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《Chinese Tales for Everyone__Real and Imaginary: (25) Timely Escapes (26) A Clever Wife》__Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Tales Real and Imaginary

(25) Timely Escapes

Once long ago, a tiger, a wolf and a fox went hunting together. They caught a goat, a rabbit and a chicken, and sat down to discuss how the preys should be shared.

The tiger asked the wolf to begin.

Without thinking twice the wolf said: “Big Brother Tiger, you should have the goat, the largest share. I will share the rabbit and the chicken with brother fox.”

The tiger was unhappy. He tried to hide his snarl as he asked the fox for her suggestion. The wolf noticed that things were not right. He quietly sneaked away for dear life.

The fox was cunning. She said: “I think being our Big Brother, you should have the goat for breakfast, the rabbit for lunch and the chicken for supper. That will make you healthy and strong.”

“Where did you learn such fair way to divide our preys?” The tiger asked, showing a bit of joy.

“I learned by observing what happened to Brother Wolf. And now, I would like to go to hunt for more prey for you.” The fox slipped away and ran as fast as she could, lest she be the next meal for the greedy tiger.

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Note: This is an English narration of a folk tale in the book民間故事》. It depicts the popular saying that some partners are self-centered and defy any sharing, as shown in the phrase 可以共患難,不可共富貴.
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Tales for Everyone

(26) A Clever Wife

Once upon a time there was a young couple who lived happily in Jinling, China’s old capital. The wife was exceptionally intelligent and diligent. She managed all familiar affairs well and the husband was very proud of her. He wrote a couplet on red paper and hung it on the door sides:

Which family can compare with mine

I need ask nothing else from mankind

One day the local magistrate passed by the house and read the boasting couplet. He decided to find out, and see if he should teach the arrogant writer a lesson. He dispatched two petty officers to invite the master of the house to court.

“What have I done wrong?” the husband lamented after he saw the summons. He shared his fear with his wife. She pondered for a moment and asked him to calm down. She figured that the summons must have to do with the couplet, and comforted him before he followed the officers to court.

The magistrate announced the case: “You are very arrogant with the couplet on your door. It seems there is nothing that you cannot do. Here, I present you with three tasks. If you can complete them satisfactorily in three days, you will be free. If you should fail, I will charge you for contempt in the community. First, you weave a cloth as long as the horizon. Second, you brew as much wine as water in the ocean. Third, you raise a pig as heavy as the mountain.”

The husband appeared very glum when he returned home to relate the charges to his wife, shaken as he felt hopeless.

“There is no need to fear,” said the wife as she told him what to do in a whisper. She then prepared three objects for him to carry to court the next day. They were a ruler, a measuring jar, and a kitchen scale.

When the man stood before the magistrate in the morning, he confidently told the latter that he would have no problem accomplishing all the tasks assigned. He then said as he presented what he brought: “Your Honor, please use this ruler to ascertain the exact length of the horizon, and I will weave the cloth for you. Please use this jar to measure the amount of ocean water, and I will have the wine brewed. And, lastly, please use this scale to gage how much the mountain weighs, and I shall have the big fat pig for you.”

The magistrate accepted the presentation. He wondered how this simple man could be so clever and quick in figuring the responses. As he sent him off the court he murmured to the man: “between you and me, whose idea was it that was so clever?’

“It’s my wife.”

The magistrate nodded and said: “You are justified to be a proud man to display so explicit an arrogance.”

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Note: This is an English narration of an ancient folk tale contained in the book民間故事》.The collection of tales has been passed down verbally among simple folks in many villages. The story marks the important place of woman in families and what happiness means between husband and wife.

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