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《Chinese Tales for Everyone__Real and Imaginary: (39)The Qualities of a Superior Horse, (40) Letting Doves Free》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Tales Real and Imaginary

(39) The Qualities of a Superior Horse

Prince Mu of Qin (秦穆)in ancient China was a lover of fine horses. He asked Bo Le, the famous horse connoisseur of fine horses of his time, to find a most superior stallion to top his staple.

Bo Le()recommended Jiufang Gao (九方皋)for the mission, saying: “I am too old to travel now, and none of my children knows what a truly superior horse is. But my old friend Juifang Gao has the expertise far exceeding me. He can help Your Majesty.”

The Prince summoned Gao and dispatched him to find “the best stallion in the world”.

Three months later, Gao returned to give the Prince the good news.

“Where did you find this horse and what is it like?” The Prince asked anxiously.

“I found it at Sandy Hill up north in our country. It is a stallion with dark brown fur.” Gao replied respectfully.

“Not right, Your Majesty,” the mission assistance made a correction, “it is a black mare.”

Prince Mu was outraged. He asked Bo Le: “How dare you recommend such a careless man to be the best horse seeker? He could not even distinguish between a male and female horse. Nor could he tell the colour of a horse.”

Be Le let out a long sigh and replied calmly: “Your Majesty, this shows Goa’s exceeding ability and understanding. He concentrated to search for the essential qualities of a superior horse, like its high spirit and how it relates to man. In so doing, he paid little attention to the outer appearance which is of miner importance. He is a champion of fine horses. He knows where to seek and how to evaluate the most superior horse for Your Majesty. I am sure he has done the best job for you.”

In a moment, the horse was brought in.

It proved to be a most extraordinary horse in the Prince’s collection.

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Note: This is an English narration of an allegory in Lie Zi《列子.九方皋相馬》。

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Tales Real and Imaginary

(40) Letting Doves Free

In ancient China the people of Handan (邯鄲) had a custom to celebrate their New Year. They caught doves for a high official (簡子) to let them free in a ceremony. In turn, whoever presented the high official with the most number of doves would get a prize.

A scholar asked him: “What good is your act of letting doves free?”

“It is my way of showing my kindness and gratitude to Mother Nature.” He replied.

“Some kindness,” retorted the scholar, “your Excellency knows that people compete to catch the most number of doves to win your reward and hurt or weaken a lot of them in the process. Some of the birds will die after they are set free. So the best way for you to show your kindness and grace is to cancel the ‘Let free (放生)’ ceremony so no dove would be caught or killed.”

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Note: This is a tale retold in English from an allegory獻鳩放生in the book Lie Zi《列子》.

 

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