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Confucius was traveling south on his way to Ch’u

Confucius was traveling south on his way to Ch’u when he came to the declivity of A-ku, where a maiden who wore a semi-circle of jade at her belt was washing clothes. Confucius said, "No doubt yonder woman can be approached?" He drew out a cup and handed it to Tzŭ-kung saying, "Address her politely, that we may see what she says."

Tzŭ-kung said to the woman, "I, a humble northerner on my way south to Ch’u, find the weather hot. Ardently I think of you; I wish to beg a drink to demonstrate my feelings." The woman replied, "This declivity of A-ku [holds] a winding stream, whose water is alternately clear and turbid as it flows on its way to the sea. If you wish to drink, then drink. Why ask a woman?" She took Tzŭ-kung's cup, went to the stream and dipped it in against the current; then she threw out the water with a splash and dipped it in again with a splash, following the current, and filled it to overflowing. Kneeling she placed it on the sand and said, "According to etiquette (li) it must not be handed over directly."
Tzŭ-kung reported this, and Confucius said, "I knew it." Drawing out a lute, he removed its pegs and handed it to Tzŭ-kung saying, "Address her politely, that we may see what she says."

Tzŭ-kung said, "The words you have just spoken are soothing as a pure breeze, not contradicting what I said; they have harmonized and made easy my mind. Here is a lute without pegs; I would like you to tune it for me. The woman replied, "I am a rustic person, uncultivated and ignorant. Not knowing the five tones, how could I tune your lute?"

Tzŭ-kung reported this, and Confucius said, "I knew it." He drew out five liang of hemp, which he handed to Tzŭ-kung, saying, "Address her politely, that we may see what she says."

Tzŭ-kung said, "I am a man from a northern rustic town on my way south to Ch’u. Here I have five liang of hemp. Though I dare not consider it worthy of yourself, I shall venture to place it by the bank of the stream."

The woman replied, "Your behaviour is wrong, like that of a cunning man. You divide up property and casting it away on a rustic person. I am too young— how would I dare receive it from you? If you do not take it away immediately, there will be a violent man coming after you." The Ode says,

In the south rise the trees without branches,
Affording no shelter.
By the Han are girls rambling about,
But it is vain to solicit them.

This is illustrated in the above [story].



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