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Showing posts from January, 2011

A Lame Old Buddhist Priest

A lame old priest was so renowned for self-denying liberality that the great Emperor Ch'ien Lung (乾隆) actually paid him a visit. After some conversation Ch'ien Lung presented him with a valuable pearl, which the old man immediately bestowed upon a beggar he espied among the crowd. His Majesty was somewhat taken aback at this act of rudeness, and asked him if he always gave away everything in the same manner. On receiving an affirmative reply, the Emperor added, "Even down to the crutch on which you lean?" "Ah," said the priest, "it is written that the superior man does not covet what his friend cannot spare." "But supposing," said the Emperor, "he was not a superior man." "In that case," answered the priest, "you could not expect me to be his friend."

(H. A. Giles, Chinese Sketches, 1875)

Solomonic justice

A poor man, passing through one of the back thoroughfares in Hankow(汉口), came upon a Tls. 50 (Fifty taels) note lying in the road and payable to bearer. His first impulse was to cash it, but reflecting that the sum was large and that the loser might be driven in despair to commit suicide, the consequences of which might be that he himself would perhaps get into trouble, he determined to wait on the spot for the owner and rest content with the "thanks money" he was entitled by Chinese custom to claim as a right. Very shortly he saw a stranger approaching, with his eyes bent on the ground, evidently in search of something; whereupon he made up to him and asked at once if anything was the matter. Explanations followed, and the Tls. 50 note was restored to its lawful possessor, who, recovering himself instantaneously, asked where the other one was, and went on to say that he had lost _two_ notes of the same value, and that on recovery of the other one he would reward the finder …

To drink vinegar

A jealous woman is said "to drink vinegar", and the origin of the term is as follows:--Fang Hsuan-ling (房玄龄) was the favourite Minister of the Emperor T'ai Tsung(唐太宗), of the T'ang dynasty. He lived A.D. 578-648. One day his master gave him a maid of honour from the palace as second wife, but the first or real wife made the place too hot for the poor girl to live in. Fang complained to the Emperor, who gave him a bowl of poison, telling him to offer his troublesome wife the choice between death and peaceable
behaviour for the future. The lady instantly chose the former, and drank up the bowl of "vinegar", which the Emperor had substituted to try her constancy. Subsequently, on his Majesty's recommendation, Fang
sent the young lady back to resume her duties as tire-woman to the Empress. But the phrase lived, and has survived to this day.

The Great Bell

The mighty Yung-lo sat on the great throne surrounded by a hundred attendants. He was sad, for he could think of no wonderful thing to do for his country. He flirted his silken fan nervously and snapped his long finger-nails in the impatience of despair.

"Woe is me!" he cried at last, his sorrow getting the better of his usual calmness. "I have picked up the great capital and moved it from the South to Peking and have built here a mighty city. I have surrounded my city with a wall, even thicker and greater than the famous wall of China. I have constructed in this city scores of temples and palaces. I have had the wise men and scholars compile a great book of wisdom, made up of 23,000 volumes, the largest and most wonderful collection of learning ever gathered together by the hands of men. I have built watch-towers, bridges, and giant monuments, and now, alas! as I approach the end of my days as ruler of the Middle Kingdom there is nothing more to be done for my people. …

Why The Dog Hates The Cat

What we shall eat to-morrow, I haven't the slightest idea!" said Widow Wang to her eldest son, as he started out one morning in search of work.

"Oh, the gods will provide. I'll find a few coppers somewhere," replied the boy, trying to speak cheerfully, although in his heart he also had not the slightest idea in which direction to turn.

The winter had been a hard one: extreme cold, deep snow, and violent winds. The Wang house had suffered greatly. The roof had fallen in, weighed down by heavy snow. Then a hurricane had blown a wall over, and Ming-li, the son, up all night and exposed to a bitter cold wind, had caught pneumonia. Long days of illness followed, with the spending of extra money for medicine. All their scant savings had soon melted away, and at the shop where Ming-li had been employed his place was filled by another. When at last he arose from his sick-bed he was too weak for hard labour and there seemed to be no work in the neighbouring villages for …

A Chinese Jonah

A man named Sun Pi-chen (孙必振) was crossing the Yang-tze when a great thunder-squall broke upon the boat and caused her to toss about fearfully, to the great terror of all the passengers. Just then, an angel in golden armour appeared standing upon the clouds above them, holding in his hand a scroll inscribed with certain words, also written in gold, which the people on the boat easily made out to be three in number, namely Sun Pi-chen. So, turning at once to their fellow-traveller, they said to him, " You have evidently incurred the displeasure of God; get into a boat by yourself and do not involve us in your punishment." And without giving him time to reply whether he would do so or not, they hurried him over the side into a small boat and set him adrift; but when Sun Pi-chen looked back, lo! the vessel itself had disappeared.

Gold and gems without, but dry cocoons within

At Hangchow there lived a costermonger who understood how to keep
oranges a whole year without letting them spoil. His fruit was always
fresh-looking, firm as jade, and of a beautiful golden hue; but inside
-- dry as an old cocoon.
One day I asked him, saying, " Are your oranges for altar or
sacrificial purposes, or for show at banquets? Or do you make this
outside display merely to cheat the foolish? as cheat them, you most
outrageously do."
"Sir," replied the orangeman, "I have carried on this trade now for
many years. It is my source of livelihood. I sell: the world buys. And
I have yet to learn that you are the only honest man about, and that I
am the only cheat. Perhaps it never struck you in this light. The
baton-bearers of to-day, seated on their tiger skins, pose as the
martial guardians of the State; but what are they compared with the
captains of old? The broad-brimmed, long-robed ministers of to-day,
pose as pillars of the constitution; but have the…

Steal like a dog and crow like a cock

The prince of Ch'in held Meng Ch'ang-chun a prisoner, and intended to slay him. Meanwhile, Meng Ch'ang-chun sent word to the prince's favourite lady, asking her to inter- cede for him; to which the latter replied that if he would give her a certain robe of white fox-skin, she would speak on his behalf. Now, it chanced that this very robe had already been presented to the prince; but among Meng Ch'ang-chun's followers was one who could steal like a dog, and this man introduced himself by night into the palace and transferred the robe from the prince to the lady. The consequence was that Meng Ch'ang-chun was released and fled at once to the frontier; while the prince soon repented of his clemency, and sent off to recapture his prisoner. When Meng Ch'ang-chun reached the pass, the great gate was closed, not to be opened until cock-crow; at which he was much alarmed, fearing pursuit, until another of his followers, who possessed the art, began to …

For ploughing, go to a ploughman; for weaving, to a servant-maid

Apelles, the greatest of Greek painters, was famous for his pictures of "Venus Rising from the Sea" and "The Three Graces." Another picutre of his, " Alexander Wielding a Thunderbolt," was known all over the ancient world.

The most famous story of Apelles concerns him and a cobbler. At an exhibition of the great artist's work, Apelles himself stood behind one of his pictures, listening to what the people said about them. A cobbler, looking at a picture, found fault with a shoe, or rather sandal, depicted in it, and Apelles at once set to work to alter it and put it right. The cobbler was immensely pleased and got rather swelled head - so much so that next day he came back and began to criticise the legs in the picture. Out came Apelles in a fine rage and told the cobbler to stick to his last.

Coincidentally, Su Tung-p'o, poet of Sung dynasty, recorded a story concerns herdboy and a painting of oxen.

In Ssu-ch'uan province there lived a retired…