By Chu, Chen Chiu
In retrospect, the villagers in my hometown, HanYang, were very candid and broadminded; there was no need to lock their doors during the day. Uninvited guests could directly enter their house with knocking. Occasionally, someone who was dressed in typical beggar's garb would come in - carrying in a black pouch a bowl and a stick for keeping dogs away from him. Speaking not a word, the host hurried to pour a bowl of uncooked rice into his pouch. If the beggar came during meal time, the host would feed the beggar cooked rice with other food. There were some large airy pavilions which were resting places for pedestrian travelers that provided shelter for the homeless.
Villagers treated disabled homeless people especially well. Every now and then, villagers from an outlying village would carry into our village a disabled person, bearing him on a sedan-chair. It was a recognized custom that if an uninvited stranger came to our village, each household would at least provide him with one day's food and necessities. After receiving these provisions, the uninvited guest would be moved to the next village, continuing his free ride. If he got sick, a doctor was called and a pharmacist donated medicine. It was impossible to refuse to help a sick invalid because altruism had been deeply carved into the minds of country folk. It was believed that kind deeds would pay rich dividends to the doer and his posterity.
Village folks never considered the homeless as uninvited dregs of society. On the contrary, these uninvited guests would try their best to give back to the village community. The homeless learned many skills to serve the public. For example, children would gather in front of them and learn how to sing folk songs and how to count from 1 to 100. These homeless people would also tell them funny stories and riddles. Illiterate women would ask the homeless where they could find their lost chickens because the guest in the sedan-chair was usually a fortune teller; moreover, he had an abundance of knowledge about traditional medicine for curing some illnesses. In other words, he was a welcome counselor. All his services were welcome repayment for the kindness of the villagers.