Folktale – Chinese


Kenneth heard this folktale from his mom while he was still in elementary school

(in Monterrey Park).

Quoted from Kenneth

“There once was an old king who had no children. He wanted to find an heir to his throne so he summoned all the young boys in his kingdom who were under 10. He said to them, “I will give each of you a seed. After three months, whoever brings me back the most beautiful flower will become king.” ”

“So all the young boys left and diligently began working. However, there was one poor little boy who seemed to have trouble. He watered his seed and took care of it everyday but the seed would not grow. The poor boy noticed that all the other boys’ flowers were blossoming and growing everyday.”

“After the three months were over, the king summoned all the young boys again. The king examined many beautiful flowers but when he came up to the poor boy’s empty pot, he declared, “You are the winner. All the seeds were dead!” “

Collector’s comments

Clearly, this folktale is promoting honesty. Much like Aesop’s fables in western culture, this folktale aims to teach Chinese children to value honesty and integrity even when the rewards for being dishonest are great. Also like many of Aesop’s fables, this folktale focuses on emphasizing one specific character trait that the original “author” believes is important.

A specific western folktale (or fable) that emphasizes the value of honesty is “Mercury and the Woodman” from Aesop’s Fables. (cited below) Although the Chinese folktalk and the following fable have completely different stories and were created by two very different ethnicities, both aim to show the value of honesty and, to a extent, to show that there are no gains from dishonesty.

A Woodman was felling a tree on the bank of a river, when his axe,

glancing off the trunk, flew out of his hands and fell into the water.

As he stood by the water’s edge lamenting his loss, Mercury appeared

and asked him the reason for his grief. On learning what had happened,

out of pity for his distress, Mercury dived into the river and,

bringing up a golden axe, asked him if that was the one he had lost.

The Woodman replied that it was not, and Mercury then dived a second

time, and, bringing up a silver axe, asked if that was his. “No,

that is not mine either,” said the Woodman. Once more Mercury dived

into the river, and brought up the missing axe. The Woodman was

overjoyed at recovering his property, and thanked his benefactor

warmly; and the latter was so pleased with his honesty that he made

him a present of the other two axes. When the Woodman told the story

to his companions, one of these was filled with envy of his good

fortune and determined to try his luck for himself. So he went and

began to fell a tree at the edge of the river, and presently contrived

to let his axe drop into the water. Mercury appeared as before, and,

on learning that his axe had fallen in, he dived and brought up a

golden axe, as he had done on the previous occasion. Without waiting

to be asked whether it was his or not, the fellow cried, “That’s mine,

that’s mine,” and stretched out his hand eagerly for the prize: but

Mercury was so disgusted at his dishonesty that he not only declined

to give him the golden axe, but also refused to recover for him the

one he had let fall into the stream.


Date of access: April 17th, 2007