Ancient Chinese Fables
A proverb is a
statement that teaches a useful lesson.
A fable is a very short story that teaches a useful lesson.
Fables: The ancient Chinese used fables to teach their children lessons. They created many hundreds of fables. Here are two of them. These were told over one thousand five hundred years ago. What lessons do you think these ancient fables are trying to teach?
The Robber and the Bell
One time, in the state of Jin, a thief stole a huge beautiful bell. He carried the bell off on his back as it was too heavy to carry any other way. Each time he took a step, the bell made a ringing noise. He was afraid people might hear the bell ringing and catch him as he tried to sneak away. To solve his problem, he ripped his shirt and stuffed pieces of it into both of his ears. “There,” he thought, feeling enormously pleased with himself. “No one will hear the bell ring now. Sometimes I amaze myself, I am so clever!”
The Boat and the Sword
One time, in the state of Jin, a man was crossing a river in his boat. He had crossed the river many times before. But this time, it was the flood season, and the river was raging. His boat tossed wildly. With a loud splash, he fell into the river. His sword fell in the water, too.
So that he would not lose his sword, he punched a mark into the side of his boat, right over the spot his sword had fallen into the water. He punched hard enough to leave a mark, but not hard enough to punch a hole. He managed to pull himself back aboard. His boat tossed and whirled its way along the river, and ended up near his village.
“At least the storm brought me home!” thought the man from Jim. Feeling lucky indeed, he dove in the water and hunted for his sword directly under the spot he had marked on his boat. Much to his surprise, his sword has disappeared! As soon as he had pulled his boat safely up on shore, he hurried off to see the wise woman in the village where he lived.
“Ah,” she nodded. “The river dragon thought you had brought him a gift. He took your sword and blew you safely ashore.”
“Ah,” thought the man from the state of Jin. “That makes sense.”