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An Ancient Chinese Story About a Donkey

Ability is very important, but there is something more important than ability, and that is character. (Image:  Edal Anton Lefterov via  Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)
Ability is very important, but there is something more important than ability, and that is character. (Image: Edal Anton Lefterov via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Historic Chinese tales nearly always have strange characters and exciting plots. Talking animals, magic heavenly beings, dragons, and ghosts — to name just a few — are used to teach a lesson within a historic Chinese story. Most Chinese legends and tales read today have not been recorded on paper for hundreds of years.

Many of these stories have been nurtured and kept alive by one generation telling the next. This story is one of those stories.

Once, there was a donkey that lived in a temple on top of a mountain, where he had to work hard in a mill everyday. Over time, he became so tired of his dull life that he started to dream of going out to see the world instead of working. How wonderful that would be!

Soon enough, an opportunity came along. A monk wanted to use the donkey to carry something down the mountain. The donkey was very excited.

After reaching the bottom of the mountain, the monk placed something on the donkey’s back. As they walked through the village, people on both sides of the street knelt down to the donkey.  The donkey did not know what to do, so he decided to try to avoid the people.

(Image: Pezibear via Pixabay/ (Image: Pezibear via Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

After reaching the bottom of the mountain, the monk placed something on the donkey’s back. (Image: Pezibear via Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

However, that did not stop them from worshiping the donkey. Slowly, the donkey’s ego became inflated:

Thus, he walked in the middle of the road and put on an arrogant air, with his head held high and a straight back. Once the donkey returned to the temple, he thought that he should live like nobility, and he refused to do any more hard work. So the monks had no other choice but to let him go.

When he got back down the mountain, the donkey saw a group of people beating drums and gongs far away. He thought: “People are coming to welcome me.” He stood in the middle of the road and waited, but the people turned out to be in a wedding procession. When they saw a donkey blocking their way, they were very angry and beat him with sticks and clubs to make him move.

The donkey fled back to the temple in a hurry. Injured from the beating, the donkey told the monk indignantly:

The monk sighed, saying:

The greatest misfortune is that people do not know who they are. Once they leave their positions, they are nothing. Everyday when you look in the mirror, you should ask yourself: “Do I know who I am?”

  • If you are rich, others admire only your wealth, not you.
  • If you have power, others worship only your power, not you.
  • If you are beautiful, others will admire your beauty. They want to be around you to inflate their own egos.
(Image: AdinaVoicu via Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

If you are beautiful, others will admire your beauty. They want to be around you to inflate their own egos. (Image: AdinaVoicu via Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

Don’t misinterpret the admiration of others. When wealth, power, and beauty leave you, you become worthless, and you will be abandoned, for others are only using you to fulfill their own needs.

So, it is important to know who you really are!

Ability is very important, but there may be something more important than ability, and that is character. Character is a rare treasure in today’s society, and it provides the basis to fully expand your abilities throughout your lifetime.

Edited by Kathy McWilliams.

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