife's body to the monks and did not attend her burial.
Chen Wu could not grieve. He tried to forget and remarried a beautiful and young wife. Chen Wu forgot his sadness and began to live happy.
Until one day, he noticed his new wife began to look pale and sickly. She began to sleep longer hours and would not have the energy to even smile. Chen Wu asked her, “Wife, what is your ailment? You look pale, do not eat, and sleep too long.”
His wife began to cry. “Husband, in the night after you go to sleep I see a ghostly pregnant woman come into to our bedroom. As I lay in your bed, the woman touches my belly and tells me that as long as she walks hungry, I shall be sick and will nor bear any children. I was afraid to tell you, because you do not believe in spirits. I was afraid you would not believe me. But for every night that passes, she takes more and more away from me and I can stand it no longer. Please help me.”
Chen Wu then understood the problem and it was his fault. He sent his new wife away to her family. He lit two candles and sat them outside of his door on either side. In between the candles, he poured a large amount of rice in front of his door. Then he went inside his house, closed the door, sat down and waited.
It was very late in the night, when Chen Wu heard footsteps. They shuffled up to the door and stopped. Chen Wu held his breath. After a moment, he heard a soft whisper from the other side of his door.
“One. This is for the first meal we shared at our wedding. Two. This is how he smiled and laughed when I served him his meal and spilled the broth.”
Chen Wu listened as the ghost counted the grains of rice and named a memory. It was morning when his eyes hurt from crying and when he could bear it no longer, he opened the door as the sun rose, all he saw was a giant pile of rice grains and two burnt out candles.
On the second night, he lit the candles and sprinkled tea leaves before the door. He waited again. As before, it was very late when he heard the footsteps. They approached the door and stopped. Then the counting began.
“One. He provided for me and I cleaned his home. Two. I cooked the meal that he brought home for us.”
Chen Wu listened to the ghost tell of how his first wife and he had lived in harmony with each other, even during hardship. When his eyes had weld with tears, the rooster crowed the morning as he opened the door. All he found was a large pile of tea leaves and nothing more.
On the third night, Chen Wu did the same, only this time he sprinkled chrysanthemum petals in front of the door. And he waited again.
It grew late and he heard the footsteps. Then he heard the counting. “One. This is the day of our wedding. Two is the first day in our home together.”
As the counting of the days grew into a larger number, he knew the day of her death would come. His tears did not see the morning this time. He opened the door before the rise of the sun and knelt before the ghost.
“I did love you and I also remember you. I have laid out the offerings so that we may both could count them. I will remember you at the family alter from now on. But please release me and my new wife from the burden I have put upon you. Go in peace and rest. You will not be forgotten.”
As Chen Wu looked at the ghost, she turned from a pregnant woman to a woman holding a child. She smiled at Chen Wu and disappeared. Chen Wu brought back his new wife and told her what happened. He kept his word and remembered the offerings. His new wife became well again and never were they visited again.