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《Chinese Tales for Everyone: Real and Imaginary_ (3) Happy Fishes and (4) Hen, Fox and a Bag of Rice》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Tales Real and Imaginary

(3)  Happy Fishes

The ancient Chinese philosopher Zhang Zi (莊子) was famous for challenging the status-quo of his time, with his famous butterfly dream allegory (莊周夢蝶). He loved to have an argument with his opponent Hui Zi (惠子).

They were out one day to enjoy walking around the countryside. At the bank of the Hao()River they stopped to watch the flow and what went with it.

“Like us, the fishes are enjoying the company of one another. They swim gracefully this way and that way with such joy.” Zhang Zi said.

“You are no fish. How can you say they are enjoying themselves?”

“You are no Zhang Zi. How can you tell I don’t know the joy these fishes feel?”

“There you have it.” exclaimed Hui Zi, “Just as I’m no Zhang Zi so I can’t tell what you can or cannot say. The fact that you are no fish proves that you don’t know the joy of fishes.”

Zhang Zi laughed, throwing his head backwards as he said: “Let’s begin with what you had said at the beginning. You had acknowledged that I could say what I said when you asked how I knew the fishes were joyfully swimming. That should settle my right in saying how fishes felt.”

He then added these words to debase Hui Zi: “What’s more, I just knew from here.” as he pointed to his head.

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Note: This is an English narration from an allegory in Zhang Zi 莊子》. It shows the power of the human mind for empathy, as well as logical reasoning. Human beings do feel what animals feel, and reversely in some cases, as seen in the amicable relations between a pet dog and its master, foe example. These psychological concepts are represented in the commonly used phrase 莊子觀魚.
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Tales Real and Imaginary

(4) Hen, Fox and a Bag of Rice

One day long ago, a farmer from a distant village came to visit his aunt in a riverside town. He brought with him a hen, a fox and a bag of rice.

When he arrived at the river, he was told that he could cross it bringing one thing at a time. If he took more, bad luck would hang on him for three years.

He thought the simplest thing to do would be to make many trips. But what should he carry first? He scratched his head.

His quick mind told him that if he took the rice first and leave the fox and the hen behind, he would surely loose the hen in no time. On the other hand, if he took the fox first and left the hen with the rice, the hen would have a good meal with the rice.

The farmer hesitated when the ferry whistled to leave. There was no time for delay. He jumped onto the ferry with a hen in his arm. Moments later, he turned back to look, and saw the fox sitting quietly with the bag of rice at a distance.

On his second trip, the farmer crossed the river with his bag of rice to the east bank. He took the hen on his third trip back to the west bank, and put it down when he took the fox in his lap to the west bank. Finally, he came back to the east bank alone to fetch his hen across. He had all of them visiting his aunt.

“How I avoided a bad luck with a wise decision!” he thought, smiling.

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Note: This is an English narration of a folk tale in the book民間故事. Children love this tale figuring out how to solve the farmer’s problem, competing to have an answer.

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