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AN UNREQUITED KINDNESS

2006-07-09 12:08

  The fable the Wolf of Zhongshan has been attributed to various authors of the Tang, Song and Ming dynasties, but the happenings are simple and consistent. It runs as follows:

  Master Dongguo, a pedantic teacher and follower of Mohism, was ready to help anyone in distress, whosoever he might be and regardless of the circumstances. One day on a journey through the Zhongshan Mountain, he came across a wounded wolf being pursued by the hunting party of the Viscount Zhao Jianzi. At bay, the wolf glibly and fawningly begged the master to help him. The old man saw a chance to act on the Mohist doctrine of “universal fraternity”。 At the risk of incurring the displeasure of the nobleman, he took the books out of his travelling bag and put the wolf in. When the Viscount came along and enquired if he had seen a wolf in flight, Master Dongguo lied, saying that he had noticed nothing unusual. The hunters galloped on.

  However, when the wolf was let out of the bag, he showed his true features. He said he was hungry; since the master was so kind as to have helped him once, he might as well do it again by allowing himself to be eaten. Furthermore, he bad been nearly suffocated in that beg a little while before, and that gave him another reason to avenge himself on the poor master. Now it was Master Dongguo's turn to take to his heels.

  An old man came along leaning on a staff and asked what was the matter. Master Dongguo and the wolf gave their respective arguments and asked him to make a judgment. The old man thought over the situation for a few moments and said, “Mister Wolf should go back into the bag and if he is really tormented, then Master Dongguo should be eaten by him”。

  The wolf got into the bag again and it was tied up as before.

  “What are you waiting for?” asked the old man to Dongguo. “Why don't you kill him right now?”

  Only then did the master wake up to reality. And the wolf was put to death.

  This fable is so well known among the Chinese that “Master Dongguo” is a synonym for a pedantic person and the “Wolf of Zhongshan”, for an ingrate. And creations of handicraft art based on this theme, as they occasionally are, serve as constant reminders that the incorrigibly wicked are not to be appeased.

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