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Chinese Folktales


A local man ran a clock store, and every day, a certain young fellow came into the store briefly, looked inside, and left. One day, the clock store owner asked the young man about his daily routine. “Well,” replied the latter, “I’m the town timekeeper, and it’s my job to ring the town square bell at noon. I estimate the time by looking at the sun’s position; but to be more accurate, I come in here and check your clock.” “What!” the clock merchant replied. “I set my clocks according to when when I hear the rings of your bell!”

Duke Wen

Duke Wen of Chin put an army into the field with the intention of attacking the Duke of Wei. Observing this, Tzu Ch’u threw his head back and laughed aloud. When he was asked why he was laughing, Tzu Ch’u replied, “I was thinking of the time my neighbor was travelling somewhere with his wife, and on the way, he started talking to an attractive woman who was tending silkworms. At one point during his conversation, he noticed that his wife was also receiving the attentions of an admirer! That’s what made me laugh.”

The Duke saw the point and immediately took his army back to Chin. Before he got back, an invading force had already crossed his northern frontier!

When we focus on our own desires and don’t see the desires of others, we might find ourselves in a similar situation.

Critiquing the Writing

A well-known government official and scholar was assigned to govern a very primitive area where the region’s natives lived side-by-side with new immigrants.

Shortly after the official arrived there, a young native man from the area asked him to look at some of his writings. Although what he had written was for the most part mediocre, the official expressed his approval, and then offered some advice. Greatly elated and appreciative, the young man thanked him and left.

An assistant to the official had also read the work, and when the young man left, he remarked to the official, “That work was nothing special, so why did you praise it?”

The official replied, “We must take into account the fact that the young man is a native of this very primitive region–his family is probably illiterate, and he surely had to go to great lengths to even learn to read and write. He put himself on the line just by showing his work to me. So instead of leading off with criticism, I gave him encouragement first and then suggestions. He will no doubt continue his studies with a pure heart, and also set an example and influence the other natives of this village to learn. And this can only strengthen the community.


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