The Love of Life

48. Birds Pay Homage to the King


“Doctor, will my husband get better?” Mrs. Hsieh asked.

The doctor shook his head, and said nothing.

Hsieh had a huge boil on his back, and dozens of small boils all around it. They had tried all sorts of medicines and treatments, but nothing worked.

Doctor Lin said, “This disease cannot be cured by ordinary means. There’s no medicine money can buy that will cure this condition.”

One of the consulting doctors said, “This is a very rare disease. It’s so rare you’ve probably never even heard of it. It’s called Birds Pay Homage to the King. When Mrs. Hsieh heard that, she screamed and fainted dead away.

Hsieh was a very rich man. He had begun life as a poor boy, and made a fortune in the lumber business by hard work and honesty. He really didn’t have any bad habits, but he did have one particular weakness, common to many Chinese: he loved to eat. Whenever he had a party or a feast, he spent a lot of money to serve the most extraordinary dishes possible.

His favorite of all was a huge, complicated dish. A big fat duck was slaughtered and cooked, and its stomach was filled with sparrows. The diners opened up the duck’s stomach with their chopsticks, and found the sparrows baked in the duck. This dish was called Birds Pay Homage to the King!

No wonder Mrs. Hsieh was terrified when she heard what the doctor said! Her husband’s disease was called the same thing as his favorite dish. Over years of feasting, Hsieh had killed so many birds that he called down this strange ailment on himself.

Anyone who has had a boil knows how painful they are. Hsieh’s whole back was a big mass of boils. Not only did they hurt, but they also reeked, too. He suffered for months, and finally died. All of his riches couldn’t do anything for him because he had caused too many animals to suffer.

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