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《Chinese Tales for Everyone__Real and Imaginary: (9) Ark! Ark! the Black-Bird and (10) A Teacher of Kings》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Tales Real and Imaginary

(9) Ark! Ark! the Black-Bird

The black-bird was seen hopping from branch to branch one day, appearing restless. It heard people criticizing: “That terrible black-bird makes the most annoying noise; and ever so frequently!”

A robin saw the situation and asked if it could help.

“I am moving house.” said the black-bird, “people here don’t like me.”

The robin was a little disturbed. Being a good neighbor, he said: “It seems that you have been here only a few weeks. It is a good park with beautiful trees, and plenty of food. May be things will improve if you stayed longer.”

“I will move to the west side of this park.” the black-bird replied, “I believe people over there are friendlier. They will even enjoy my calls.”

The robin tilted his head a little, trying to understand. He knew the black-bird’s problem is its “Ark! Ark!” cries, startling, harsh, and frequent. Merely moving from one place to another would not change things. He offered this advice: “My friend may be if you change your crying habit a little would help. People like birds, especially when they chirp softly in the morning. May be you cry softer, or less frequent, or away from people?”

“No, you don’t understand.” said the black-bird, “It is the people here who dislike my cries. People are different where I am moving to.”

The robin said: “I think people are the same everywhere regarding sounds. They like birds that sing in the morning, chirping like music. They are startled by sudden harsh cries that never varied.”

The black-bird listened attentively. He said: “May be you are right. I shall stay here and hope people will change their attitudes towards me.” It then flew away, calling “Ark! Ark!”

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Note: This is a narration of an allegory in the book列子. It teaches us to keep an open mind and to do self-reflections now and then, never blame others for any problem seen or encountered.

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Tales Real and Imaginary

(10) A Teacher of Kings

King Wen of ancient China loved to hunt. One day, on a hunting expedition, he caught a fawn by hand. “Why, it’s just a nursling. How beautiful you are!” he exclaimed, stroking its fine fur.

He gave it to his servant Shibo, and told him to bring it back to the palace for the prince to play.

Shibo took the order happily because he hated hunting, seeing animals killed for game. He put the fawn into a small cage on a cart, and began to head for the palace immediately.

Just as he was out of the forest, he became alarmed that something was following him. He saw a doe moving near. The fawn called and the doe edged closer, calling back. The sound of their cries was heartrending.

Shibo felt great sympathy for the animals, and tears blurred his eyes. He wanted to release the fawn back to its mother. But he knew he would be punished severely if he did. Disobeying the King’s orders was a capital offence.

Meanwhile, the doe came closer, crying as if she was begging him for her baby’s release. His heart sank. He stopped, and let the nursling out of the cage. Seeing how quickly the fawn ran to its mother, and how lovingly the doe took it under her to feed, he sighed with relief and felt happy.

Back in the palace, the King was furious when he learned what had happened. He dismissed Shibo from his palace service and sent him to work in a remote village.

Four years later, the King decided it was time for his son to begin school. He told his Prime Minister to invite Shibo back to teach the prince.

“Why do Your Majesty wish to summon a man who had disobeyed your order to be your son’s teacher? And what qualifications he has to do such an important job?” the Prime Minister asked timidly.

The king smiled. He said: “Shibo is an upright and courageous man. A man who is willing to risk his fortune to care for an animal in the wild will certainly influence my son to love people as much as himself. That would be the most valuable education for the price.”

The Prime Minister went personally to bring Shibo back to the palace. A date was set for the prince to begin school. The King had the prince dressed in a long white robe to worship with him the gods and ancestors. He then present him to Shibo saying; “This is your teacher. He is kind and brave. He loves lives, his own as much as all

others.  Learn all you can from him and you will be a good king.”

Time passed. It turned out that Shibo was as good a learner as he was a teacher. He became a famous scholar and the prince a great king in the history of China.

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Note: This is a narration from an anecdote in the book說宛. It shows how the ancient Chinese looked at the qualities of kings and their education. It also shows man’s affinity with animals.

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