Happy New Year Everyone! Hope you had a great Christmas. 2014 is the Chinese Year of the Horse. The Chinese year actually starts on January 31st this time around, but we are celebrating early with a traditional Chinese tale about a man whose prize possession ran away.
We know that many people love stories with morals (although Bertie likes stories for their own sake). This story really has a brilliant insight into life – it shows that you can never tell if an event will turn out to be good or bad luck in the long term. The idea is part of Taoist philosophy which teaches that you must live in harmony with nature and what it brings you, good or bad.
Read by Richard.
Adapted by Bertie.
Proofread by Claire Deakin.
Hello, this is Richard, and I’m here with a story from China called The Horse that Ran Away. We’ve chosen it to mark the Chinese Year of the Horse which begins on the 31st of January, 2014. It is a wise tale that shows how you should never be too excited by good luck, and never too disheartened by a stroke of bad luck. Fortune has a habit of turning.
In the north of China, beyond the Great Wall, the land is flat and grassy. The plains stretch out towards the Gobi Desert and Mongolia. It is a wonderful country for horses to graze, and in the past, many of the people who lived there were nomads and great horsemen.
A man called Sei Weng owned a single horse – but what a horse! She was a brown mare with a lucky white start on her forehead. Her eyes were bright and shone with understanding. In the morning, she was frisky, and liked to toss her head, and snort through her nostrils. But when she was saddled up, she was so gentle and obedient that a child could ride her with ease.
Naturally, Sei Weng was very proud of his horse and she was by far his most valuable and prized possession. Then one morning, when he came out of his house, he found that she was no longer tethered to the tree where he had left her. The rope was broken, and she was gone. Sei Weng scratched his head and wondered what had happened. Perhaps she had been stolen. Or perhaps she had run away.
Later that day he went to the market on foot.
“Is your horse lame?” Asked the women who sold vegetables?”
“No,” said Sei Weng. “When I woke up this morning, I found that she had disappeared.”
But he did not seem upset. In fact he wore the same calm expression of tranquility and acceptance as usual. The word soon got around that he had suffered a great misfortune.
“He is putting on a brave face,” said his neighbours to one another, “for he must be very grieved by his loss.”
The blacksmith said to Sei Weng, “You are doing well to smile, but we know that your heart is heavy, for this is the greatest piece of bad luck that could have befallen you.”
And Sei Weng replied, “Who can say that this was misfortune? For no one can tell how events will turn out.”
In fact, events proved him right. A month or so passed, and one morning when Sei Weng opened his door, he saw that his mare had returned and was standing beneath the tree where he had left her. When she spotted her master, she picked up her head and walked briskly towards him. She was not alone, for she had been joined by a brilliant white stallion.
Now the villagers were envious of Sei Weng, for he was the owner of not one, but two magnificent horses. The blacksmith gave him his heartfelt congratulations.
“There we all were feeling sorry for you, and it turns out that you are the luckiest man alive!”
Sei Weng shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Who can say what is good or bad fortune?”
The stallion was wild and needed to be broken in. Sei Weng was too old for that sort of work, but his son was eager to try and ride the new horse. He saddled up the stallion, climbed up on his back, but the horse was spirited and did not care to be ridden. He danced and arched his back, and Sei Weng’s son could not hold on for long. He was thrown to the ground, but his leg was caught in the stirrup and he broke it in two places.
Reports of the accident soon spread around the village and soon Sei Weng’s neighbours came to commiserate with him on this unfortunate turn of events. But Sei Weng smiled and simply said, “Who can say what is good or bad fortune?”
And sure enough, only two weeks later, the worst sort of news arrived in the village – war had broken out. All the parents were alarmed and cried out in fear for their sons’ lives, for they would have to go and fight. Soon after, the recruitment sergeant came to the village and all the young men had to leave for the army – all, that is, except for Sei Weng’s son, for his leg would take a long time to heal, and he could not yet walk. Now Sei Weng was truly the envy of the village; what magnificent good luck he had enjoyed, for his son would live to look after him in his old age.
As you can imagine, all he would comment was, “Who can say what is good or bad fortune?”
And that is the story of The Horse that Ran Away. The story is an example of an ancient Chinese philosophy known as Taoism. Taoists, like the man in the story, believe that you must live in harmony with nature and what it brings you. Part of that means accepting events as they come, and not becoming too excited about the highs or too down about the lows. Bertie says that life really is like that – sometimes the most difficult and stressful events can turn out to have a positive effect on your life in the long run – so do remember that next time you are having a bad day!
But for now, this is Richard, wishing a very good day from Storynory.com