The big news in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, and all over China over the weekend was a 10-year-old girl's birthday party.
The party was extraordinary in itself. The girl's classmates and their parents watched a magic show and listened to some child stars sing. In addition, they won prizes, including jewelry, laptop computers, and three automobiles.
But what made the party newsworthy was the girl's decision to donate all the money she collected from hongbao, or red envelopes, to victims of last year's earthquake in Sichuan. Her birthday gifts alone amounted to 200,000 yuan ($29,282).
In addition, the girl's parents announced that they had sent the quake victims padded coats and quilts worth 500,000 yuan ($73,206) in their daughter's name.
All in all, the party cost more than 1 million yuan. The media have given out very little about who her parents are, except that they are entrepreneurs.
Asked why she made the donation, the girl explained that her parents had always taught her to share with others.
"I hope I have sent joy and happiness to others," she was quoted as saying.
It is impossible to doubt the girl's sincerity in trying to help the needy in Sichuan. Her parents are to be commended as well for teaching their daughter the value of sharing.
We've all read too many stories about the excesses of the rich: how someone spent more than a million yuan on a pet, or how someone else threatened to spend 5 million teaching the police a lesson after he was stopped while driving an unlicensed BMW.
According to Chinese tradition, sharing is an indispensable virtue, especially for the rich.
One of the classic stories that all children are taught involves a landlord named Dou in the 10th century AD.
Dou was pretty mean when he was young. He used a small barrel to measure the grain he lent to his neighbors. When his neighbors returned the grain, Dou used a larger barrel so he could charge his neighbors more than he actually lent.
But Dou's life was not a happy one. He reached the age of 30 without fathering a son. He was sad and didn't know what to do.
One night, Dou met his father in a dream. Dou's father told him that he must overcome his stinginess and learn to become more generous.
Dou followed his father's advice. Eventually, his wife gave birth to five sons.
These days, stories of generous entrepreneurs are everywhere. Chen Guangbiao, who manages a construction company, was the first to arrive in quake-stricken Sichuan with his equipment and a rescue team. He and his colleagues pulled 131 people out of the rubble. His team went on to pave the make-shift landing area in Yingxiu town and build roads in other areas.
Over the course of a year, Chen returned to Sichuan many times, donating time and money to the area's reconstruction.
Doing good is its own reward. Still, many netizens have questioned the motives of the birthday girl and her parents and wondered whether a birthday party that costs one million yuan can really be considered a charity.
Clearly, such lavish entertainment is over the top. There is no need to throw such an expensive party, no matter how much money is raised or donated.
Little wonder, then, that many netizens support the statement that "love cannot be measured with money. It is glorious even to donate one yuan that you've earned with your own hands".
(China Daily 12/03/2009 page9)