Tetsugen was a zen master who lived in 17th century Japan. He wanted to produce a Japanese edition of the buddhist sutras (scriptures) which were then only available in Chinese. This was to be an expensive project because it involved making around 60,000 wooden blocks for printing.
Tetsugen wandered around Japan collecting funds for this project. Sometimes he would meet wealthy people who would offer gold and silver, but mostly he would encounter peasants who could only afford a few small coins.
After 10 years of traveling, he had collected enough funds to start his project. But there was a great flood as the river Uji overflowed. People were left homeless and starving. Tetsugen used all the money he collected to help them.
Then he began traveling and collecting money again for his project. It was several more years before he thought he had enough. Just then, an epidemic spread throughout Japan and Tetsugen once more gave away all that he had collected to aid the afflicted ones.
Then he started traveling again. Twenty years later (and one year before he died), he was able to fulfill his dream of printing the sutras in Japanese. The original printing blocks he used are preserved today in the Obaku Monastery in Kyoto, Japan.
The Japanese like to tell their children that Tetsugen actually produced three editions of the sutras, but the first two are invisible and far superior to the last.