Fable 1

(November 2006)

A young scholar named Lu was on his way to the capital for the
official examination. Though it was only late afternoon, he was so tired and
hungry that he entered a nearby guesthouse. In front of the building was a large
Chinese scholartree, and there were some Chinese characters written on the
trunk. Worn by the weather, it was hardly legible, though Lu managed to read
the top word “great” and the last one, “country”.

The owner was a Taoist, and he poured some yellow millet into the
oven and started the fire. Before the dinner was ready, the owner let Lu rest,
and gave him a lovely green porcelain pillow, saying with a smile, “You will be
comfortable on this pillow!”

Lu fell asleep immediately as his head touched the pillow. He
seemed to wake up in a large office in the capital with many officials
surrounding him to offer their congratulations: He had passed the examination
with such good marks that the king had named him the next prime minister and
asked his hand to marry his daughter. He felt life was so nice to him that he was enjoying everything, including family life and the palace parties, to the utmost.

He also managed well the national affairs as the prime minister. When it
happened that the neighboring kingdom was coming to invade his country, his
lovely wife and the princess thought it would be a good opportunity for her
husband to show his talent and asked her father to send Lu as the general.

When Lu led the army in battle with the enemy, shocking news came
from the capital that his wife had married one of his ministers in a planned coup
to overthrow the king. Lu came back immediately alone but was arrested and
sent to the execution ground. When he was driven through the city gate, he
suddenly saw the name of his country on the top of the gate: Great Scholartree
Tranquil Country. The written words seemed to be familiar to him.

Before the executioner’s knife fell on his neck, he woke up. The Taoist
owner smiled to him, “Sir, you have woken up too early. The millet hasn’t been
cooked yet.”

Without a word to answer the Taoist, he rushed out to examine the
large Chinese Scholartree. These characters were exactly the same as those he
had seen on the city gate: Great Scholartree Tranquil Country. On the ground
two large colonies of ants were bitterly fighting a battle. When he recognized
which side was his country, he subconsciously held his hand out to help them but
stopped in midair. “Oh,” he said. “What am I doing? It is no more my dream.”
He decided to give up the official examination and returned to his home.
(Chinese folk legends)