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Many Chinese fables tell an entertaining story to illustrate a moral lesson. Here are a few such stories.
Stopping Halfway, Never Comes One's Day
"In the Warring States Period, in the state of Wei lived a man called Leyangtsi. His wife was very angelic and virtuous, who was loved and respected dearly by the husband.
"One day, Leyangtsi found a piece of gold on his way home, and he was so delighted that he ran home as fast as he could to tell his wife. Looking at the gold, his wife said calmly and gently, 'As you know, it is usually said that a true man never drinks the stolen water. How can you take such a piece of gold home which is not yours?' Leyangtsi was greatly moved by the words, and he immediately replaced it where it was.
"The next year, Leyangtsi went to a distant place to study classics with a talented teacher, leaving his wife home alone. One day, his wife was weaving on the loom, when Leyangtsi entered. At his coming, the wife seemed to be worried, and she at once asked the reason why he came back so soon. The husband explained how he missed her. The wife got angry with what the husband did. Advising her husband to have fortitude and not be too indulged in the love, the wife took up a pair of scissors and cut down what she had woven on the loom, which made Leyangtsi very puzzled. His wife declared, 'If something is stopped halfway, it is just like the cut cloth on the loom. The cloth will only be useful if finished. But now, it has been nothing but a mess, and so it is with your study.'
"Leyangtsi was greatly moved by his wife. He left home resolutely and went on with his study. He didn't return home to see his beloved wife until gaining great achievements."
For centuries, the story has often been used as a model to inspire those who would back out in competitions.
Ask a Fox for Its Skin
"Long ago, there lived a young man, called Lisheng, who had just married a beauty. The bride was very willful. One day, she had an idea that a coat of fox fur would look pretty on her. So she asked her husband to get her one. But the coat was rare and too expensive. The helpless husband was forced to walk around on the hillside. Just at the moment, a fox was walking by. He lost no time to catch it by the tail. 'Well, dear fox, let's make an agreement. Could you offer me a sheet of your skin? That isn't a big deal, is it?'
"The fox was shocked at the request, but she replied calmly, 'Well, my dear, that's easy. But let my tail go so that I can pull off the skin for you.' So the delighted man let her free and waited for the skin. But the moment the fox got free, she ran away as quickly as she could into the forest."
The story can be used to illustrate that it is hard to ask someone to act against his own will, even in a seemingly negligible manner.
Bian Heh's Jade
"In the Spring and Autumn Period, Bian Heh in the Chu state got a rough jade on Mount Chu. He decided to present the valuable jade to the emperor to show his official loyalty to his sovereign, Chuli. Unluckily, the jade was judged as a common stone by the court jaders-those who worked with and estimated the value of jade in ancient China-which made Emperor Chuli very angry and had Bian Heh's left foot cut down cruelly.
"After the enthronement of the new emperor Chuwu, Bian Heh decided to submit the jade to Chuwu to clarify matters. Emperor Chuwu also had it checked by the jaders in the court. And the conclusion resulted in the same fact that Bian Heh lost the other foot.
"After the death of Emperor Chuwu, the prince Chuwen was enthroned, that gave the poor Bian Heh a gleam of light of proving his clear conscience. However, the moment he thought of what he had incurred, he couldn't help crying beside a hill. He could not stop crying for several days and nights; he almost wept his heart out and even blood was dropping from his eyes. And it happened to be heard by the emperor in the court. He ordered his men to find out why he was so sad. Bian Heh sobbed out "Call a spade a spade. Why was a real jade mistaken as a plain stone again and again? Why was a loyal man thought faithless time and time?" Emperor Chuwen was touched by Bian Heh's deep grief and ordered the jaders to open the jade to have a close look. To their astonishment, in the rough coat, the pure content was sparkling and translucent. Then it was carefully cut and polished fine and at last, the jade became a rare treasure of the state of Chu. In memory of the faithful man Bian Heh, the Emperor named the jade by Bian Heh. And so the term 'Bian's Jade' came into being."
Even today, people describe something extremely precious in its value with Bian's Jade.
Cheap Tricks Never Last: The Donkey of Guizhou
"Thousands of years ago, donkeys were not found in Guizhou province. But meddlers were always allured by anything. So they shipped one into this area.
"One day, a tiger was walking around to find something to eat, when he saw the strange animal. The huge newcomer frightened him quite a bit. He hid between the bushes to study the donkey watchfully. It seemed all right. So the tiger came near to the donkey to have a close look. 'Hawhee!'-a loud noise burst upon, which sent the tiger running away as fast as he could. He could not have any time to think before he settled himself home. The humiliation stung in him. He must come back to that strange thing to see it through, even though he was still haunted by the terrible noise.
"The donkey was enraged when the tiger got too close. So the donkey brought his unique skill to bear on the offender-to kick with his hooves. After several bouts, it became very clear that the donkey's power was too much. The tiger jumped upon the donkey in time and cut its throat."
People are usually told the story to illustrate the limitations of tricks and trickery.
A Painted Snake Makes a Man Sick
"In the Jin Dynasty, there lived a man named Le Guang, who had a bold and uninhibited character and was very friendly. One day Le Guang sent for one of his close friends since the friend had not turned out for long.
"At the first sight of his friend, Le Guang realized that something must have happened to his friend for his friend has no peace of mind all the time. So he asked his friend what was the matter. 'It was all because of that banquet held at your home. At the banquet, you proposed a toast to me and just when we raised the glasses, I noticed that there was a little snake lying in the wine and I felt particularly sick. Since then, I lay in bed unable to do anything.'
"Le Guang was very puzzled at the matter. He looked around and then saw a bow with a painted snake hung on the wall of his room.
"So Le Guang laid the table at the original place and asked his friend again to have a drink. When the glass was filled with wine, he pointed to the shade of the bow in the glass and asked his friend to see. His friend observed nervously, 'Well, well, that is what I saw last time. It is the same snake.' Le Guang laughed and took off the bow on the wall. 'Could you see the snake anymore?' he asked. His friend was surprised to find that the snake was no longer in the wine. Since the whole truth had come out, his friend recovered from his prolonged illness right away."
For thousands of years, the story has been told to advise people not to be too suspicious unnecessarily.
KuaFu Chased the Sun
"It is said that in antiquity a god named KuaFu determined to have a race with the Sun and catch up with Him. So he rushed in the direction of the Sun. Finally, he almost ran neck and neck with the Sun, when he was too thirsty and hot to continue. Where could he find some water? Just then the Yellow River and Wei River came into sight, roaring on. He swooped upon them earnestly and drank the whole river. But he still felt thirsty and hot, thereupon, he marched northward for the lakes in the north of China. Unfortunately, he fell down and died halfway because of thirst. With his fall, his cane dropped. Then the cane became a stretch of peach, green and lush."
From this fable came the idiom, "KuaFu chased the Sun," which becomes the trope of man's determination and volition against nature.
Fish for the Moon in the Well
"One evening, a clever man, Huojia went to fetch some water from the well. To his surprise, when he looked into the well, he found the moon sunk in the well shining. 'Oh, good Heavens, what a pity! The beautiful moon has dropped into the well!' So he dashed home for a hook, and tied it with the rope for his bucket, then put it into the well to fish for the moon.
"After some time of hunting for the moon, Haojia was pleased to find that something was caught by the hook. He must have thought it was the moon. He pulled hard on the rope. Due to the excessive pulling, the rope broke into apart and Haojia fell flat on his back. Taking advantage of that post, Haojia saw the moon again high in the sky. He sighed with emotion, 'Aha, it finally came back to its place! What a good job!' He felt very happy and told whomever he met with about the wonderment proudly without knowing what he did was something impractical."