Friday, December 30, 2011


Some time ago, in the country of Fuxiuguo, in a beautiful valley along a river, there was a village called Qiya. The river had been subject to flooding, but the people of Qiya had built a dam to control the river, and now the village was prosperous.

There in Qiya, Mr. Nuli worked very hard, and provided a nice home for his family. They had a nice piece of land along the river, with livestock and beautiful gardens. Under Mr. Nuli, the land was very productive. Working it was both lucrative and pleasant.

Mr. Tantu saw Mr. Nuli's land, and realized that if he bought the land and developed it, then sold the development to people who wanted to live and work along the river, he could make a great deal of money. But, he knew Mr. Nuli had no desire to sell his family's home and business.

Near Mr. Nuli's land lived one Mr. Zhisou. Mr. Zhisou had lived in Fuxuiguo a very long time. In fact, he lived in this country when it was known as Meiguo, and remembered the time when everyone worked hard like Mr. Nuli, dreaming that one day their work would pay off, and they would have a good life like Mr. Nuli does now. But that was before Emperor Haowan came to power. Under Emperor Haowan and his minister, Mr. Fushisixiang, Meiguo changed. People became so enamored with having a good life that they no longer wanted to work for it and earn it; they just wanted to have it, and their desires knew no bounds. The country changed so dramatically that one day a new emperor came to power, Fubai, and he declared that the country would now be known as Fuxuiguo.

Now, Mr. Zhisou kept a low profile. He lived in a very modest hut with very few possessions. The emperor's administrator, Mr. Haoshou, saw to the needs of the people, and felt sorry for Mr. Zhisou. When the emperor's men were giving out rice, Mr. Haoshou made sure Mr. Zhisou got an extra bag of rice; when the emperor's men were giving out firewood, Mr. Haoshou saw to it that Mr. Zhisou got an extra bundle.

One day there began a great rainstorm. The rain lasted for days and days, and the water level behind the dam began to get higher and higher. Mr. Tantu talked with Mr. Haoshou about the water level behind the dam. Mr. Haoshou assured Mr. Tantu that the dam was very strong, and would not break, even if the rains lasted for many weeks. Mr. Tantu was not convinced, though, and went to Mr. Zhizhang, who was Mr. Haoshou's supervisor. Mr. Tantu explained that he was concerned the dam might break, and that the ensuing flood would destroy the entire village. Mr. Zhizhang agreed that this was a grave concern, and asked Mr. Tantu for advice. Mr. Tantu told Mr. Zhizhang that it would be better to release some of the water, and wash out a few of the homes along the river, than to let the water accumulate until the dam broke and the flood destroyed the entire village. Mr. Zhizhang agreed that they must immediately release a great quantity of water in order to preserve the dam which would, in turn, preserve the village.

Meanwhile, Mr. Haoshou was making the rounds on the dam, checking it to make sure it was holding up to the flood. When Mr. Zhizhang's emergency order to release the water came through, Mr. Tanzang was on watch at the dam. Sadly, he was unaware that Mr. Haoshou was on the dam, and when the water was released, it swept Mr. Haoshou away, drowning him. The sudden surge of water crashed down the river, and destroyed Mr. Nuli's garden, sweeping Mr. Nuli and much of his livestock downstream, where their bodies were never recovered. Other people who lived near the river had their homes destroyed, too, and lost loved ones.

Mrs. Nuli was devastated at the loss of her beloved husband and her way of life, but she and her children were still alive, and she was thankful for this.

The disaster in the village was so great that Emperor Fubai himself came to the village to console the people. He told them how terrible it was, and how thankful he was that things did not turn out worse. He promised the people help so they could have a fresh start. He said that, in time, people would look for reasons as to why this happened, and would begin to invent wild stories. Emperor Fubai said that it was a terrible rainstorm that caused this tragedy, and warned people not to believe the crazy conspiracy theories that they would inevitably hear, as believing these stories would dishonor the memories of those who died as a result of this tragic rainstorm.

Mr. Tanzang was promoted to become the administrator. Under Mr. Zhizhang's supervision, he conducted an investigation, and determined that the decision to release the water was the correct one, as it preserved the dam intact, and saved the village. Per the emperor's instructions, he offered a generous amount of money to the people who had suffered, so they could rebuild their lives. He bought the Nuli family's land from Mrs. Nuli for a generous price, so she could take her family and establish a new life somewhere else.

Mr. Zhisou's home was very modest, but surprisingly, it was never in any danger from the rainstorm or from the sudden flood of water. The land that had belonged to Mr. Nuli, though, was used for a public project. Mr. Tantu's company got the contract from Mr. Tanzang to redevelop the land in the public interest. The project was very profitable to Mr. Tantu's company.

Time passed, and Mrs. Nuli began to establish her new life. But, as she talked to other people from Qiya, she heard stories about how Mr. Tantu had wanted her family's land. She also heard stories about how Mr. Tantu recommended that some of the water be released to preserve the dam and thus protect the village. She also heard stories about how Mr. Haoshou, who was very respected in Qiya, thought the dam was far stronger than necessary to save the village, even if the rain got much worse. And, she was puzzled about how Mr. Haoshou so tragically drowned when Mr. Tanzang released the water from the dam, and about how Mr. Tanzang was then promoted into Mr. Haoshou's job. Finally, it broke her heart to think of her home being completely destroyed as the land was redeveloped, and the stories she heard about how profitable the redevelopment project was to Mr. Tantu pushed her over the edge.

Distraught, Mrs. Nuli went to see Mr. Kungfutse, better known to his students as Confucius, to inquire of the Master's opinion on these events.

The Master told her that it was a terrible tragedy, and that a thorough investigation by the emperor's administrator showed it could not have been prevented. The Master explained that it is common, in the wake of such tragedies, to seek reasons why they occur, but that the simplest explanation is always the best. Confucius told her that she should get on with her life and take care of her children, rather than sacrificing their future to dwell on a past that she cannot change.

Saddened, Mrs. Nuli began to leave, as Mr. Zhisou arrived outside the Master's residence. She looked at Mr. Zhisou, whom the whole village knew to be crazy, as he yelled to Confucius:

"The peacock is killed for its beautiful plummage! Great trees in the forest are cut down for their wood! Does a candle not burn itself out? Everyone understands the value of having so much worth, but who understands the value of having so little?"

Mrs. Nuli looked at crazy old Mr. Zhisou, and asked him what all that meant.

"Dams do indeed break under too much stress, but it is not the dam that contains the river's water over which the emperor needs to concern himself."