The Love of Life

1.  The Crying Ape


1.  The Crying Ape

Long, long ago, a file of chariots rumbled quickly across the plain late one spring. The soldiers wore sparkling armor. Banners fluttered in the breeze.

Following them came several generals with their swords and spears. They were followed by a beautiful chariot. Sitting in the chariot was the great King of Ch’u.

Every year the King took a trip through his kingdom to inspect his land, to hunt, to train his troops, and to get out of his stuffy old palace.

The King had a general called Yang Youchi who is very famous for his archery. Even now, over two thousand years later, people still remember what a good shot he was. He never missed. The King trusted him. During the great hunt the rabbits and deer and all the wild animals ran here and there in panic, but nowhere was safe from the arrows of General Yang Youchi. If he shot one hundred times, he hit his aim one hundred times.

On the plain was a huge old tree. As they passed, the soldiers heard a noise. They saw an ape in the branches above their heads. It jumped up and down disrespectfully, mocking the hunting soldiers. It threw a nut at them.

“Okay, pretty boy, I’ll teach you a lesson,” said an archer as he aimed at the ape. But as he shot his arrow, the ape dodged, and the arrow hissed harmlessly through the branches. A shout of laughter went up from the troops.

“Lucky,” snorted the soldier. “Take that!”

He shot another arrow, and this time the ape didn’t dodge – it snatched the arrow out of the air! Then it sniffed the arrow contemptuously before breaking it in two.

Now the soldiers were mad. They shot arrows at it, but the ape was so clever and so quick that it caught their arrows in midair and mocked them even more.

When the King saw how disrespectful the ape was, he ordered General Yang to go shoot down that smart-aleck ape.

The ape seemed to understand, because as soon as General Yang rode toward the tree, the ape began to cry. Tears rolled down its face, and it sobbed and howled very piteously.

The King asked, “Why is the ape crying?”

Yang Youchi answered, “It must know that my arrows never miss, so no matter how cunning it may be, it must die now, at your highness’ command. That is why it is crying.”

The King hung his head in thought. How sad the ape was! All the other animals must be suffering, too. His royal heart filled with mercy. He told General Yang to put away his weapons, and called off the hunt, so that no more animals would be hurt.

When he returned to his capital ahead of schedule, all the people there found out that the King had been moved by an ape’s tears. The people of Ch’u were all very happy to have such a kind and loving King, so they worked very hard for their country, and from then on, Ch’u was strong and powerful for hundreds of years.

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