When I was a boy, my grandmother and my martial arts teachers told me many stories. This was very common in China, especially in the old days before television and radio, and especially in previous centuries when the vast majority of the population could not read. While these stories were a main source of entertainment, they also played an important role in the moral and cultural education of the children.
These stories, many of which have been passed down by parents and grandparents to countless generations of children, have been designed or selected to give a sense of place within the culture and family, to encourage consideration for others, and to instill ideals and good habits. Many are designed to encourage self-confidence and the determination to persevere against adversity.
As a child I was greatly influenced by these stories, and even today they give me encouragement and help me to understand myself better. For many years I have hoped to be able to bring these stories to children in the West, both to acquaint them with Chinese culture, and to share with them the insight and encouragement that I received. I am glad to have this opportunity to share these stories, and I hope that you will come to value them as much as I do.
Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming
The Fox Borrows the Tiger's Awe, 狐假虎威
One bright summer day a clever old fox was feeling hungry. He had spent the entire morning in his cave, and so he decided to go out into the wild and catch some small animals to eat.
A short time later, as he was walking down a path, a tiger crept up from behind and caught him.
Before the tiger could eat him, the fox quickly calmed himself down and hid all of his fear. He said loudly, "Wait, tiger! Don't you know that you cannot eat me? For I was sent to the earth by heaven to rule the animal world. If you eat me, you surely will be punished by heaven!"
When the tiger heard this, he began to laugh very loud. He said, "I do not believe you, fox. You should be brave and accept your death." However, when he saw that the fox did not look terrified like all the other animals he had caught before, he became curious.
The tiger continued, "You said that you were sent by heaven to rule the animal world. Can you prove it?"
Now the fox began to think that he might escape from the jaws of this tiger. He thrust out his chest, lifted up his head and proudly proclaimed, "Yes, I was sent here by heave to rule the animal world. If you don't believe me, then why don't we take a walk in the woods? You walk behind me and see how the other animals react when they see me coming."
The tiger was a little bit worried that perhaps the fox was telling the truth, so he decided to do what the fox had said. After all, with him walking right behind, the fox would not have a chance to escape.
And so the two of them went for a walk in the woods.
When the other animals saw the tiger as he walked behind the fox, they ran for their lives. However, to the tiger's eyes, it looked like all the animals were running away from the fox. He began to think that the fox was telling the truth, and had been sent by heaven, and he became very affraid.
Without saying a word, the tiger turned and ran away like the wind. The clever fox had saved himself from then jaws of the tiger.
Friends, very often wisdom is far more powerful than strength. Only if you study hard and keep learning will you someday be truly wise and successful.