Incorruptibility signifies the absence of greed. Such a person does not casually give the smallest object to others, nor does he accept the smallest object from others. The smallest object might be a blade of grass. He would not causally give even a blade of grass to someone, nor would he casually take someone else's things. This is what is meant by incorruptibility, being pure and free of greed. Such a person's character is very lofty.
In ancient times the Emperor Yao, who was getting on in years, wished to abdicate, and sought a sage to whom to yield the empire. He wanted to find a successor to whom he could pass the imperial throne. He had heard of the two sages Chao Fu and Xu You, who were pure and lofty in their conduct. Chao Fu ("Nest Father") was so named because he didn't want anything at all, and he lived in a tree in what resembled a bird's nest. He did not have any greed. When he wanted to drink, he would scoop up water in his hands. Once someone gave him a dried gourd with which to drink water. When he was not using it, he hung it from his tree. But when the wind blew, the gourd banged against the tree and made such a racket that he took it down and discarded it. That's how lofty he was. He didn't want anything at all. Yen Yuan lived in a poor alley and ate from a bamboo crock and drank from a gourd, but Chao Fu didn't even want a gourd or a crock. That's how pure he was. He and his friend, Xu You, both had not greed but Xu You did own an ox. He was fond of his ox and rode it around everywhere. These two sages were extremely noble in character. They hadn't the slightest bit of greed in their minds. Nor did they have any fear. When you are not greedy for anything, you are not afraid of anything. And he, Emperor Yao, went to visit them personally. When he met Chao Fu in his nest up in the tree, he explained his intent to yield the empire to him. He said, "You are truly good, and this empire needs someone like you to govern it. I'd like to turn the country over to you. I don't want to be the emperor anymore." The Emperor must have said a lot, something along the lines of: "I want to give you the throne. You shouldn't be so idle. You should do a little work for the people." On hearing this, Chao Fu covered up his ears and ran off to the river to wash them. He thought, "His filthy words have defiled my ears." Nowadays if people hear unclean talk, they are all ears. They are very eager and happy to listen. But as for Chao Fu, when he was offered the empire he felt his ears had been defiled. Each of you should ask yourselves whether or not your own ears are clean. If you hear some gossip, you just go ahead and listen. But Chao Fu went right away to the river to wash his ears. He probably didn't notice that Xu You was there watering his ox.
Xu You, who happened to be downstream at the river bank watering his ox, was surprised by this strange behavior, and inquired about it. He asked, "What are you washing your ears for?" Chao Fu, who had not told anyone about the Emperor's request, now replied to his old friend, "The Emperor Yao just offered the empire to me. Such words defiled my ears and so I am washing them."
Xu You answered, "Washing your ears in this water pollutes it. How can I let my ox drink such defiled waters?" Thereupon he moved his ox upstream, since the defiled waters would flow downstream. He wasn't even willing to let his ox drink the dirty water. Ah! How incorruptible these two were. They were truly clean and lofty.