Episode 195: Eggxtrapolation

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Today we will talk about a story of where a family’s fortune is from. The story is from the book XueTaoXiaoShuo 雪涛小说 from the Ming dynasty around the 16th century.

In the book, it says a tradesman was so poor that he barely scraped a living. One day he picked up an egg and excitedly told his wife, “here is the family’s fortune!”

“Where?” asked the wife.

“Right here,” said the man, showing her the egg, “but it will be ten years before we become rich. I’ll take this egg and have the neighbor’s setting hen hatch it. Out of that brood I will bring a female chick home to lay eggs. In one month we can have 15 chickens. In two years as the chickens give birth to chickens, we can have 300. They should fetch ten pieces of silver in the market and with the money I’ll get five calves. In three years when the calves reproduce, I’ll have 25. When the calves’ offspring give birth in another three years, I’ll have 150. This should bring in 300 pieces of silver. If I use the money to make loans, in three years more I’ll have 500 pieces of silver. Two thirds of this to buy a house, one third to buy servants and another wife- and you and I can enjoy our remaining years to the end. Won’t that be wonderful?”




All the wife heard was that her husband was thinking of buying another wife. Angrily she flung the egg away, smashing it and crying, “let’s not harbor the seed of disaster!” Enraged, the husband took her before the magistrate. “This wretched women has ruined the family’s fortune at a single stroke. She should be executed.” The magistrate asked the location of the fortune and the circumstances of the loss. The husband began with the egg and described all that had happened.

The magistrate said, “an evil woman has destroyed a great family fortune in one blow. She deserves to be executed.”

The wife protested loudly, “everything my husband has told you concerns things yet to come. Why should I suffer for that?”

“The concubine that your husband spoke of buying was also something yet to come. Why should you have became so jealous?” said the magistrate.

“True enough”, said the wife, “but one cannot move too soon in taking precautions against disaster.” The magistrate smiled and released her.

Alas! The man schemed from greed, and his wife smashed the egg from jealousy. Both were minds under delusion. The wise man, free of desire, recognized that even what exists is delusion; how much more so is that which has yet to come!



雪涛小说 XueTaoXiaoShuo

Episode 194: Monkey Keeper

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Today we will talk about a story from the book LieZi 列子, a Taoist text attributed to Lie Yukou 列御寇, an ancient Chinese philosopher between the year 450 BC ~ 375 BC.

In the book, it says in the land of Song 宋 there was a monkey keeper who loved monkeys. He raised a whole swarm of them and could understand their thoughts. They were so dear to him that he would take food from the mouths of his own family to satisfy them. But still the time came when he had to reduce their provisions. Fearing that they would stop obeying him, he decided to trick them into accepting short rations. “Here are chestnuts for you,” he told them. “You’ll get three each morning and four each evening. Is that enough?” The monkeys rose up in anger. Then the trainer said, “very well; four each morning and three each evening. Is that enough?” Delighted, the monkeys agreed.




In the book ZhuangZi 庄子, an ancient philosophy Chinese text from 3rd century BC, it commented on this story, “there is nothing change in the facts or the words but the monkey’s mood changed. They were just tricked no matter what.” By saying so, the philosopher ZhuangZi 庄子 conveyed his wish to end prejudice and conflicts of right or wrong. He thought nothing is the absolute right or wrong and keep oneself distant from politics and social obligations.




Maybe you thought the story is about the monkey is being irrational and they should think more. But ZhuangZi is an anti-rationalist. Reason and logic is the corn of Greek philosophy and then the entire Western philosophical traditional, most Chinese philosophers especially ZhuangZi was skeptical towards rationalism and pointed out overdependent on them could limit the flexibility of thought.





列子 LieZi

庄子 ZhuangZi

Episode 193: Dragon Tattoo

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Today we will talk about a story about a person getting a dragon tattoo. The story is from the book GengSiBian 庚巳编from the Ming dynasty 明朝 around the 16th century.

In the book, it says, there was a Buddhist practitioner from the Temple Jinshan 金山 in the place called ZhenJiang 镇江. The temple is on the Mountain Jin. He didn’t really care about his behaviors as much.




One day he was sleeping during the day. Some people in the room did a prank on him by drawing a dragon on one of his arms. The dragon had a head, horns, scales, whistles and looked like alive.




The Buddhist practitioner woke up and found the dragon. He thought it was from the heaven and he was the chosen one. So he tattooed it. After several months, the black ink color of the tattoo became purple and after another few months, the lines of the tattoo rose to 1 cm high. Every stormy nigh, the tattoo dragon felt like flying and moving and the arm would move along out of control.




After a few day, the Buddhist practitioner was showering in a river. Suddenly, the water split apart for a few meters and his arm started moving and flapping again. He followed the arm’s movement and dived into the water. He could see everything under the water, turtles, fish, shrimps, crabs… He has a thought, since the Mountain Jin 金山 is in the center of the river, why not to check what’s underneath the mountain? So he kept diving until he reached the bottom of the river. He saw the “root” of the mountain which could be held by a few people. It supported the mountain like a pillar. He shook the pillar with his arms. The whole Mountain Jin started to shake and trembling and the monks in the temple on the mountain thought it was earthquake and started to pray. After a meal’s time, the shake stopped.




The Buddhist practitioner had a lot of fun under the water and when he was back in the temple and heard about what happened in the temple. He snicked and told the people in his room. Those people told the abort. The abort though he was an evil spirit and sued him. The judge didn’t buy the story. Monks had no way but kicked him out of the temple after making him drunk. After that, the dragon never appeared and everything went back to normal.



庚巳编 GengSiBian

Episode 192: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Earth

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I am always interested in stories when people didn’t have enough scientific knowledge and amazed by their interpretation and imagination of the world. Today we will talk about a story of the world under the earth.

The story is from the book What The Master Would Not Discuss 子不语, a collection of supernatural stories compiled by Yuan Mei 袁枚 during the Qing dynasty 清朝 published in 1788. It says, based on one theory, the earth and the sky was like an egg. The sky is the egg shell and the earth is like the egg yolk. When the egg yolk and egg white were separated, the sky and the earth were separated. But no matter what, people can never get out of the egg hell. Based on the theory of 33 days 三十三天学说 in Taoism, this person is outside of the realm of the sky, the earth and the human beings and would wonder around in the illusion.




In the place of QinChong 秦中, in the northwestern China today, the crust is thick and earthquakes happened a lot. Sometimes, a whole village would be in ruins. When earthquakes happened, sometimes water from underground would be pumped up high into the air and sometimes you could see sparks and smoke. Sometimes, the crack would be closed. But if people fell into the underground, they never were seen and nobody knew where they went.




In the year 1646, there was a earthquake in the this place. A family of Dong 董 were all swallowed by the earth and everyone believed they were dead. Shockingly, after 9 days, a person crawled from the underground. His face was covered by dust and his clothes stuck on his skin. The villagers were startled and asked, “who are you? How did you crawl from the underground?” The person was weak and replied, “I am Dong Yu 董遇 from the family Dong.” The villagers looked closely and recognized him. They remembered that Dong Yu learned some special skills since he was a child and he could hold his breath under the water for really long time. They were all curious about what happened to him.




Here is what he said, “ when I first fell in the crack, I felt like I lost gravity. After a whole day, we saw water underneath and kept falling. It felt like I was flying or floating which was pretty comfortable and I was even talking with my families. When we fell into the groundwater, all my families drowned. I held my breath into the water for thousands of miles until I swam out of the water and reached somewhere dry. Everything around was yellow and it was getting brighter. I looked around. I saw the sky was under my feet. I could hear people talking. I realized this where the sky outside of the egg shell sky. If I keep falling, either I would fall in the heaven in the second layer that would be great. If I fall on the roofs of people’s houses, would they think I am an immortal? Both scenarios are not bad. So I tried hard to fall. But my body was floating due the the heavy wind underneath. I was floating in the air for a whole and met a giant who yelled at me, “how did you get here? This is the bounty of the two layers of sky. Even ancient gods and saints couldn’t pass here. Don’t be daydreaming. Go back to your world before the crack is closed. Otherwise, when the crack is closed, the earth is thousands of miles. You could swim through the water but not earth. You will be doomed.”




I was about to ask something when beams of gold light from far away almost blinded me and I felt like I was going to melt. The giant slapped my back and said, “run! The sun is coming! You would be burned into asked.” I was too scared and using the push from the giant, I held my breath and flew back upwards. Now I am back”



子不语 What The Master Would Not Discuss

Episode 191: Vet In Court

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Today we will tell a story of a vet from the book Strange Stories from the a Chinese Studio 聊斋志异 published in 1740 during the Qing dynasty 清朝.

In the book, it says, there was a vet named Mr. Hou 侯. One day he was carrying food to his field laborers, when suddenly a whirlwind arose in his path. Mr.Hou seized a spoon and poured out a libation of gruel, whereupon the wind immediately dropped.

On another occasion, he was wandering about the municipal temple when he noticed a statue of Liu Quan 刘全 presenting the melon.




When the soul of the Emperor TaiZong of Tang 唐太宗 was in the infernal regions, it promised to sent Yanluo 阎罗, King of Hell a melon. When his Majesty recovered from the trance into which he had been plunged, he gave orders that his promise was to be fulfilled. Just then a man named Liu Quan observed a priest with a hairpin belonging to his wife and misconstruing the manner in which possession of it hand been obtained, abused his wife so severely that she committed suicide. Liu Quan himself then determined to follow her example, and convey the melon to YanLuo, King of the Hell, for which act he was subsequently deified.




Back to our story, the vet Mr. Hou saw the statue of Liu Quan in the temple in whose eye was a great splotch of dirt. “Dear me, Sir Liu!” cried Mr.Hou, “who has been ill-using you like this?” He then scraped away the dirt with his finger and passed on.

Some years afterwards, as he was lying down very ill, two guards walked in and carried him off to a court where they insisted on his bribing them heavily. Mr. Hou didn’t know what happened. At the moment, a person dressed in green robes came forth, who was greatly astonished at seeing him there and he turned to the guards to show proper respect to Mr. Hou. Leading Mr. Hou within, the person in green robe put him in his proper place and promising to inquire into the charge against him, went forward and whispered a few words to one of the clerks. “Oh”, said one of the clerks, “your case is a trifling matter. We shall merely have to confront you with a horse and then you can go home again.” Shortly afterwards, Mr. Hou’s case was called. It turned out Mr. Hou was accused by the horse of having caused its death by medicines. “My Lord,” replied Mr. Hou, “the prosecutor was attacked by the cattle-plague, for which I treated him accordingly and he actually recovered from the disease though he died on the following day. Am I to be held responsible for that?” The judge gave orders to look up the horses’s term of life in the Book of Fate. It appeared that the animal’s destiny had doomed it to death on the very day on which it had died. The judge cried out to the horse, “your term of years had already expired. Why bring this false charge? Away with you!” and turned to Mr. Hou, “you are a worthy man and may be permitted to live.”




The guards were instructed to escort him back and with them also went out the man in green robe and the clerk. “You are very kind to me but I haven’t the honor of your acquaintance.” “Three years ago I was traveling in your neighborhood and suffering very much from thirst, which you relived for me by a few spoonfuls of gruel. “And my name is Liu Quan” said the clerk, “you once took a splotch of dirt out of my eye that was troubling me very much.”




Mr. Hou wake up at home and was told by this family that he had been dead for two days. From then on he led a more virtuous life than ever and always went to the temple pouring out libations to Liu Quan.

Living healthy until the age of 80, one day he met Liu Quan riding on horseback as if about to make a long journey. Liu Quan told him, “your time is up and the warrant for your arrest is already issued. But I have ordered the constables to delay awhile, and you can now spend three days in preparing for death and at the expiration of which I will come and fetch you. I have purchased a small title for you in the realms below and you don’t have to worry.” So Mr. Hou went home and told his wife and children of his last day and made all necessary preparations. After three days, on the evening, he cried out “Liu Quan has come!” then he got into his coffin, lay down and died.



聊斋志异 Strange Stories from the a Chinese Studio