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The Growing Disease

Bian Que was a popular doctor of Cai. One day he came across King Cai Huan, looked at him for a while and said, "You are ill. But it doesn't matter, since the sickness is yet skin deep. It is easy to cure."

The king squinted at him and said, "Many thanks. But I need no treatment at all! I am as fit as a fiddle."

Bian Que shook his head and left without another word.

After his departure, the king made comments on him, saying to his men, "That's the way a doctor shows his skills: treating healthy patients to cure non-illness."

Ten days later, the king met with Bain Que again and doctor mentioned his illness once more, "Your Majesty, the sickness now has got into your muscles. You should not make light of it. Please take some medicine."

The king pulled a long face and rejected the advice.

Another ten days passed. When change happened to put them together, Bian Que said to the king in earnest, "Really Your Majesty! The sickness is now already dwelling in your stomach and bowels. It will be mortal if you persist in objecting to a treatment in time!"

King Cai Huan got annoyed and sniffed scornfully.

Thus a dozen more days had slipped by before Bian Que showed his face. But hardly had he seen King Cai Huan when he took to his heels in a great hurry. Quite puzzled, the king sent a man to find out the reason. When the man caught up with Bian Que, the latter replied, "It's curable when a disease doesn't develop to its fatal degree. But now, by refusing a treatment, His Majesty has allowed his illness into his marrow, a case that nobody can deal with successfully."

Five days afterwards, the king felt his body aching all over. At once he sent for Bian Que. But, foreseeing this, Bian Que had long gone to Qin and dodged such a request.

King Cai Huan dies at last, filled with pain and regret.

Acupuncture diagnosis and treatment (with needles etc.,) is in part of this kind, believe it or not.

He Who Knows He Is Not a Fool Is Not the Biggest Fool

Chuang Tzu once said:

"Call a man a sycophant and he flushes with anger; call him a flatterer and he turns crimson with rage . . . See him set forth his analogies and polish his fine phrases to draw a crowd, until the beginning and end, the root and branches of his argument no longer match! See him spread out his robes, display his bright colours . . . in hopes of currying favour with the age - he doesn't recognise himself as a sycophant or a flatterer. See him with his followers laying down the law on right and wrong - and yet he does not recognise himself as one of the mob. This is the height of foolishness!

He who knows he is a fool is not the biggest fool; he who knows he is confused is not in the worst confusion.

The man in the worst confusion will end his life without ever getting straightened out; the biggest fool will end his life without ever seeing the light. If three men are travelling along and one is confused, they will still get where they are going - because confusion is in the minority. But if two of them are confused, then they can walk until they are exhausted and never get anywhere - because confusion is in the majority. And with all the confusion in the world these days, no matter how often I point the way, it does no good. Sad, is it not? . . .

Lofty words make no impression on the minds of the mob. Superior words gain no hearing . . . With all the confusion in the world these days, no matter how often I point the way, what good does it do?" said Chuang.

Watson 1968:139-40, extracts

The Magic Cask

Once there was a man who dug up a big, earthenware cask in his field. He took it home with him and told his wife to clean it out. But when his wife started brushing the inside of the cask, the cask suddenly began to fill itself with brushes. No matter how many were taken out, others kept on taking their place. So the man sold the brushes, and the family managed to live quite comfortably.

Once a coin fell into the cask by mistake. At once the brushes disappeared and the cask began to fill itself with money. Now the family became rich; for they could take as much money out of the cask as ever they wished.

The man had an old grandfather at home, weak and shaky. Since there was nothing else he could do, his grandson set him to work shovelling money out of the cask. When the old grandfather grew weary and could not keep on, he would fall into a rage, and shout at him angrily, telling him he was lazy and did not want to work. One day, however, the old man's strength gave out, and he fell into the cask and died. At once the money disappeared, and the whole cask began to fill itself with dead grandfathers.

Then the man had to pull them all out and have them buried, and to do it in style he had to use up again all the money he had received. When he was through, the cask broke, and he was as poor as before.

She Died

A certain man had a mother who lost her sight, and he spent all his money on doctors, but in vain. For thirty long years he cared for his mother, and would scarcely take off his clothes; and in the pleasant spring weather he would lead his mother into the garden, and laugh and sing, so that his mother forgot her sadness.

When she died her son too had wasted away after long years where he had been withough almost all former freedom. When at last he recovered somewhat, he said to his sister: "Through thirty years' of care through which I have worked away my prosperity, I have become interested in disorder; it seems to me to be the only way in which I can get some ridiculous comfort in the years ahead."

His sister admonished him, "Kindness always pays."

He said, innocently, "How can I recognise it if it happens?"

She sighed, "Innocence means no harm. The pay? Wherever you may be, when favours come for free."

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Chinese tales, folk tales and fairy tales of China, Literature  

Watson, Burton, tr. The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu. New York: Columbia University Press, 1968.

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