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Showing posts from December, 2013

Li Po, the Immortal of the Winecup

LIFE OF LI PO Li Po, styled T'ai-po, was descended in the ninth generation from the Emperor Hsing-shēng. One of his ancestors was charged with a crime at the end of the Sui dynasty, and took refuge in Turkestan. At the beginning of the period Shēn-lung the family returned and settled in Pa-hsi in Szechwan. At his birth Po's mother dreamt of the planet Venus, and that was why he was called Po.

At the beginning of the T'ien-pao period he went to Ch'ang-an. Here he visited Ho Chih-chang. When Chih-chang read some of his work, he sighed and said : " You are an exiled fairy." He told the Emperor, who sent for Po and gave him audience in the Golden Bells Hall. The poet submitted an essay dealing with current events. The Emperor bestowed food upon him and stirred the soup with his own hand. He ordered that he should be unofficially attached to the Han Lin Academy, but Po went on drinking in the market-place with his boon-companions.

Once when the Emperor was sittin…

When a man attains the Tao, even his hens and dogs ascend to heaven

The Prince of Huai-nan, second century B.C., who after years of patient experiment, have finally discovered the elixir of life. Immediately on tasting the drug, his body became imponderable, and he began to rise heavenward. Startled by this new sensation, he dropped the cup out of which he had been drinking, into the courtyard ; whereupon his dogs and poultry finished up the dregs, and were soon sailing up to heaven after him.

Painted Skin

There was once a young man who had fallen under the influence of a beautiful young girl, when he met a Taoist priest in the street, who started on seeing him, and said that his face showed signs that he had been bewitched. Hurrying home, the young man found his door locked; and on creeping softly up to the window and looking in, he saw a hideous fox devil, with a green face and jagged teeth like a saw, spreading a human skin on the bed, and painting it with a paint-brush. The devil then threw aside the brush, and giving the skin a shake-out, just as you would a coat, cast it over its shoulders, when lo! there stood the girl.

The young man was so frighted that he ran away as fast as he could to the priest. The priest then engaged in terrible conflict with the fox devil. Finally she became a dense column of smoke curling up from the ground, and then the priest took from his vest an uncorked gourd, and threw it right into the midst of the smoke. A sucking noise was heard, and the whole c…

Ten henpecked husbands

Ten henpecked husbands agreed to form themselves into a society for resisting the oppression of their wives. At the first meeting they were sitting talking over their pipes, when suddenly the ten wives, who had got wind of the movement, appeared on the scene.

There was a general stampede, and nine of the husbands incontinently bolted through another door, only one remaining unmoved to face the music. The ladies merely smiled contemptuously at the success of their raid, and went away.

The nine husbands then all agreed that the bold tenth man, who had not run away, should be at once appointed their president; but on coming to offer him the post, they found that he had died of fright! (H. A. Giles)

An Absent-minded Scholar

A scholar of old was so absent-minded, that on one occasion, when he was changing houses, he forgot to take his wife. This was reported to Confucius as a most unworthy act. " Nay," replied the Master, "it is indeed bad to forget one's wife ; but 'tis worse to forget one's self ! " (H. A. Giles)

Learn To Swim

There was a Chinese doctor who had mismanaged a case, and was seized by the patient's family and tied up. In the night he managed to free himself, and escaped by swimming across a river. When he got home, he found his son, who had just begun to study medicine, and he said to him, " Don't be in a hurry with your books ; the first and most important thing is to learn to swim ! " (H. A. Giles)

A piece of land as big as a bull's hide

For instance, we read in the History of the Ming Dynasty, A.D. 1368-1644, a full account of the method by which the Spaniards, in the sixteenth century, managed to obtain first a footing in, and then the sovereignty over, the islands of the Philippines : —

"The Fulanghis (i.e, the Franks), who at that time had succeeded by violence in establishing trade relations with Luzon (the old name of the Philippines), saw that the nation was weak, and might easily be conquered. Accordingly, they sent rich presents to the king of the country, begging him to grant them a piece of land as big as a bull's hide, for building houses to live in. The king, not suspecting guile, conceded their request, whereupon the Fulanghis cut the hide into strips and joined them together, making many hundreds of ten-foot measures in length ; and then, having surrounded with these a piece of ground, called upon the king to stand by his promise. The king was much alarmed ; but his word had been pledged, and t…

Wen T'ien-hsiang

Wên T'ien-hsiang was born in A.D. 1236. At the age of 18 he excelled in his local examinations, and two years later at the age of twenty-one he participated in examinations in the capital, and came out first on the list of successful candidates for the highest literary degree. Upon the draft-list submitted to the Emperor he had been placed seventh ; but his Majesty, after looking over the essays, drew the grand examiner's attention to the originality and excellence of that of Wên T'ien-hsiang, and the examiner — himself a great scholar and no sycophant — saw that the Emperor was right, and altered the places accordingly.

Four or five years later Wên Tien-hsiang attracted attention by demanding the execution of a statesman who had advised that the Court should quit the capital and flee before the advance of the victorious Mongols. Then followed many years of hard fighting, in the course of which his raw levies were several times severely defeated, and he himself was once ta…

A Chinese Rip Van Winkle

There is also a Chinese Rip Van Winkle, a tale of a man who, wandering one day in the mountains, came upon two immortals playing checkers; and after watching them for some time, and eating some dates they gave him, he discovered that the handle of an axe he was carrying had mouldered into dust. Returning home, he found, as the Chinese poet puts it,

" City and suburb as of old,
But hearts that loved him long since cold."

Seven generations had passed away in the interim.
 (Herbert Allen Giles)

A very stingy man

A very stingy man took a paltry sum of money to an artist — payment is always exacted in advance — and asked him to paint his portrait. The artist at once complied with his request, but in an hour or so, when the portrait was finished, nothing was visible save the back of the sitter's head. " What does this mean ? " cried the latter, indignantly. " Oh," replied the artist, " I thought a man who paid so little as you wouldn't care to show his face ! " (Herbert Allen Gile)

Ranka -- The Record of Lankeshan, or Rotten Axe Handle

Wang Chih was a woodcutter, he was hardy young fellow who used to venture deep into the mountains to find suitable wood for his axe. One day he went farther than usual and became lost. He wandered about for a while and eventually came upon two strange old men who were playing Go, their board resting on a rock between them. Wang Chih was fascinated. He put down his axe and began to watch. One of the players gave him something like a date to chew on, so that he felt neither hunger nor thirst. As he continued to watch he fell into a trance for what seemed like an hour or two. When he awoke, however, the two old men were no longer there. He found that his axe handle had rotted to dust and he had grown a long beard. When he returned to his native village he discovered that his family had disappeared and that no one even remembered his name.