Episode 212: Chicken Master

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Today we will tell a story from the book called YouMingLu 幽明录 from the Southern dynasty 南朝 between the year 420 ~ 479. It is written by the same author named Liu Yiqing 刘义庆of the book A New Account of the Talks of the World 世说 新语 that we also talked about before. I found it interesting the latter book is about historical mostly fictional anecdotes of people lived in the Han dynasty 汉朝 and Wei-Jin periods 魏晋, while the first book contains stories of a total different world of absurd that build on the real. And the whole book of YouMingLu is lost. We can only find some pieces from the book from quotations from other books, which makes it more absurd.

We have talked about a few stories from this book like the swapping feet story from episode 203 and the big cricket story from episode 204.

Today we will talk about a story about chicken master. In the book, it says, there was an official named Song Chuzong 宋处宗 who bought a rooster that crowed. Zong Chuzong loved it so much and raised it as a pet. He put the cage right next to his window and talked with rooster. Day after day, the rooster could talk and have conversations with Song Zhuzong. They talked everyday from day to night about Taoism, and debate on philosophy and the universe. Thanks to the rooster, Song Chuzong’s talking and debating skills improved a lot.




There is a Chinese word not used very often today called JiTan 鸡谈, literally means chicken talk or TanJi 谈鸡, talking chicken, which refer to people that are inspiring in terms of wisdom. Since during the Wei-Jin periods 魏晋 where the story took place, Qingtan 清谈, meaning witty conversations or debates about metaphysics, philosophy and Taoism were popular especially among the scholars. This happened between the rooster and the person. So the words JiTan 鸡谈 chicken talk or TanJi 谈鸡 also refer to those kinds of conversations like Qingtan.




I found this story really interesting that I don’t know what the original intentions of the author. The person was improved and inspired by the rooster instead of the other way around. He taught the rooster to talk, but got much more from the rooster.



幽明录 YouMingLu

世说新语 A New Account of the Talks of the World

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