Episode 137: Chinese Version Of The Emperor’s New Clothes

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Most of people know about the story The Emperor’s New Clothes by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. Today we will talk about the Chinese version of this story.

The story The Emperor’s New Clothes was first published in the year 1837. Andersen himself claimed that this story is based on a 1335 story from the Libro de los ejemplos, a medieval Spanish collection of tales with various sources by Juan Manuel. Andersen read the German translation of the Spanish book titled “So ist der Laug der Welt”.


Most people believe that the original story is from India. I guess the story spread to Europe, Arabic and China. This Chinese version of The Emperor’s New Clothes is from the book Memoirs of Eminent Monks 高僧传, a compilation of biographies of monks in China by HuiJiao 慧皎 around the 6th century. The story probably was introduced to China with Buddhism.

The story says, there was an arrogant person asked a weaver to weave the best silk for him. The silk had to be as thin as possible. The weaver worked so hard that the silk was as thin as dirt. The arrogant person was still not satisfied. The weaver was angry and pointed in the air, “here it is”. The arrogant person said, “why can’t I see it?” The weaver replied, “the silk is extremely thin even the best master here could hard to see it.” The person was really happy and paid the weaver.


高僧传 Memoirs of Eminent Monks

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