Archive for the ‘China’ Category

The Man Who Sold Ghosts

When Sung Tingpo of Nanyang was a young man, he was walking one night and he came across a ghost. He asked him who he was and he said he was a ghost.
The ghost in turn asked who he was. Tingpo lied that he was also a ghost. The ghost asked him where he was going and he said,’I am going to Wanshih town.”
“Ah I am also going there.” said the ghost and he said ‘Come we shall go together.’ They went along for a while. After covering a mile the ghost said it was stupid of them to both walk when they could carry one another in turn. The ghost carried Tingpo for a mile and he put him down with a racking cough. ‘You are too heavy for a ghost.’ complained the ghost. Tingpo excused himself he was a new ghost so he was bound to weigh heavier. Tingpo offered to carry him next which he could do with ease since he was a ghost. Thus they walked each carrying the other in turn and Tingpo asked what made him most afraid of. The ghost answered,’Human saliva.’ Thus chatting away they went on till they reached a stream. Tingpo let the ghost go ahead and observed he made no noise at all. While he waded across the stream splashing. The ghost asked why he was making all that noise. Tingpo explained that he was a new ghost and he couldn’t quite manage a stream as he could.
They walked on as before carrying each other in turn. In the end they came at the outskirts of a town. The ghost turned himself into a goat. Tingpo spat on the goat and it could not change back into a ghost. Tingpo found a piece of rope to tie the goat. He sold it for fifteen hundred cash and went home.
Since then there is a saying by Shih Ts’ung ‘Tingpo sold a ghost for fifteen hundred cash’.
(From Soushenchi, Fourth Century)

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Wit of Yen Ying

Yen Ying who lived in the six century B.C was a scholar and a wit. He was a very short man. He was once sent by the ruler of Tsi as a diplomat to the kingdom of Chu. The king took one look at him and was displeased. In order to humiliate him he asked,”Are there no better persons in your country to send than you?”
“Of course there are,” answered the diplomat still keeping his poise,” why there are so many able men in our country that when they spread out their long sleeves they can hide the sun and when they perspire, it looks like rainfall.”
“Then why you?”
Yen Ying explained,” My government sends out diplomats to different countries according to the nature of the country to which they will be attached-the clever ones to clever rulers and stupid ones to stupid rulers. I am about the most stupid in my country.That is why I am sent to you.”
Later during the banquet two thieves were brought before the king. When found out that they were the diplomat’s country men from Tsi, the king turned to Yen Ying and asked ‘Why are there so many thieves in your country?”
Yen Ying replied,” Your Majesty, have you seen the little oranges that are grown north of the Huai River? They are from the same seed as the big oranges south of the Huai. It is the climate. People who are born and live in our country do not steal. But when they come to your country, I don’t know why, they go about stealing. It must be the climate of Chu, I suppose. “
(Book of Yentse)

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Tsekung, a disciple asked Confucius,”Do the dead have consciousness?”
“Why don’t you wait till you are dead? Then you are bound to know.”
Confucius told the following story: Once I was walking in the mountains and saw a woman weeping by a grave that was fresh. I asked her what was her grief, and she dried her tears and replied,” We are a family of hunters. My father was eaten by a tiger. My husband was bitten by a tiger and died. And now my son.”
“Why don’t you move away from this place then?”
“No,” replied the woman.
“Why not?”
And the woman replied,”Because there are no tax-gatherers here.” (Family tradition of Confucius.)
Chiwentse said to Confucius,”I always think thrice before I act.”
Confucius replied,”To think twice is enough.”
Confucius said,”If a man does not say to himself, ‘What shall I do? What shall I do?’ Indeed I do not know what shall I do with such a person.”
Confucius said,”If a man discovers his mistake and does not correct it he is committing his second mistake.” (The Analects)
Tailpiece(being half of the wit of Confucius):
Mao Tse Tung on spotting Confucius went to him and introduced himself. ” Greetings. I am Chairman Mao. I have heard so much about you. Aren’t you pleased?”
The shade of Confucius politely, “I haven’t heard anything about you. Ahem, Am I not pleased?”

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China has indeed made a Great Leap Forward. Chairman Mao coined the slogan and what really happened was something else. Let us focus on very bright aspects of the China’s market socialism and a visitor looks at the stunning skylines of China’s redeveloped coastal cities and state capitals and he is impressed. He may not exactly remember he is on a guided tour. He is not allowed to traipse the length and breadth of China on a whim. A visitor sees, and the official who is in charge may write in his report he saw only what he was allowed to see or spoke to who are allowed to speak. There are restrictions now as then.

Notwithstanding let us not forget that the Chinese leaders make an impressive walk as they strut on the world stage. They need US as much as America need them. There is a new reality that ideological differences are as close as two sides of a coin. You spin for tail or head what you get spells ‘free enterprise.’ It is not frightening one would think George Washington would not tell a lie and he is at par with Mao. George was as noble as Mao the Great Helmsman who subscribed to the idea ‘end justifies the means.’ Each has impressed the nation it represents. Over the years Truth and Expediency have closed ranks over free trade.

China chose market socialism so it can hold its own as a superpower with USA. In one there are things like Free Press and Accountability and the highest of the realm can be impeached and thrown out. On the other it is the sole prerogative of the powers that be. How accountable are they? How free and transparent are their press?

If any one is interested in the environment safety record in China there are may articles relating to it. Reading them one is left with no doubt spirit of Chinese Communism is alive and well in the present leaders. Only it uses an euphemism: market socialism.


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Continuing from where I left off, regarding China’s basic medical  insurance system covers more than 1 billion of the country’s 1.3 billion population. This is on the basis of the report issued by the Ministry of Health.( Xinhua)

The State Council has promised the country would increase the basic medical insurance coverage to at least 90% by 2011.

Having corrected my figures given earlier let me add that China is a state of mind. During the Cold War  we read of a bamboo curtain something similar to the Churchillian Iron Curtain. Such curtains are often figments of our own fear. China has always been misunderstood  and  even vilified for the simple reason that the West found it ‘inscrutable’. We are all on a slowboat as far as anything strange and exotic land is considered. We do not take pains to understand what seems alien or different from the accepted norms. For paddles we use mistrust and hackneyed prejudices. Like the fable  we are hares hiding behind a false sense of  superiority. China has lot to to teach the world as it has much to learn from others.


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