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A fable for the Hakkas
This is a fable for those Hakkas who have
heard of it before.
The praying mantis catching the cicada
Qiang2 Zhong Huan2 You3 Qiang2 Zhong Shou3
During the Period of Spring and Autumn (722BC to 481BC) the ruler
of the State of Wu2 (present day Wu2 Xian4 in Jiangsu province) wanted
to wage war on the State of Chu3 (present day Jiang Ling2 county in
Hubei province) and was busy making preparations. However, all his Court
officials unanimously disagreed with him because Wu2 was not strong
enough and would most certainly lose the war against Chu3. The officials
tried to block his plans but the Wu2 ruler was stubborn and insisted on
going to war.
The ruler of Wu2 really meant business and decreed that anyone who
tried to stop him would face public execution in the market place.
You3, one of the many sons of the ruler of Wu2, also knew that his
father was wrong and wanted to stop his father but would not dare to
express his feelings verbally. He devised a plan on how to discourage
One day, early in the morning he brought his slingshot and small
marbles and lingered in the garden at the back of the palace. Although
his gowns were wet by the morning dew he did not mind because he wanted
to attract his father's attention. But his father did not come out into
The next morning he did the same thing but again his father did not
venture out into the garden.
He tried again the third day. This time his father saw him in the
garden and, curious about his son's behaviour, enquired,
"What are you doing, my son?
Look, your gowns are wet by the morning dew."
His son replied,
"You see father. There is a cicada up there on the treetop.
It is sucking the morning dew and is singing happily.
It thinks it is safe. But it does not know there is a
praying mantis behind it. The praying mantis is raising its two
arms ready to strike. The praying mantis thinks it is
sure to have the cicada for breakfast.
However, the praying mantis does not know that a sparrow is behind it.
The sparrow is only thinking of the juicy meal the praying mantis
represents and it does not know that I am aiming at it with my
slingshot, ready to shoot it down.
You see, my father. These insects and the bird are only thinking of
the benefits before their eyes. But they don't know the serious
consequences awaiting behind them. I feel sorry for them."
Actually there were no insects or bird on the treetop. You3 purposely
created a fictitious incident of them to warn his father indirectly that
there was always someone who could be better than us
(Qiang2 Zhong Huan2 You3 Qiang2 Zhong Shou3). The ruler realized that
his son was trying to tell him something. Suddenly the upcoming action
against Chu3 came to his mind and he said to his son,
"Yes, yes, I know you are right, my son."
Immediately he called off the impending military actions against Chu3.
A Chinese fable story "Tang Niang Bu Chan".