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《Chinese Tales for Everyone__ Real and Imaginative: (41) Memory and Freedom, (42) To Light a Candle》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Tales Real and Imaginary

(41) Memory and Freedom

Long ago a man named Hua lost all his memory. He was forty years old and doing well. It began when he intended to go home and forgot his address. Neighbors saw him on the road and brought him in. Sitting down he asked his wife: “Where am I and who are you?”

His wife sought every help to cure him, first engaging an astrologer, then a medium, then a physician. None had any success.

A scholar heard about the case and claimed he could cure the illness. The wife paid him half the family estate.

The scholar asked to be alone with Hua. He took off all the latter’s clothes and he demanded clothes. He deprived him of food and he asked to be fed. He locked him in a dark room and he yelled out his fears. The scholar told the wife: “Your husband can be cured. I will alter his thinking and transform his mind. I need to be with him alone for seven days, with no disturbance.”

No one knew what the scholar did. But Hua became his old self again, remembering everything at home and in the community.

Two days later, Hua threw a temper tantrum and scolded his wife for engaging the scholar to cure him, spending half of their fortune. A big argument followed. The neighbors were so alarmed that they seized Hua to calm him down. His uncle came and asked him to explain his strange behavior. Many neighbors jammed his house to hear what justification he could make.

“I was a free man in my forgetfulness,” Hua said in a moderate voice, “I had no awareness of heaven and earth, rights and wrongs, richness and poverty. But now, I remember all that had passed, everything I succeeded and failed in thirty more years of my life. What is more, I am concerned about what is to come, and how long I will suffer with this clear mind, memory and aspiration, and all.”

He then looked around and said loudly: “Can any of you tell me why I should not be angry?”

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Note: This is an English narration of a vignette in the book列子published in 340 B.C. It may be the earliest description of concepts of psychology and the human condition. Specifically it showed the powers of the human mind and the conflicts of striving and at ease, accepting and refuting.

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Tales Real and Imaginary

(42)To Light a Candle
 

The Prince of Jin in ancient China was a good king. On his 70th birthday party he expressed his wish to pursue more knowledge. But he said: “Unfortunately, I am too old to learn.”

A young man in the party stepped forward, bowed and said: “Sire, why would it be too late, you can light a candle.”

“What has that got to do with learning?” The prince asked.

“Learning is a lifelong process. Learning in youth is like a morning sun, bright and glorious. Learning in the middle-age is like noon time; there is still half a day ahead. While learning in old age is like lighting a candle; the flame may be small, but it can fill a house.”

The prince nodded, his face shone in a smile.

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Note: This is an English narration of an allegory in the book說苑》.It gives a metaphor for three stages of learning in life, vigorous, persisting, and perceptive.

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