Friday, November 29, 2013

Bit by Bit - Chapter 24, Part 18

Trey Smith

Tzu-ch'i had eight sons and, lining them up in front of him, he summoned Chiu-fang Yin and said, "Please physiognomize my sons for me and tell me which one is destined for good fortune."

Chiu-fang Yin replied, "K'un - he is the one who will be fortunate."

Tzu-ch'i, both astonished and pleased, said, "How so?"

"K'un will eat the same food as the lord of a kingdom, and will continue to do so to the end of his days."

Tears sprang from Tzu-ch'i's eyes, and in great dejection he said, "Why should my boy be brought to this extreme?"

"He who eats the same food as the ruler of a kingdom will bring bounty to all his three sets of relatives, not to mention his own father and mother," said Chiu-fang Yin. "Yet now when you hear of this, Sir, you burst out crying - this will only drive the blessing away! The son is auspicious enough, but the father is decidedly inauspicious!"

Tzu-ch’i said, “Yin, what would you know about this sort of thing! You say K’un will be fortunate – but you are speaking solely of the meat and wine that are to affect his nose and mouth. How could you understand where such things come from! Suppose, although I have never been a shepherd, a flock of ewes were suddenly to appear in the southwest corner of my grounds; or that, although I have no taste for hunting, a covey of quail should suddenly appear in the southeast corner - if this were not to be considered peculiar, then what would be? When my son and I go wandering, we wander through Heaven and earth. He and I seek our delight in Heaven and our food from the earth. He and I do not engage in any undertakings, do not engage in any plots, do not engage in any peculiarities. He and I ride on the sincerity of Heaven and earth and do not allow things to set us at odds with it. He and I stroll and saunter in unity, but never do we try to do what is appropriate to the occasion. Now you tell me of this vulgar and worldly `reward' that is to come to him. As a rule, where there is some peculiar manifestation, there must invariably have been some peculiar deed to call it forth. But surely this cannot be due to any fault of my son and me - it must be inflicted by Heaven. It is for this reason that I weep!"

~ Burton Watson translation ~
It is not uncommon to hear about the individual who craved fame and, once they obtained it, wished they had realized anything but. Fame, status and power certainly have their perks, but they have their downsides as well.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

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