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《Chinese Tales for Everyone__Real and Imaginary: (11) How Cows Became Good Farmhands and (12) Knowing Clear the Death Penalty》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Tales Real and Imaginary
(11) How Cows Became Good Farmhands 
     In the beginning of times, when the Great Flood had been tamed, humans returned to live on the plains. They learned to farm, working hard to grow rice for staple food.
Paddy fields had to be turned and the mud smoothed for the planting of rice shoots. People pulled the plow with ropes tied to it, often working two or three together. They became exhausted after plowing a small field.
     Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, saw it and felt for the humans. She asked the Heaven Emperor to help.
     “We have the Star of Energy, the cow. I will order her to descend to earth to tell people they can have a good meal every three days, if they worked hard to grow rice.”
     But, when the cow saw people appearing thin and pale from fatigue, she changed the message, and told them to eat three meals a day to be strong and healthy.
     It was a disaster when the Heaven Emperor heard about it. He asked in a rage: “You fool! Where would you get enough rice to feed the people?”
     “I will help them, Your Highness,” volunteered the cow.
     “So you do, being a god of energy. I hold you responsible!”
     Thus, it came to pass that the cow volunteered to be a farmhand for man. She loved man so much that she gave up her godly status, and she never ate green rice even when hungry.
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Note: This is an English narration from a folk tale loved widely in all generations. It endeared the cow to man, and told about its good nature and high sense of responsibility. It is typical of Chinese tales which make transformations among gods and man and animals in practical life.
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Tales Real and Imaginary
(12) Knowing Clear the Death Penalty 
     When China was divided into a number of small states some 2000 years ago, each state was ruled by a king of absolute power. The states fought each other often to gain more people and territory. Horses were vital animals to win battles.
     The King of Chi had a favorite horse. He assigned a trusted groom to care for it day and night. But it died for unknown reasons. The furious king ordered the groom’s limbs cut off as punishment.
     The wise minister Yen Zi heard about it. He persuaded the king to stop the brutal and unfair punishment.
     The king was still very angry. He changed the penalty to put the groom to death by public execution.
     Yen Zi went to counsel the king again. He suggested that any man facing execution should know his crimes. Otherwise, he could turn into a vengeance ghost after death to trouble the king forever. He offered to spell out the groom’s crimes deserving death. The king agreed.
     So, before the execution in the public square, Yen Zi spoke loud and clear: “Your crimes are threefold. First you allowed the king’s favorite hose to die knowing not why. Second, you accepted your fate to die a violent death because your king loved a horse more than a faithful servant. Third, your death will allow kings of other states to despise your own king because they see how he decided on fair judgment. So, by dying in this public execution you are creating ill-feelings among people, and weaken the stature of our king in the eyes of our neighboring leaders. Now, you should know clearly why you will be executed this instant.”
     “Stop!” shouted the King of Chi in a loud voice, “Set the man free. Let him free lest my humanitarian reputation be tinted with wasteful blood.”
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Note: This is a retelling of a story in the book《晏子春秋》. It contained many stories about the diverse wisdom and actions of Yen Zi, the respected scholar in public and personal affairs in Chinese history. His name represents the moral values of tolerance, fairness, reason and caring. The title of the original story, 知罪而死,represents a sanction of dictatorial rule and the misuse of powers.
 
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