The Love of Life

3.  Ch'eng T'ang and the Net


3.  Ch’eng T’ang and the Net

More than 3,500 years ago, there was a very kind and wise emperor called Ch’eng T’ang. Every year he traveled around his empire to visit all of his people and see if there was anything the government could do for them.

One beautiful day, the birds were singing and the beasts were enjoying the nice weather. The Emperor smiled as he heard their pleasant calls. Then he saw huge nets spread where all those animals would get caught. He heard a trapper praying in a loud voice. This is what the trapper prayed:

May all the birds in the sky,
May all the beasts on the ground,
May all the animals from north, east, west, and south,
Come into my net,
Let not one of them escape!
Emperor Ch’eng T’ang was upset to find such a greedy, heartless trapper, but he was also a very wise monarch. He did not command the trapper to stop hunting. Instead, with his own imperial hands, he took down three sides of the nets, leaving only one side.

The trapper wondered what was going on, but he couldn’t just go up and punch the Emperor. Then he heard Ch’eng T’ang praying out loud. This is what the Emperor prayed:

May all who wish to dodge to the left, dodge to the left;
May all who wish to dodge to the right, dodge to the right;
May all who wish to go over the nets, go over the nets;
May all who wish to duck under the nets, duck under the nets;
Only those who do not wish to live any more
May enter my nets.
The trapper realized that he had been greedy and mean. He told everyone how kind their Emperor was, so all the people trusted Ch’eng T’ang. The dynasty Ch’eng T’ang founded, the Shang, ruled China for over 600 years.

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