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ANCIENT CHINESE FABLES

(original text in ancient Chinese)   (translation in English)
the frog in the shallow well The Frog in the Shallow Well

Have you not heard of the frog that lived in a shallow well? It said to a turtle that lived in the East Sea, "I am so happy! When I go out, I jump about on the railing beside the mouth of the well. When I come home,I rest in the holes on the broken wall of the well. If I jump into the water, it comes up to my armpits and holds up my cheeks. If I walk in the mud, it covers up my feet. I look around at the wriggly worms, crabs and tadpoles, and none of them can compare with me. Moreover, I am lord of this trough of water and I stand up tall in this shallow well. My happiness is full. My dear sir, why don't you come often and look around my place?"

Before the turtle from the East Sea could get its left foot in the well, its right knee got stuck. It hesitated and retreated. The turtle told the frog about the East Sea.

"Even a distance of a thousand li cannot give you an idea of the sea's width; even a height of a thousand ren cannot give you an idea of its depth. In the time of King Yu of the Xia dynasty, there were floods nine years out of ten, but the waters in the sea did not increase. ln the time of King Tang of the Shang dynasty there were droughts seven years out of eight, but the waters in the sea did not decrease. The sea does not change along with the passage of time and its level does not rise or fall according to the amount of rain that falls. The greatest happiness is to live in the East Sea."

After listening to these words, the frog of the shallow well was shocked into realization of his own insignificance and became very ill at ease.

li: a Chinese unit of length equal to half a kimometre.
ren: a Chinese unit of length, approximately equal to 21/3 metres.

Aping a Beauty Aping a Beauty

Xi Shi, a famous beauty, had a pain in her bosom, so she had a frown on her face when she went out. An ugly girl who lived nearby saw her and thought she looked very beautiful. Therefore when she went home, she also put her hands on her bosom and had a frown on her face.

When a rich man in the neighbourhood saw her, he shut his doors tightly and did not go out. When a poor man saw her, he took his wife and children and gave her a wide berth.

She only knew Xi Shi's frown looked beautiful but she did not know the reason for its beauty.

His Spcar Against His Shield His Spear Against His Shield

A man of the state of Chu had a spear and a shield for sale. He was loud in praises of his shield.

"My shield is so strong that nothing can pierce it through."

He also sang praises of his spear.

"My spear is so strong that it can pierce through anything."

"What would happen," he was asked, "if your spear is used to pierce your shield?"

It is impossible for an impenetrable shield to coexist with a spear that finds nothing impenetrable.

Making His Mark Making His Mark

A man from the state of Chu was crossing a river. In the boat, his sword fell into the water. Immediately he made a mark on the boat.

"This is where my sword fell off," he said.

When the boat stopped moving, he went into the water to look for his sword at the place where he had marked the boat.

The boat had moved but the sword had not. Is this not a very foolish way to look for a sword?

Ostrich Logic Ostrich Logic

At the time when Fan, a nobleman of the state of Jin, became a fugitive, a commoner found a bell and wanted to carry it off on his back. But the bell was too big for him. When he tried to knock it into pieces with a hammer there was a loud clanging sound. He was afraid that someone will hear the noise and take the bell from him, so he immediately stopped his own ears.

To worry about other people hearing the noise is understandable, but to worry about himself hearing the noise (as if stopping his own ears would prevent other people from hearing) is absurd.

Blessing or Bane Blessing or Bane

Near China's northern borders lived a man well versed in the practices of Taoism. His horse, for no reason at all, got into the territory of the northern tribes. Everyone commiserated with him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a blessing," said his father.

After a few months, his animal came back, leading a fine horse from the north. Everyone congratulated him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a cause of misfortune," said his father.

Since he was well-off and kept good horses his son became fond of riding and eventually broke his thigh bone falling from a horse. Everyone commiserated with him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a blessing," said his father.

One year later, the northern tribes started a big invasion of the border regions. All able-bodied young men took up arms and fought against the invaders, and as a result, around the border nine out of ten men died. This man's son did not join in the fighting because he was crippled and so both the boy and his father survived.




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