Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Chinese philosophies are engrained ingeniously in simple stories

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature - School on Blog

Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB-AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Our Lesson: Chinese philosophies are engrained ingeniously in simple stories that take the form of anecdotes, jokes and fables. They are people's stories. Here are old Chinese stories that lead the reader to philosophies of ancient China, which are as relevant today as the time they were written and taught.

Compared, Western stories generally emphasize entertainment, often through action and drama, and convey lessons that are equally valuable, but not necessarily on the level of philosophical thought.

Analyze each story and find out the corresponding philosophy involved. Relate it with a real situation and explain. This is applicable in class, in preparing papers and speeches , and in sharing during conferences and gatherings.

Liu Zongyuan, Liu Tsung-yüan, courtesy name (zi) Zihou (born 773, Hedong [now Yongji], Shanxi province, China—died 819, Liuzhou, Guangxi province), Chinese poet and prose writer who supported the movement to liberate writers from the highly formalized pianwen, the parallel prose style cultivated by the Chinese literati for nearly 1,000 years. A talented writer from his youth, Liu Zongyuan served as a government official for most of his life, acting with integrity and courage despite his politically motivated exile to minor positions in isolated regions of China. Encyclopedia Britanica

The man who liked money better than life

In Yongshu there were many good swimmers. One day, the river swelled suddenly. Braving the danger, about half a dozen people started across in a small boat. While they were still in midstream, the boat capsized. Whereupon, they started to swim. One, though using his arms vigorously, seemed to make small progress.

"You're a better swimmer than any of us, why are you lagging behind?"
asked his companions.

"I have a thousand coins tied around my loin," said the man.

"Why don't you throw them away?" urged the others.

He made no answer, shaking his head, although he was clearly in difficulties.

The others reahed the shore and shouted out to him: "Offwith the coins, you fool! What's the use of the money to you when you are drowning?"

Still the man shook his head. In a few moments he was drowned. ~

- Collected Works of Liu Zongyuan

2. Short-sightedness

Two men were short-sighted, but instead of admitting it, both of them boasted of keen vision.

One day they heard that a tablet was to be hung in a temple. So each of them found out what was written in it beforehand. When the day came, they both went to the temple. Looking up, one said, "Look, aren't the characters 'Brightness and Uprighteousness'?

"And the smaller ones. There! You can see them, they say, 'Written by so and so in a certain month, on a certain day'!" said the other.

A passerby asked what they were looking at. When told, the man laughed. "The tablet hasn't been hoisted up, so how can you see the characters?" he asked.

- Xiao Lin Ya (Selected Jokes)

3. Will you flatter me?

A rich man and a poor man were talking together,

"I have a hundred ounces of gold," said the rich man. "If I give you twenty, will you flatter me?"

"It would not be fairly shared, so how could I flatter you?"

"Suppose I give you half, would you flatter me then?"

"We would be equal, I would not flatter you."

"If I give you all the gold, how then?"

"If I had all the gold, I would have no need to flatter you." ~

- Ai Zi Wai Yu

4. The Fighting Oxen

A great artist painted a picture of two oxen fighting.

Everybody praised it.

"Look! How spirited they look, like live ones."

The artist swelled with pride. He had the painting mounted on precious silk hung from jade rods, and put it away in a cedar chest. Rarely would he show it to anyone except those who could appreciatre fine work.

One day he took the painting from the chest, unrolled it, and hung it in the sun, as a precaution against bookworms.

Just then a cowherd entered the courtyard, stood before the picture and smiled broadly.

"Do you know anything about painting, boy?" asked the artist. "What do you think of the oxen, aren't they lifelike?"

"They look like oxen," said the cowherd, still smiling.

"And is there anything that strikes you as being wrong?"

"When oxen fight and but with their horns," said the boy, "they keep their tails tucked between their rumps. Now in this picture, they're flicking their tails about. I've never seen oxen fighting like that before."

The great artist had no answer to this. ~

- Dong Po Zhi Lin, by Su Shi

5. A Weak-Minded Old Peasant

An old peasant had a few mu of land (one-tenth of a hectare). He was feeble character who chose to regard himself as a peaceable man.

One day, a man came to him, "You neighbor let his ox trample your paddy field," he said.

"Oh, maybe it is only an accident," said the old peasant. "Don't bother about it."

The next day another man came to him, "Your neighbor is cutting the rice in your field," he told him.

"They are short of food," said the old peasant. "Let them take it. What does it matter?"

His meekness merely served to whet the appetite if his neighbor, who proceeded to encrouch upon his land and cut off some branches of the tree over his ancestral grave.

This was more that the old peasant would stand. He went to his neighbor and demanded to know why he had encroached upon his land.

"What do you mean?" creid his neighbor. "We reclaimed this land together, but we never marked the boundary. You say I'm encroaching on your land, but actually it's the other way around."

"All right! Then why did you cut off the branches of the tree on my ancestral grave?"

"Why didn't you move your ancestral grave farther off?" retorted the neighbor. "The roots of that tree have run into my field and its branches hang over my field. I only cut a few twigs that hang over my field. What's that to you?"

The old peasant shook with rage. But being feeble-minded, he could not really rally his wits. "Oh, well!" he said. "It's all my fault! All my fault! I shouldn't have chosen you as my neighbor!"

- Pu Li Zi

NOTE: I had a chance to visit China in 1980 and in 1986 and saw the rapid transformation of the once "sleeping giant" into a modern country. In spite of modernism that is changing the lives of the younger Chinese, the philosophies of ancient China and teachings of great Chinese teachers like Confucius are very much alive and respected. Acknowledgment: Chinese Ancient Fables, translated by Yang Xianyl, Gladys Yang, et al; Google photo credit, Encyclopedia Britanica

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